So, after months of anticipation, after months of tweeting and promises that it would be the “album of a lifetime”, Kanye West is back. Love him or loathe him, his music influence is unbridled, one of the biggest artists of his generation, certainly the most controversial, the rapper from Chicago has a discography to be envious of and its just been added to. This will be a breakdown and review of each song individually and how the album as a whole ranks alongside his other works.
Ultra Light Beams (feat. Chance The Rapper)
What an opener. Links perfectly to Kanye’s description of the album, calling it a “gospel album” and the gospel choir behind his voice while he repeats the line, “we on a ultra light beam” which connotes his religious faith and healthy current life position. A steady but effective beat is then set alight by fellow Chicago rapper Chance The Rapper, sure to have a colossal 2016 with an album imminent. A flow that a rapper of Kendrick or J Cole’s calibre would be proud of, Chance sets the tone for the album and is without doubt the pick of the features. Good work Kanye.
Father Stretch My Hands Pt 1 & 2(feat. Kid Cudi and Desiigner)
Another futuristic beat, this time much more upbeat, the sort of song in which the video would have a backdrop of a sunset across a golden beach or something along those lines. “I just want to feel liberated” is a line repeated in Part 1 as he shows a sensitive side that has been unveiled in the production process of this album, perhaps showing that he is in fact capable of showing human emotion. Who knew? Comical lyrics such as “if I get bleach on my t shirt, Imma feel like an ***hole” show classic Kanye flow and a typical message of attracting the wrong kind of woman, I wonder how Kim feels about that.
Part 2 is very reminiscent of Yeezus, an aggressive beat with short, snappy lines before a far from smooth transition into a gospel sounding backing track. The feature of ‘Desiigner’ and his well known ‘Panda’ verse also adds a new dimension to the track, injecting some energy into what seemed like a preaching Kanye.
Famous (feat. Rihanna)
Two words. Taylor Swift. This song is riddled in controversy due to his supposed “offensive and misogynystic” lyrics aimed towards American sweetheart Taylor Swift, stating that “I made that b***h famous”, of course referring to the VMA awards debacle. Besides that lyric, it is a solid track that features the ever powerful Rihanna, who’s vocal performance is far from that of FourFiveSeconds but a strong showing nonetheless. Consistent referrals to south side Chicago show his roots and that he will never forget where he came from, despite his awe-inspiring and often brash personality, as demonstrated in this track.
Arrogance personified again. Starting the song implying that people were “sleeping” on him and now he’s back and “about to get this paper.” Near impeccable flow with typical Kanye references such as racism and his own genius. “Name one genius that isn’t a crazy” is definitely reference to the media’s attack on his arrogance and his often crazed behaviour, calling himself a modern day poet, or “Steve Jobs mixed with Steve Austin.”
Highlights (feat. Young Thug)
Stop the abuse Kanye, Ray J has endured enough. Yet another shot at the man responsible for Kim Kardashian’s sex tape is a highlight of this track. The first track he has released with genuine recognition of his “superstar family”, calling them “the new Jackson’s.” Wow. He does also provide an infectious beat which is sure to catch some attention. One criticism however, Young Thug is minimal in the track, we expected more.
Freestyle 4 (feat. Desiigner)
About as Yeezus as it gets, hardcore aggression twinned with a siren style beat to grab attention, and that’s exactly what it does. Lyrically, it’s not his strongest piece but I can’t say that is the primary intention of it. It is surely there to prove his brash and aggressive side hasn’t completely disappeared and he hasn’t changed lanes completely from Yeezus. As for a feature, Desiigner shows up, does his thing for a bit and leaves. Nothing more and nothing less than ok.
I Love Kanye
The audacity of it. Ending every single line with his own name. No beat, just him and his gigantic ego. However, the meaning behind a lot of the lyrics in this track are very true. He combats the major criticism fans have given him over the years, and that is “I miss the old Kanye.” We’ve all said it at some point and now he’s taken it on board and wrote something similar to a skit found on his Late Registration album. This is a very good song and one that will definitely get people talking which has to be mission accomplished in the eyes of Mr West.
Waves (feat. Chris Brown)
A track that sounds sure to be a chart hit if he ever releases the album to the public, outside of tidal of course. Chris Brown does what he does best and provides a solid and catchy vocal to an upbeat and positive beat. A return to the charting and infectious beat making Kanye perhaps? One verse of a Kanye vocal does seem a bit off however and is the reason this track hasn’t been rated higher.
FML (feat. The Weeknd)
Edgy, dark, distortioned. A real insight into the struggles of Kanye’s fame and how difficult he finds it to achieve the greatness he deems necessary for himself and his family. This fact is highlighted by the twisted transition mid way through the song, in which Kanye repeats the words “don’t stop your loving” in an almost painful but demonic manner. This desperate tone in his voice is a result of the stress and trauma his fame has caused, incredibly effective. The Weeknd has been deployed on this track to expert effect as his hallowing voice provides an echo to what Kanye has been saying in verses but in a more memorable chorus.
Real Friends (feat. Ty Dolla Sign)
Old school Kanye West, relatable issues, out of the ordinary rap music as opposed to the shaded world of drugs and guns. It came at a stage of when day one fans were starting to lose the faith in Kanye rekindling that old fire of College Dropout, Late Registration and Graduation albums, which provided joy and very relatable lyrics to a diverse range of people. The topic of who is a true friend in life and who is just there momentarily. A beat largely influenced by his earlier music, twinned with a magnificent Ty Dolla $ign feature, what more could we ask?
Wolves (feat. Frank Ocean)
This was first played on Saturday Night Live in the summer of 2015 but with Sia and Vic Mensa instead of the back from the dead singer Frank Ocean, who has shown his face after a long drawn process regarding his still unreleased second album. A truly chilling track which wouldn’t be out of place on a film trailer for a thriller/horror blockbuster, but you can’t help but prefer the first version with Sia and Mensa as opposed to Frank Ocean. It was wonderful to hear from Ocean, however, as his voice is unique and unrivalled in that genre. We have been informed by Kanye himself via Twitter that he will “fix” the track which I can only assume means a return for the original version. That would make this song rank a lot higher in the album but it is still a great track nonetheless. Kanye’s auto tuned voice to provide a dark and mysterious undertone must also not be ignored, but his rap verse feels a bit shoe horned into the song and a bit out of place.
30 Hours (feat. Andre 3000)
Andre 3000’s production value is put into true effect on this track as an infectious beat has been crafted for Kanye to again show off his true rap ability, something that has reoccurred throughout this album. The lyrics show his lavish lifestyle and how much he enjoys it, as well as looking back at how far he has come, now not showing nerves in anything he does. As well as this there are lyrics that may be aimed at Amber Rose but that much hasn’t been confirmed. Mentions of how he gave his ex “the best times of her life” to then say she’s gone downhill since he left. The only criticism of this song would be that it feels a bit dragged out towards the end as Kanye begins to shoutout different people over the top of the beat and it all just seems a bit unnecessary, as nice as it all is. This fact shouldn’t take away from the track itself as it is a good addition to the album that shouldn’t be under-appreciated.
No More Parties in LA (feat. Kendrick Lamar)
Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar, need I say any more? Two of the biggest names in the industry going head to head in who can create the best possible verse and it was a treat for all listeners. A sample used from a track originally created by Drake’s uncle believe it or not, the best allows for Kanye and Kendrick to show off their killer flow and they duly deliver in this early contender for rap record of the year. Kanye just edges Kendrick on this track in my opinion and that really is the highest praise a rapper can be given. Kendrick hardly ever gets outdone in a track and when he does, he’s still incredible, as is the case here too. All in all it’s a near faultless song that has to be the best on the album and may well be one of the best of Kanye’s whole discography.
FACTS (Charlie Heat version)
When Kanye released the original version on New Years Day, he had everyone in shock at how many shots he fired at Nike, Michael Jordan and even Steve Harvey?! But those aggressive shots at Nike, whom he has feuded with since he left them for Adidas, couldn’t distract from how poorly made the track was. A rip off of Drake’s ‘Jumpman’ with a slightly less memorable beat, this track needed work and it got the works thanks to Charlie Heat. His new and improved beat for the track made it a much more enjoyable song but couldn’t distract from the lyrics. Ye they were jibes that Kanye can be proud of to show his development as a designer, but musically, no. The worst track on the album for me.
Fade (feat. Post Malone and Ty Dolla $ign)
Wouldn’t be out of place in a club, a strong underground beat that will go down a treat no matter where you are. Kanye uses a heavy autotuned effect on his voice to provide that element of distortion, linking in with the electronic vibe of the song. Post Malone and Ty Dolla $ign do a great job pitching into the track and making a catchy repetition without overdoing it. Ty Dolla $ign is ever reliable on this album and does a great job on this track as well as ‘Real Friends’.
The album as a whole is a great project and well worth the wait. It’s another change in direction by Kanye and shows his diversity that no one album has sounded the same. The Life Of Pablo is a better album than Yeezus and ranks similarly to Graduation, Late Registration and The College Dropout but falls short against his two best albums, 808s and Heartbreaks and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.