After a wild 48 hours following the premier of “The Life of Pablo” and his Yeezy Season 3 show, Kanye West dropped his long-awaited record after his performance on SNL.
Part 1: The Prophecy
If there’s another album rollout that tops that of The Life of Pablo in terms of being an absolute mess, I’ve not been made aware of it. This avalanche finds it’s snowball origin back on Thursday night, at Madison Square Garden. It’s there that Ye had gathered an army of pastel colored terra-cotta hype beasts to pose on stage wearing outfits from Yeezy Season 3. A bit of an aside but, it’s worth noting that, according to a model who took part in the event, a good number of the outfits that were displayed were just dyed thrift-shop buys.
The show itself was kind of odd. Ye was standing in the center of a packed version of what is arguably one of the country’s biggest concert venues, playing an unfinished record through an AUX cord. He looked enthused to be there, but with how quickly certain details of the record were thrown together, one couldn’t help but be confused by Ye’s balmy attitude during the show. This, along with the “Only One” video game that Ye proudly showed off, and his game of “pass the AUX” with Vic Mensa and Young Thug left people with a good albeit weird taste in their mouth. Nonetheless, the show ran rather smoothly and as it came to a finish, people took up positions on social media, waiting for the Ye to come through with the download for The Life of Pablo.
Part 2: Where Hath Our Hero Gone?
Soon after the show, fans were met with twitter activity from Ye, however none of it pertaining to an actual album release. The first rant came in response to concerns brought in regards to the line on “Famous”
“I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / I made that bitch famous”
Some people thought the line offensive, slightly sexist, and not without good reason. However Ye responded with a few tweets claiming “Bitch” was endearing, as well as claiming that Taylor had said to her friend that he had made her famous.
Whether Ye is telling the true or not, the line still feels a little out of place on the record and regardless of context, comes off as petty. More importantly, this small debacle didn’t take away from the main issue at hand; the fact that The Life of Pablo was still nowhere to be seen.
As fans got more and more restless, Ye came back to Twitter with intentions to assuage, however not in the way more of them had hoped for. Instead of assuring fans that the record was on it’s way, or even just dropping the album, Kanye made the motion of shifting blame to Chance The Rapper. He asserted it was Chance’s fault the record wasn’t out as he was waiting on his contribution to the track “Waves”
After throwing in some more ranting, a mention of the movie TRON, and a shoutout to Diddy, Ye finally got off Twitter to prepare for SNL, after which he finally delivered upon a link to an album that was significantly different from the one he played at MSG.
Part 3: The Golden Fleece
Well the question that needs to be asked is, “was it worth it?” Was The Life of Pablo worth all the drama, tension, and uncertainty? My answer is a soft yes. Before going any further I will note this is most definitely not a perfect album, nor is it better than To Pimp A Butterfly (which is a claim made by many a Ye fan). However, I will say The Life of Pablo is a very good record. Through the gap between the quirky synth to the soaring choir vocals on the opening track “Ultra Light Beam” Kanye sets a precedent of extreme contrast for the entire LP. It’s a kind of contrast that locks into the idea of a wave as well as the current title, which Ye has explained to be a reference to the life of the Apostle Paul.
His conversion, questioning of the divine, and feeling of being lost is expressed extremely well in terms of sound, however not so much in terms of lyrics. There are bright moments in that regard, for example on the track “FML” where Ye questions the direction of his music and life. Kanye laments he’s been “thinking about his vision”, a reference both to how he sees his own art, but also possibly referencing Paul’s blindness. However a comparable low point is Famous, that feels disjointed in relation to the theme of the Apostle Paul. The song doesn’t clearly connect on that concept, but it’s saving grace is the second half, where the production slides into a vivid Dilla tribute, with Ye even vocally mimicking Jay Dee’s sirens.
I think the only problem this record truly suffers from is this lack of cohesiveness, that I cannot help but think is caused by the numerous title changes, and short span of time between the finalization of the title and the album’s release. The songs that play to the theme of the album do so with passion, and you can tell Ye really tried. However tracks like “Feedback” and “Freestyle 4” while not necessarily bad, do not contribute to the central theme.
The Life of Pablo feels like a record filled with good and great songs that just don’t connect with each other to create a strong LP. A counterpoint however, may be that this disfunction was intentional. It’s possible Ye wanted the album to have a jagged feel, to contrast with the bright emotions laden into most of the tracks. We’ll never know for sure what Kanye is thinking unless he lays it down in a Twitter rant, but the important thing is that TLOP is a solid record and a honest product of where Kanye is as an artist today.
Art is by your homie, Arthur Banach
Check me out on Instagram @wildhxir.