Kanye West has many attributes that factor into his greatness. In a little under a decade Kanye has managed to become one of, if not the, biggest names in music. His contradicted personality has always sparked intrigue and curiosity, this dichotomy allows him to reach broad and polarized fan bases. “Call him Kweli or Kwaali I put him on songs with Jay-z” -Kanye has known this from the beginning as he stated in this lyric from his debut album “The College Dropout”, bridging commercial major label Hip Hop with the back-pack Underground scene. What is more admirable than this rare talent of combining conflicting communities is his ability to reinvent, embrace and adapt to new styles, as he most recently showed on “Yeezus”– “Pop a wheelie on a zeitgeist” –it seems he is also pretty self aware of this ability as well. These two sections of his skill set reach their max on “The Life Of Pablo” and to some they exceed their limit to the detriment of the brand he has created.
“Ultralight Beam” opens the album up, Kanye’s eclectic -and sometimes perplexing- features borderline a caricature of his former albums. Kirk Franklin and Chance The Rapper, who delivers a show stealing verse, almost seems normal compared to El Debarge and Young Thug on “High Lights” both brilliant songs, the latter truly showing Kanye’s genius and madness all in the same verse. Ye goes from wishing his “dick had Go-Pro” to referencing Ray’s sad attempt of a diss song, to comparing his family to the “new Jackson’s” , himself to Farrakhan. dropping subtle- or not so subtle- hints to Fear Of A Black Planet by advising “all niggas impregnate Bridget, so when she have a baby she gone make another nigga”, the Fruit Of Islam, and Black Chyna & Rob Kardashian all within a 20bar span. Subject matter that when looked at on paper one would certainly conclude was a mistake, a sort of stream of consciousness lyricism that only is dwarfed by the following track “Freestyle 4” a Lil B-esque track that makes the lyrical lunacy of the last track seem logical. “Pablo”, like “Yeezus”, has polarized fans, some feel his genius has fully tipped into madness and that Kanye has completely lost touch with reality, “I Love Kanye” is Kanye’s brilliant way of showing he knows exactly what he is doing, and also exactly what you are thinking.
Kanye’s attempts to embrace the future become quite literal on “Pt.2” where Ye completely takes hit record “Panda” by young star (and new GOOD Music signee) Desiigner and raps on it and simply adds it to his album. Reaching a younger generation Kanye restates his mission statement in about 16bars or less before letting the song basically play out as it is aside from some additional adlibs, another polarizing stroke of genius. Keeping with the theme of embracing the future Kanye vowed to no longer release physical albums and released “Pablo” solely on streaming services- first as a Tidal exclusive- this allowed for the album to constantly be updated. Songs have been mixed, changed, and tracks even completely added on weeks after its “release date” something that, in keeping with the contradictions, is both good and bad in a climate when the industry is so focused on the now. True fans continue to go back to hear each addition while many fair-weather fans may not even know the album has a new final track “Saint Pablo” a reflective piece that clears up any confusion that the album or recent interviews may have created.
“The Life Of Pablo” when the smoke clears will be looked at as another classic in the discography of one of music’s newest icons. A complete culmination of what makes Kanye, Kanye. All West’s positive attributes are turned up to the max on this LP and to most it’s too much at first listen. It’s interesting to see how many risks were taken on this album as it is the follow up to the risky “Yeezus”, originally planned to be more commercial and accessible as to reel fans back in Kanye has tossed aside convention and firmly sits at the peak of genius and madness without a care of catering to what the consumer thinks they want.