Music Review: Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo


March 9, 2016

One of the most polarizing artists in music history is back at it again with his newest release, The Life of Pablo. The album is available exclusively as a stream on Tidal. Out of respect for the greatness of Kanye West, I’m here to do a track-by-track analysis of the brand new record by the GOOD Music ambassador.

Track 1: Ultralight Beam

Kicking off the album is a crawling, gospel-driven ballad that features Kanye singing and utilizing Autotune in a way that is reminiscent of 808s and Heartbreak. “Ultralight Beam” is a testament to higher-level thinking and living, coupled with a choir that backs ‘Ye in a beautiful way and a fantastic and introspective verse from Chicago emcee Chance the Rapper. As Kanye sings in the refrain, “this is a God dream,” and that saying itself can be seen as a metaphor for Mr. West’s career thus far, as well as his plans for the future.

Track 2: Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1

Following the soft, soulful start to the album is the Metro Boomin produced, up-beat anthem “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1,” featuring guest vocals from Kid Cudi and an amazingly progressive and intricate instrumental from Young Metro himself. The vibe of this song is that of something that you would wake up to on a beautiful day, play in the car with the top down, or vibe out to while in the midst of a get together accompanied by your closest friends. As he always does, ‘Ye finds a way to work controversial lyricism into the mix, and opens up the track with a rather suggestive and explicit line, presumably targeting his ex, Amber Rose, who recently attacked him via Twitter. Nonetheless, “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” is an exciting and interesting track, both lyrically and instrumentally, and progresses the album in a great way.

Track 3: Pt. 2

The follow up to “Father Stretch My Hands,” and the second installment of the track, is “Pt. 2,” which features Kanye repeating his chorus “I just want to feel liberated, I, I, I…” in a much faster, aggressive-sounding tone. This track also features a verse from recent GOOD Music signee and Brooklyn rapper Desiigner, emulating a sound and style that is synonymous with none other than Future. Though it changes up the pace from its predecessor, “Pt. 2” does not stray far from the path and stays in line to nicely compliment and develop the album.

Track 4: Famous

What would the name Kanye West be without the controversy and questionable comments that he continues to make? On the album’s fourth track, we yet again find West bantering on about past incidents in a way that makes fun of the people who were involved in a lighthearted and confident way. This time, he directs his comments to pop singer Taylor Swift, again releasing some explicit, yet humorous quotes that make the listener question what should be considered “too far.” Even as an insanely big Kanye fan, I myself can say that this may be pushing the limit. However, this does not take away from the quality of the song itself, including a beautifully sung chorus from Rihanna and a couple of cocky and braggadocios verses from Kanye that we’ve all came to know and love.

Track 5: Feedback

“Y’all sleeping on me, huh, had a good snooze?” barks Kanye in the fifth installment of the record, “Feedback.” Again, we find Kanye reassuring himself of his dedication to his career, speaking of how him and his own are getting money while the public, as well as other artists, are “sleeping”, on them, or overlooking them. The instrumental on this track is interesting as well, featuring a screeching, high pitched synthesizer, light snares, and grunge, Wondagurl-esque bass that is reoccurring throughout the song.

Track 6: Lowlights

Not much to say about this one. Just a simple interlude. Kanye sampled Kings of Tomorrow’s “So Alive” and threw the voiceover onto the album. It sets a good mood for the latter part of the record.

Track 7: Highlights

Post interlude, we’re back to business with the seventh song on the album, “Highlights.” An abrasive and loud use of Autotune accompanied by a smooth and silky couple of lines from The Dream give this track the feel of Kanye’s past record My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. “Tell everybody I’m back in town” raps Kanye, restating his sheriff-like jurisdiction over the rap game.

Track 8: Freestyle 4

Something that is fairly rare is the occurrence of a Kanye freestyle, and despite it’s rarity, a freestyle is exactly what we get on the eighth track on The Life of Pablo. West calls on Desiigner once again to add his two cents with a refrain that says “I want it right now” which perfectly matches the mood and aesthetic of this eerie, dark, and taboo, boundary-crossing song. Basically, this is a perfect example of good old Kanye doing what he does best.

Track 9: I Love Kanye

Taking a break from the elemental production and meticulous crafting, I Love Kanye is a 44-second a capella insert that finds Kanye reflecting on himself and the public’s opinion of him over the years. “And I love you like Kanye loves Kanye” says Mr. West himself, chuckling at his clever reference to his always apparent love of himself.

Track 10: Waves

As Kanye shared on Twitter prior to the album’s release, track ten is the reason The Life of Pablo’s drop was delayed. “Chance wanted Waves on the album, we in the studio now” said ‘Ye,  and I can see why he advocated the inclusion of this song so strongly. Loud, confident, fun, and exciting are four adjectives that accurately describe this track. As well as another offering of solid verses, we get vocals from Chris Brown, and a wavy (no pun intended), deep, and lush instrumental. “Waves don’t die,” sings Chris Breezy, apparently looking for the rejuvenation of his career within the realm of Mr. Kanye West. I’m sure West would be happy to bring up Brown once again. Consider this song the possible start of various collaborations between the two.

Track 11: FML

Delving back into the darker, more distraught side of things, we find ‘Ye rapping about being loyal to his one and only, giving his all to his music, living for his children, and speaking directly to God himself about “giving up the women before he looses half of what he owns.” As well as Kanye’s deep and mindful verses, we get vocals from Toronto Crooner, The Weeknd. I could not think of a better track to feature The Weeknd on. Seriously, if you listen to him, you’d understand that this fits his vibe and aesthetic perfectly. Of course, we can expect this type of match making ability from Kanye, who’s quite the perfectionist himself. “FML” is one of the best songs on the album.

Track 12: Real Friends

Old Kanye. Ever since the 2013 release of Yeezus, that’s what everybody seems to be asking for. As if on cue, that’s exactly what you get from track twelve on the record. Going back to his roots, Kanye raps over a boom-bap type, drum-heavy instrumental that takes the listener back to the younger, more simpler days of hip-hip (Nas comes to mind, as well as Common and Jay-Z). In a nutshell, “Real Friends” triggers the final chapter of the album that finds Kanye reaching back into his past for inspiration more times than not.

Track 13: Wolves

Ah, here it is… the selling point of this track in particular was the highly awaited, anticipated, and hyped-up feature from Frank Ocean. Where has he been? One of the most talented and coveted crooners in all of music completely fell off the map a few years back, but he’s back at it with vocals on the new Kanye album… or so we thought. In all reality, it’s a 30-second excerpt that sounds as if it was recorded in another room with a 2007 Android phone. It’s not really even included in the song, seeing as the instrumental dies down, almost completely cutting off, transitioning into the nearly a capella verse by Ocean. Moral of the story: don’t let Frank Ocean’s feature excite you. We don’t know where he’s been, and there’s a good chance that we’ll never get any new material from him — this particular offering isn’t what you should remember him by though, even though it’s his most recent. Instead, reminisce over the greatness of Channel Orange, and ask yourself why in the hell Kanye took out Vic Mensa and replaced him with this unmixed, unmastered, and messy recording of Frank Ocean. I’m not saying the track is bad, because the inclusion of the new Kanye verse was absolutely good. However, when Kanye and Vic Mensa first came out with “Wolves” and performed it live, it was a fantastic song. Now, it is almost forgettable among the rest of The Life of Pablo. If I could come up with one bone to pick with this record — which I love so dearly — it would be the new installment of “Wolves.”

Track 14: Silver Surfer Intermission

Again, another interlude that doesn’t garner too much attention. Max B basically congratulates Kanye on his success, thanks him for naming the album Waves “which he would change, obviously” and speaks on his behalf regarding a few other topics. Thanks, Max B.

Track 15: 30 Hours

Another installment in the series of Old-Kanye-oriented tracks, “30 Hours” is a sample driven, smooth, and relaxed beat that features the aforementioned old Kanye flow, nice baselines, and soothing vocals in the background. This is another one of my favorite songs on the album. I’m not the biggest Old Kanye advocate, but I do like the blast from the past feel of this track and the verses Kanye spits are simple, yet refined and just great all around. To the more contemporary and classic Kanye fan, this track will stick out like a sore thumb — in a good way.

Track 16: No More Parties in LA

If you thought the throwback Kanye ride was over, boy, were you mistaken. On track sixteen, we find Compton emcee and rap genius Kendrick Lamar siding with ‘Ye on a song that is energetic, influential, and inspiring. Kendrick’s verse is satirical and intelligent, bringing the wordplay you’d come to expect from the man, and West’s wordplay is on par with Lamar, proving that not only can he talk the talk, but he can also walk the walk, and do it very, very well. Out of all of the old style tracks on this album, this one takes the cake, and proves that Kanye can really do it all when it comes to music.

Track 17: Facts (Charlie Heat Version)

With a fair amount of focus and effort put into his old style, Kanye comes back with a bombastic, no holding back, in your face reprise of his original “Facts” single that he released on his Soundcloud prior to the album’s release. What we get on the album version of the song is a complete change of instrumental, and in my opinion, this beat makes up for the almost gimmicky couple of verses West lays down. They go well with the instrumentation, though, and it’s as if Kanye wanted to create a spectacle of sound by putting his “Facts” track on this new beat.

Track 18: Fade

This is an interesting one. A 60s-70s dance club type beat, featuring vocals from Ty Dolla $ign and… Post Malone? The decision to put Ty$ on the track was slightly confusing in and of itself, however, the out-of-nowhere appearance of Post Malone was one of the most surprising moments in all of the album. It’s not a bad song by any stretch of the imagination, however, Ty$’s vocals seemed forced, and Post Malone doesn’t get much of a chance to establish his identity within the track. The beat is incredibly catchy, though, and it’s a fun, uplifting listen.

All in all, The Life of Pablo is another amazing product from producer-turned-rap-megastar Kanye Omari West. Three album titles and a slew of delayed days later, we have a rap classic. Long live Kanye, and long live The Life of Pablo.

Stream The Life of Pablo on Tidal here.

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