People hate Kanye. I get it, he’s an egotistical asshole that says whatever he wants and for the most part, gets away with it. The man has also been one of the most influential artists in this generation’s current music. The disparity between his personality and his talent seems to be a problem with his critics, but you cannot acknowledge one without recognizing the other.
Last week, Kanye sold out Madison Square Garden to unveil his latest fashion clothing line as well his new record, “The Life of Pablo.” The album was previously titled “Waves” which before that was “Swish” and even before that was called “So Help Me God.” The event was broadcasted worldwide to movie theaters, including Century 16 in Anchorage. The whole event was a literal circus. Models stood in an awkward and demoralizing positions as Kanye played his new album from his laptop. Other rappers also dropped new music as the auxiliary cord was passed around like a collection plate on Sunday. Kanye even revealed a trailer for his new video game inspired by his mother going through the gates of heaven. Overall, “The Life of Pablo” was off to an underwhelming start.
Kanye officially released “The Life of Pablo” on Valentine’s Day through the streaming service Tidal, which is a whole other problem.
The opening track “Ultra Light Beam” is a promising start with gospel aspirations and an outstanding long verse from another Chicago artist, Chance the Rapper.
Other tracks on the album touch on the work of Kanye’s previous albums. “Feedback” has the same musical abrasiveness of “Yeezus,” “Famous” has the the unapologetic honesty of “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” and “Wolves” has the moody autotune vibe of “808’s and Heartbreak.”
The one criticism with “The Life of Pablo” is that Kanye gets in his own way. The best tracks result in straightforward instrumentation with one outlining sample. “30 Hours” features an Arthur Russell sample and denotes long distance relationships. “No More Parties in LA” has a really great soul sample and examines the trials and tribulations of life in Los Angeles Where things get complicated is when Kanye forces the issue and tries to be “too” Kanye. While the production throughout the album is fantastic, Kanye has never been the best lyricist.
It will be difficult to assess this album’s place is Kanye’s discography. As it is discussed and digested, “The Life of Pablo” shows Kanye continuing to reinvent himself while delivering the same creative energy. Let’s just hope it’s not too asshole-ish.
Album: “The Life of Pablo”
Artist: Kanye West
Label: Getting Out Our Dreams
Release date: Feb. 14, 2016