Review: Kanye West takes a step back to create a beautiful, disjointed work of art with “The Life of Pablo”

Henry Robins Arts & Entertainment Contributor

West gives insight on faith, family, fame

If 2013’s “Yeezus” was the beginning of Kanye West completely reinventing himself, then “The Life of Pablo,” his seventh studio release, is the rapper’s longer, more incohesive continuation of that process.

With the album only available for streaming on TIDAL thus far with no commercial single being released, it is clear that West has moved away from wanting to create radio hits or platinum selling albums. But instead the rapper has chosen to go down the experimental route and push “aesthetic boundaries as far into the Avant as possible,” according to Chris Coplin from the Consequence of Sound.

Supposedly beginning work on the album in late 2013, West seemed to be continuously promising the follow up to “Yeezus” was right around the corner. And even after taking three years to create, “The Life of Pablo” was still subjected to numerous title and tracklisting changes in the week leading up to it’s release.

The official title itself was not decided by West until the day before it dropped. That being said, it makes sense that many of the album’s songs feel as if they were thrown in at the last minute.

Lyrically, “The Life of Pablo” sees West dealing with a diverse range of topics, from having intercourse at dinner parties on “Freestyle 4” — to the struggles of becoming a devoted family man, “FML.”

The album opens with West dealing with his religious faith on “Ultralight Beam”  and features an excellent guest appearance from Chance the Rapper. Other tracks see the rapper mention social issues such as police brutality on “Feedback” and even the court case of Bill Cosby on “Facts.” West acknowledges his ego and eccentricism, rapping tongue-in-cheek lyrics such as, “Name one genius that ain’t crazy” on the track, “Feedback” and “Kanye loves Kanye” in “I Love Kanye.”

While this may sound like more of the same from West, the album’s second half sees the rapper going into a deeper, more personal realm. In “FML” — arguably one of West’s most touching songs, he talks about being a faithful husband and father, rapping “God, I’m willing to make this my mission. Give up women before I lose half of what I own.”

He deals with similar issues on “Real Friends” by rapping about the effects of being a family man and how it can alter one’s social life and friendships forever. We even see West deal with themes prevalent in his 2008 album “808s & Heartbreak” with the song “Wolves” where he mentions his mother Donda West, who passed away in 2007. For these few songs, we get a rare glimpse of Kanye West’s humanity and more vulnerable side.

In terms of musical direction, it seems as though West has decided to take a step back after the heavy experimentalism on “Yeezus.” Many of the songs on “The Life of Pablo” harken back to 2008’s “808s and Heartbreak” era, with tracks such as “Ultralight Beam” and “30 Hours” being reminiscent of the low-key, ambient aura of “Say You Will” or “Coldest Winter.”

Even a track like “Real Friends” sounds as if it could easily fit on a Boards of Canada album. The influence of soul and gospel is often heard, prevalently on tracks such as “Ultralight Beam” and “Wolves.” West even went as far to say “This album is actually a Gospel album” on Twitter.

However, despite West’s attempts at making another experimental project, this album, seems to fall short of this idea. Most of the tracks simply go back to the sound of earlier albums, such as his 2004 album, “The College Dropout.”

The overall product seems too incohesive and thrown together at the last minute. So while this album may not come off as anything too new or surprising to listeners, it will definitely please any devoted Kanye West fan.

It might be pretty difficult to tell what West was trying to do with “The Life of Pablo.” If he was looking to continue the experimental reinvention he began with “Yeezus” then this album is arguably slowing down that process. But if he is trying to return to his roots and the sound of his earlier works, this album isn’t a bad place for him to start.

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