Want to know how to make people hate you the moment they meet you? Just tell them “I like the New England Patriots and Kanye West.” I’m unashamed of that though – I surround myself with greatness. Don’t hate.
And Shaun has been EATING these last two Februarys. Super Bowl Championship and now The Life of Pablo. This seventh studio album from West is… interesting. Most of them are, but with what has been going on in Kanye’s life recently, this one just stands out with a little more lunacy than the rest.
No matter how much you like Kanye, there is no doubt that this dude is off the deep end. I am still in the camp of people that think most of it is marketing – my Facebook feed explodes every time he opens his mouth, and we are all playing right into his hand. No, he is not $53 million in debt; he does not expect Mark Zuckerberg to give him $1 billion; and as I type this, I’m sure he tweeted out something stupid that will be on Entertainment Tonight just to keep the rhetoric going. Taylor Swift roasted him at her Grammy’s speech, and he most certainly deserved it.
He has been Snapchat in the flesh lately – like a 10 second video of some loud, obnoxious scene from a bar that is out of focus and blurry. Then, 10 seconds later, a picture of your cat resting peacefully on the couch. The New York Times opted for a Tumblr comparison – six of one. The point is, he is in a million directions and seems to have no cohesive plan at this point in his long, illustrious career.
And that issue came out in The Life of Pablo. Don’t get me wrong, it is 18 tracks that prove West is still the premier collaborator in modern hip hop. People go out of their way to work on anything that Kanye touches, and no matter how psycho this guy becomes, you cannot take that away from him. He brings the best out of his musical peers. I will be excited to read the tales about the recording process for this album over the next couple of years, just like we read about the Honolulu session during the My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy days.
I have now digested the album over the last 36 hours or so. After my sixth time listening from beginning to end, I finally said out loud “wow, this is good.” But I still have some qualms. Kanye’s music certainly has had some flaws over the last few years and they show here. The number one complaint is where I started with my awful social network metaphor above – it is not cohesive. It is sort of a hodge podge of tracks – albeit a damn-good hodge podge.
Let’s walk through the album (now is the time to open a new tab and check your Twitter feed). I’m a couple vodka drinks deep right now so why not?
One last point: I’m not buying Tidal. Not now, not never. Download this album somewhere else online for free. Can’t hold me back from listening to Kanye.
This song belongs nowhere near the month of February. It is far too warm and lovely. It certainly belongs nowhere near 2013’s Yeezus. A near perfect opening to the album that features Chance the Rapper, who I think had the greatest guest appearance on the album. In track one. That’s it folks, pack up and head home.This was featured on SNL the night before the album dropped, Pitchfork named it Best New Music two days later, and it seems to be an early favorite for many people that have listened. It is well deserved. A light hearted, Donnie Trumpet-sounding (co-produced it – thanks Wikipedia) excellent track to kick things off.
Father Stretch My Hands, Part I
HEY, KID CUDI. WHERE THE HECK HAS THIS BEEN? If Chance has the best appearance, or at the least, best verse of the album, then this is the best chorus. When Cudi comes in with the “beautiful morning…” line, it feels like we are back in 2009 with Cleveland’s finest. Also, Metro Boomin is on a production run like no other in hip hop – a tremendous trap-influenced beat.
But it all comes crashing down with the first Kanye line. Look, here’s the thing – there are good cursers, and then there are bad cursers. Kanye West is BAD at cursing. Always has been. This line here, which I refuse to even type out, is some of the worst stuff he has ever put on wax in his career. My goodness, man, you ruin this song and it is your own album.
Father Stretch My Hands, Part II
Once we get out of the Kanye “bleach” line fiasco, Part I leads us into more thumping Metro Boomin (little Rick Rubin credit on both tracks, too, but no idea what part of the song he touched). The Kanye verse here is redemption – it is so raw and I finally feel like I have a Kanye West rap verse I want to replay on the album by track three. Also, if this is Desiigner’s coming out party to the hip hop world, he did it well. Of all the lines on this album, “I get broads in Atlanta” probably has the number one spot stuck in my head.
Almost the best track on the album. Rihanna doing her thing perfectly. Kanye living up to his promise of making a “Mobb Deep album” by putting Havoc on the production team. The one thing this misses? More Kanye! He rode this beat so well, but the verses are too short. Need more bars and we got ourselves some heat here (it already is hear who am I kidding).
And as offended/disgusted as I was with the “bleach” line before, the infamous Taylor line to kick this song off was not worth the drama at all. It probably would have gone unmentioned, had Kanye not gone on another stupid Twitter rant about it. The line was a perfect example of the, albeit slightly misogynistic, grand bravado that rappers carry. She’s the biggest pop star on the planet but so what – someone like Kanye is going to go right at her. It is part of the genre and the culture. I’m not going to critique everything. And as for Taylor going at him on her Grammy acceptance speech – good for her. If I was her I would be pissed about the album too. What can I say?
This, along with Famous, is suffering from too little Kanye. This beat perked my ears up immediately. It is so unique. Kanye also seems to be channeling some Drake here. Every album Kanye releases always seems to have one or two tracks that play homage to the current sound in hip hop – I felt like the flow here was that homage. All-around really good song. If only the running time wasn’t 2:36.
I’ll just let Kanye’s tweet speak for this interlude: “I put Lowlights on my album just thinking about all the moms driving they kids to school then going to work…”
Take from this soliloquy what you will, I thought it was pretty cool to listen to.
If this website had been up and running for a while, you guys would absolutely know about my disdain for Young Thug. My goodness, get him away from me. So when I saw the name, I got nervous. Luckily he is not on the track for too long, but nonetheless, I do not like this song. The autotune is overused in the chorus, and it just does not do it for me. Rapping about Ray J too… not a good look, man. I have no idea where the redeeming value is in bringing up that name.
Meh. Other than his classic performance on season one of Wild’n Out (did he really just drop that reference?), Kanye has never come across as a freestyler. Exhibit A. Extremely graphic language that again seems forced. The dude just sounds weird when he swears every other word. That is not Kanye. We do get another Desiigner appearance which was exciting, but then we fall into some awful dial tone sound at the end and I am just dying to get to the next song.
We have hit that disjointed lull in the album and this is where I am complaining about the lack of cohesiveness. None of these songs have anything to do with the next or previous song.
I Love Kanye
For all of you that think this guy is delusional, out of touch, and lives in his own world, this one is for you. For all of you that consistently rely on “I like his music, but I hate him” or “I only like his old music when he sampled,” this one is for you.
He knows what everyone thinks of him, he is aware of his place in the industry right now, and he is far more self-aware than anyone realizes. I laugh each time I hear this.
This song picks us right back up like Ultralight Beam does. It attempts to be ‘happiness’ on a track. I hate Chris Brown so I hate to admit this. Once again though – where are the lyrics? No substance in this song. The verses seem empty – like they are just a vehicle to get to the next Brown chorus. This was apparently the one song that was holding the whole album release up… must have missed the point here.
Kendrick Lamar is the best raw rapper on the planet, but in this entire hip hop/R&B/pop crossover genre that Kanye lives in, I don’t think there is a better performer on the plant than The Weeknd. Since 2010, when I found a few tracks on YouTube, I have been all-in on Abel. Everything he touches turns to gold, and this does not disappoint.
A hazy, rambling Kanye complaining about God-knows-what leading into The Weeknd summing it up with “They wish I would go ahead and f*** my life up” is perfect West at the age of 38. That is what everyone is waiting for. I consider this the turning point in the album. We hit FML and we are in fifth gear from here to the end (except Facts, you’ll see).
“Hey, do you think that old school Kanye rapping about mature grown-up problems about friendship over a Boi-1da beat would sound good?” Only one answer to that.
I once went on an anti-Ty Dolla $ign rant on www.reddit.com/r/hiphopheads (shout out to HHH) and a reply comment said that his voice “sounds like honey.” I cannot even deny that – still cannot get into his solo stuff, but Ty brings it on this song. His voice really is as sweet as can be.
This is like the perfect song for Kanye to release a decade after Family Business. Issues with fame and friendship as he has become a jaded adult in the industry is something that is understandable, somewhat relatable, and it is tangible. The second this song came out a month or so ago I was all over it. One of the highlights of TLOP.
15 seconds of Frank Ocean crooning is not going to bring back Sia and Vic Mensa. This was the beginning of the latest Yeezy Season. SNL’s 40th Anniversary celebration brought this gem to us, and the Internet’s favorite meme became “when we getting Wolves CDQ?” and now we have this.
YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR WIFE’S RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHER MEN OVER THIS BEAUTIFUL SONG? Jesus. Bring Sia and Vic back, and you have what might be on the best song on the album. Until then, I am out on this (not really).
PS: Frank Ocean, release some new music please. We are going on year four since Channel Orange.
Silver Surfer Intermission
I never listened to Max B. I just know he is a murderer and he is in prison.
Here we go. Shaun’s favorite song on The Life of Pablo. This song claims to have an Andre 3000 feature, Kanye even says the man’s name on the track, we still do not get an Andre 3000 verse, and it is still my favorite. If this had Andre on it, it would be one of the best songs of the decade.
The beat is simple, the sample is smooth, and when Kanye kicks back into this laidback voice he is a different human. I do not need abrasive Kanye West all the time. It is overbearing. 30 Hours is Kanye right where I want him. Much like Real Friends – vulnerable and honest.
No More Parties in L.A.
Not really fair to everyone else in hip hop to put Kendrick Lamar on a Madlib beat. That is a textbook definition of what hip hop should sound like. This is apparently a leftover from the Dark Twisted Fantasy days, and with recent Grammy-winner, Kendrick Lamar on the track, it is an assured hit in 2016.
Kanye goes in on this song – nearly 3 minutes of straight rapping. No bull surrounding the verse. He is going right at it and it sounds amazing. We also get the namesake of our album here – “I feel like Pablo!”
And one day, when this legend passes us by, I hope someone close to the West estate has enough power to place the most memorable line from this song on Kanye’s headstone, because at the end of the day, Kanye really is: “A 38-year-old 8-year old with rich (person) problems.”
Ugh. I ain’t trying to listen to a 3-minute Adidas commercial. Kanye, you got to get over this. I cannot even remember half of the lines here because we got Kanye mimicking Jumpman like a jealous ex-girlfriend to Drake because he getting that Nike money now. This one needed to stay off the album.
When you are cheap and refuse to subscribe to Tidal (I’m a Spotify man for life), you end up illegally downloading a leak to this album, which gives you TWO versions of Facts. Here is a hint – they both STINK. But if you are good at YouTube, you go find Fade.
Who would have thought Post Malone would be on a Kanye West album? White Iverson himself, in the flesh. This song is everything I would want to hear in a club banger. Every once in a while in his career, Kanye hits the high note and is actually on key. It is rare, but when it happens, it is beautiful – this is one of those songs.
The beat is one of the strongest on the album and it rounds out the album well. I am actually going to go find this right now and listen to it. Perfect track for gorgeous models to walk down a runway modeling Kanye’s ripped and torn, over-priced clothes.
YOUR LOVE IS FADIN’.
So there you have it. If you read this whole thing, then you need a life. I only wrote it because it means I can procrastinate and I don’t have to pay attention to real life responsibilities.
Look, The Life of Pablo was not going to be Kanye’s best album and we all knew that I think (unfortunately). And I stand by the fact that it sounds like 18 songs rather than one album, if that makes sense. But regardless, If we are on a scale of 1 – 10, this is somewhere around 8. Even Kanye’s worst will still be better than everyone else’s best.
The Life of Pablo is a welcoming follow-up to Yeezus, and it will likely top most album lists in 2016. Kanye West just does it. He thrives in chaos. Something beautiful always comes out of it. I’m going to go make another drink and listen to The Life of Pablo.
Best Song: 30 Hours
Best Guest Verse: Chance the Rapper, Ultralight Beam
Best Guest Chorus: Kid Cudi, Father Stretch My Hands, Part I
Best Kanye Verse: Verse two, No More Parties in L.A.
Worst Song: Facts
By Shaun @slough44
FOLLOW THE OPEN FIELD