By Dru Barcelo
Kanye West’s latest project, The Life of Pablo (TLOP), is a work of art. The long awaited album was released after countless controversial tweets from Kanye, ranging from teasing the title of the album to engaging in heated feuds.
The Life of Pablo is a pleasantly messy album that contrasts from the laser-sharp intensity of Kanye’s previous album, Yeezus. This new album reflects an artist who feels like a mess and doesn’t care to hide it: it’s Kanye’s form of artistry.
Kanye opened up the album with “Ultralight Beam,” setting up a gospel theme that he aimed for it to be with Kirk Franklin, Kelly Price, The-Dream, and Chance the Rapper. The rest of the album follows a pathway of craziness, bouncing between hardcore, high pitched beats to soft and calm vibes with steady beats.
The somewhat disorienting range of sounds and styles are the work of a musical genius who understands which beats work and which don’t. This dysfunction and mess of flows appear to be a deliberate technique, testing listeners to piece the puzzle pieces together.
Consequently, each track gives insight to each version of Kanye, including the parts he’s afraid to show the world: a distant dad in “Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 2,” a restless husband in “FML,” a manipulative phony in “Real Friends,” and a guilt-ridden son in “Wolves,” featuring the presumed to be dead Frank Ocean. Each track sets up a story reflecting Kanye and his troubles while staying true to the hardcore crazy Kanye we know with tracks like “Freestyle 4.”
Following up, “30 Hours” looks back on a failed long-distance relationship with the song ending on a timeless tangent, him talking on the phone with someone. Furthermore, the album is interrupted by interludes such as “Lowlights,” seemingly meant to shine a light on important issues Kanye has dealt with.
Probably the most iconic and discussed track is “Famous,” especially after his diss to Taylor Swift on the song that created an uproar. Considering the harsh, profane lyrics, it is understandable as to why Taylor Swift would be offended by the verse though Kanye claims that he asked her if the verse was okay to use.
Although there is plenty of melancholy sprinkled throughout the album, it sounds like Kanye is actually mourning the long-running love affair between Kanye and Kanye. When he says, “you was the best of all time at the time though, Yeah, but you wasn’t mine though” in “30 hours,” he’s talking to his reflection in the mirror, giving a sort of vision that Kanye has lost himself and if in the process of bringing him back.
The freestyle “I Love Kanye” makes a lasting impact, especially in the ending verse “I love you like Kanye loves Kanye.” Kanye knows he always screws over the ones he loves, even the one he loves most, himself.
To top it off, the album begins to end with the songs with the songs “No more parties in LA,” a mash-up with grammy awarded rapper Kendrick Lamar, revitalizing the lyricism and flow of both Kanye and Kendrick with a series of verses with a slick rhyme scheme. The revamped single “Facts” has been worked on and has a new beat by Charlie Heat, seemingly “saving” the track according to many fans.
The very last track on the album is titled “Fade.” The beat of the song resembles that of a dance track from the 90s giving the track a retro feel, fading slowly into the background as the album comes to a close.
Again, this album is a work of art—perhaps a self-portrait of an emotionally conflicted man.
The project took 32 artists and producers, the number increasing more as the number of albums have. Kanye’s ideology has always been that music is a family, and that has become more evident.
The album is called The Life of Pablo, but it’s believed that in its reference to Pablo Picasso, Kanye is referring to himself. He compares himself to Pablo, even going to the extent of embedding it in his lyrics. “I feel like Pablo when I’m working on my shoes,” he said in one of his tracks.
With the undoubtedly influence and aid from Kim Kardashian, there is no doubt that if Kanye is indeed Picasso, then Kim Kardashian is Jacqueline Roque, Picasso’s final muse and the woman to whom he remained faithful.