There aren’t many artists I religiously monitor like Kanye West, but following this entire 7th album saga, and everything that’s gone with it, even I’ve had enough of the guy. Countless name changes, painfully drawn out and mediocre promotional singles, predictable publicity stunts such as his spat with Wiz Khalifa, a supposed return of GOOD Fridays that never really happened, intrusions of nobodies such as the ‘Kardashian clan’, all the while coupled with Mr West’s desperate attempts at fulfilling his dream of cracking the fashion industry. With all this going on, I find it hard to believe that a solid album can come out the other end.
The Life of Pablo is a warped fusion of Yeezus’s scattered ‘experimentation’, crossed with the layered delicacy of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and unfortunately, these two oppositional traits clash rather than gel. The album trend hops- sampling Future’s Jumpan line, plaguing it with trap via the predictable choices of Metro Boomin or Boi-1da, or by chucking fellow Tidal-pushing Rihanna onto a track to make Big Brother happy. As I said with the mess of shock value that Yeezus was, I wasn’t ready to accept distortion and brash production as a new sign of genius- I’m simply not falling for it.
Just like the rest of the world so it seems, opener Ultralight Beam is tipped as the best song on the album, and it probably is, not because of how good it is, but because of how uninteresting the rest is. I’ve heard autotune murmuring for the entire of 2015 thanks to Future and co., I’ve heard the same trap drum patterns across every rap project, and I’ve heard some of the featured artists on The Life of Pablo fake their way through rap since they first started appearing (Young Thug, Post Malone, Ty Dollar $ign). Why oh why am I hearing it all once again on the supposed ‘album of life’, from apparently the ‘greatest rockstar in the world’?
Production is arguably half of an album, and an LP’s content, substance and lyrics can often outweigh the literal sound, but the lyrics particularly are where I feel The Life of Pablo really ‘all falls down’. ‘Now if I fuck this model / And she just bleached her asshole / And I get bleach on my T-shirt / I’mma feel like an asshole.’ Really?….Like..really? I don’t often like to write with colloquialisms, but sometimes it’s the only way to express genuine desperation. ‘I bet me and Ray J would be friends / If we ain’t love the same bitch / Yeah, he might have hit it first / Only problem is I’m rich.’ It’s not witty? It’s not a metaphor? It’s not a double entendre? The vocals don’t flow, they’re not organic, they don’t leave you thinking ‘that was fire’, it’s just a jumble of desperate outbursts and bewildering opinions. The lyrics and overall substance to The Life of Pablo is enough to outweigh the already lacking production end of the project.
The Life of Pablo wasn’t worth the wait. Mediocre, done-before production that every rapper seems to feed off at the moment, crossed with constant ‘switch ups’ leaving the direction of sound scattered and impossible to latch onto. On the same note, substance-free content and ‘give it a rest’ lyrics do nothing but tire and stupefy. When I first heard No More Parties in LA I was interested, but still wanted more, however it’s clear that in this nondirectional pile of noises, it was in fact the best I was ever going to get from Kanye West in this scattered frame of mind he finds himself in 2016. Maybe it’s me, maybe I’m being out of touch, maybe I’m stuck in the yesteryears of hip-hop, and if Kanye West of all people is hopping on the same train then maybe this is how it’s going to be. If this is current day rap, then count me out.
He’s right- ‘I miss the old Kanye, straight from the ‘Go Kanye // Chop up the soul Kanye, set on his goals Kanye // I hate the new Kanye, the bad mood Kanye // The always rude Kanye, spaz in the news Kanye.’
Verdict – WW