The Life of Pablo review

I released this a week after I said I would

Last Wednesday and Thursday, I wrote an English essay in, more or less, a 24-hour time period. I did not read through it after I finished it.  I definitely didn’t meet half of the requirements I should have, and all of this results from the fact that I really didn’t devote the correct amount of time to considering what I was writing about or why I was writing itSorry in advance for that, Mrs. Bode.

Now if that essay was instead an album, I’d have the ability to write that sloppiness off as an avant-garde exploration into the recesses of my psyche. And if I was Kanye, I’d be able to call it The Life of Pablo, after a few disputes over names and, you know, that inconsequential “tracklist” thing.

After a few pre-release singles on Kanye’s Soundcloud, I thought the seventh LP might be a return to a lyrical narrative reminiscent of Graduation and earlier. “No More Parties in LA” hosts a verse that delves more into his early struggle-rap existence; and although I dispute that TLOP is Kanye’s becoming of Pablo Picasso, it is nonetheless enjoyable to sit back and enjoy this flow that fits so comfortably over Madlib’s production. With the instrumental improvement, the new “Facts” falls into this category too, though I find myself quickly bored by the superficial lyrical content on this track.

Perhaps this is where the appreciable beauty lies with the project as a whole: not in the lackluster vocal/lyrical contributions, which are especially so in light of amazing features from Chance, Kendrick and the Weeknd, but instead in the infamous Kanye ego and personality. This plays out with a masked sarcasm on the tracks “Freestyle 4,” “FML” and even “I Love Kanye,” though not so much basically wherever else it’s attempted – “Wolves,” “Feedback” and “Famous” to name a few. Kanye’s fans will more than likely absolve the hit-or-miss tendency of TLOP as his choice to leave it unrefined for artistic reasons, which is fine. The consequent issue I have arises in his over-hyping of the project: I don’t think he should pretend like he is a pioneer of artistry because he likes ‘switching it up a bit’ in the same track (see “Pt. 2” of “Father Stretch My Hands,” for example). It’s been done, (i.e. my English paper.)

This, however, doesn’t mean TLOP is free of the ‘crazy genius’ that it claims in “Feedback.” There’s a simple elegance in both the production, lyricism and progression of “Ultralight Beam.” The minimalism in the beat, the working in of the gospel choir, and the verses Kelly Price and Chance come together for a really unique track – one that, according to Chance himself would’ve made more sense in its original outro position than in the intro. Its only parallel on the album is “Real Friends” which equally impressively blends niche-style production with an interesting perspective in Ty Dolla $ign’s feature effectively for a strong track.

But two tracks does not an amazing album make, especially when the two tracks are surrounded by 15 that feel like two-to-three minute tangents all going in different directions. Kanye creates these moments of artistic difference that, granted, have a certain shock value to them, but leave me sighing at either shoddy lyrics (the ‘Ghetto Opera’ bit in “Feedback” or the ‘GoPro’ verse in “Highlights”), shoddy production (“Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” and “Waves”) or shoddy randomness (the second half of “30 Hours” and the completely useless “Siiiiiiiiilver Surffffeeeeer Intermission”).

Kanye will probably continue to convince us that this randomness is the real him, but the finals days leading up to the project’s release being riddled with name changes, studio time and added/dropped tracks makes this randomness more reminiscent of a high schooler writing a paper for a deadline. Top it off with a lazily-produced, lyrically meaningless outro track “Fade” that sounds like it was made just to be walked to by Yeezy modelers, and perhaps you can see why it took me multiple attempts to listen through until the end.

So my advice to a potential TLOP holdout is this: if you haven’t already wasted your TIDAL Music trial, there’s no reason to do it at this point. Though Yeezus himself says that’s the only place you’ll be able to get it, his debt and desire for a Grammy have convinced me that it’ll only be a matter of time until it’s for sale through other mediums. If I’m wrong, well, let me just say that’s there’s definitely not other ways of listening here and here.

The Parkway West Pathfinder gives ‘The Life of Pablo” 6.4/10.

Side note: you might to appreciate the fact that Parkway Schools recognized the amount of hype that Kanye created around his project participated in the Twitter fad of making a Mock TLOP cover.