“Life of Pablo” was released February 14, 2016, by GOOD Music / Def Jam. (Rodrigo Ferrari/ Creative Commons)
Hard bass drops and enticing melodies overseen by music production’s Picasso has become a reality. “The Life of Pablo,” released February 14th, is the third album put out under Kanye West’s revival. The album follows the critically acclaimed “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” (2010) and the incredibly raw “Yeezus” (2013).
The cover art portrays pictures of West’s family as well as the backside of a naked woman, with the repeated text “WHICH/ONE” underneath them, which proves to be the theme of the album.
Pablo begins with the gospel heavy “Ultralight Beam” which sets the strong religious overtones that West is known for, but also shows his struggle with his faith. This feels extremely refreshing in the current hip hop environment, and Chance the Rapper’s verse brightens up the room whenever it plays. Pablo is at this point, a devoted and religious father. “Father Stretch My Hands” parts 1 and 2 are taken over by the Future-like Designer with his amazing drops and head heavy base.
Rihanna’s verses on “Famous” can really resonate with the listener and West’s samples of classic songs such as Sister Nancy’s “Bam Bam” do a fantastic job of mixing the old with the new. Pablo wishes to be liberated from his restrictive environment at this point. Some may be pushed away from “Feedback”’s raw “Yeezus” like sound, but knowing that the entire beat of the song is literally music feedback is eye opening towards one’s enjoyment of it.
“Low Lights” is a slow burn track that leads into the amazingly inspiring “Highlights” vocals.The conflicting messages between these two songs has left some listeners confused. The slow and melodious “Low Lights” is a religious epiphany, while the more traditional “Highlights” tells tales of West’s sexual accomplishments, further enforcing the theme of duality.
“Freestyle 4” is admittedly the weakest point of the album. Kanye West may be great with his production, but his improvisation leaves a lot to be desired. “I Love Kanye”, while only 44 seconds long, contains a look at how West perceives himself and the fans of his older work.
“Waves” is the star of the album. There is no doubt that the lyrics “Waves don’t die baby, let me crash here for a moment” will fill the speakers of everyone’s radios this summer.
“FML” and “Real Friends” contain Kanye’s ultimate confessions about his $53 million dollar debt, his adultery, and again his struggle with faith and family.“Wolves” feels incredibly eerie and lonesome, and captures the idea of being alone perfectly. Frank Ocean closes out the track with the line “Life is precious, we found out”. “30 Hours” serves as a further point for West to lament the things that he has done.
He is brought deeper and deeper into his own depression until he starts to realize who he his and what he’s doing. Pablo doesn’t have time to feel sorry for himself, he’s got to work.
“No More Parties in LA” features Kendrick Lamar and serves as the first collaboration between the two artists. The track consists West and Lamar playfully venting their frustrations with the “rich people” problems and highlighting
Hollywood’s greatest production: the celebrity lifestyle. Pablo hates what he is supposed to be. “Facts” feels out of place, as it is nothing but a spur of the moment recording that celebrates West’s launch of Adidas’ Yeezy Boosts line. “Fade” is the low key track that slides the listener out of West’s mindset. This is the final moment for Pablo, as he finally realizes that unless he realizes who he is supposed to be, he’ll do nothing but “fade away”.
The question is now left up to the listener, who is Pablo? Many have speculated that it is the famous artist Pablo Picasso, or the notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar. Paul the Apostle is even an option. The beauty of “The Life of Pablo” is that the identity of Pablo himself is completely ambiguous and up to the listener. So, who is Pablo to you?
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