The real G.O.O.D Music golden child.
It’s been a long two and half years since Kanye West released his polarizing project Yeezus. He’s had two kids, ditched Nike for Adidas, relinquished his president position at G.O.O.D Music, and he got married, all in that timespan. With all these changes in his life, the musical aspect of his career seemed to slowly start to drift away. His focus on his clothing line seemed to become his central focus, and after three title changes and a year between the last single (“All Day”) it looked like his album was almost eons away. But it’s finally here; the real question is was it worth the wait/hype?
The Life of Pablo may be his most bizarre album name to date, but the album never feels bizarre or risky like Yeezus did. This is some of his best work to date, but it doesn’t feel as important as any of his other releases. Sure the hype is what brings the anticipation, but every album Kanye has ever released changes the musical landscape. This album feels more like just an album, nothing groundbreaking and nothing new and experimental, but it’s by no means a bad album. Actually, this is Kanye’s most accessible work since Graduation with some hard-hitting production and a mixed palette of tastes.
The album starts off with “Ultralight Beam”, a gospel-driven track that feels warm and welcoming with a choir backing the hook and a Chance the Rapper feature, and it’s a great album opener. The transition into track two, “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” is the near perfect and has a powerful choir-driven sample with some awesome synths layered behind it. The beat drop and Kid Cudi feature to push the song into the “Kanye’s best” category. The album delaying song “Waves” is beautiful and showcases a Chris Brown feature like you’ve never heard him before, it’s just euphoric. “Freestyle 4” is an eerie string driven sample with a great verse and an awesome ending while “Highlights” recruits Young Thug (??), Kelly Price, The-Dream, and El Debarge (???!!!) for a spectacularly smooth song about Ray J, bad bitches, and fame. FML features a vulnerable verse from West as well as a solid feature from The Weeknd himself with an amazing beat switch and a sample of Section 25’s “Hit”. The album closer “Fade” is spearheaded by Ty Dolla $ign and Post Malone with a house driven beat with barely any Kanye but a ton of future airplay.
The whole 18 track project breezes by at a brisk pace and never overstays its welcome, and there is nothing skip worthy here, but the album does lack coherence. It starts with a gospel tone and then seems to completely abandon the idea only to pick it back up a couple tracks later. It also feels a bit rushed and it seems to have been recorded in the span of about 4 months with a couple of older confirmed tracks sprinkled into the track list. What it lacks in terms of coherence and focus it makes up for in production and features, it’s definitely worth the wait and contains some of his best work, but that seems to be the norm for all of his releases. The guy just keeps getting better with age.
– Kyle Pinaro