From album title changes (So Help Me God, Swish, Waves and finally The Life of Pablo) to itchy Twitter fingers with Wiz Khalifa and ex-girl, Amber Rose, claiming that Bill Cosby is innocent, more Taylor Swift off-and-on beef, a fake Rolling Stone cover, the album pushback, to finally the highly-anticipated TLOP landing on Tidal just after midnight: Mr. West knows how to keep himself the topic of conversation.
Let’s face it. Being that hip-hop is a young man’s sport, we hold our breath every time a vet, or legend in the making, decides to release a new album after a certain point in their career. No one wants to see their favorite MC go lame by dropping a brick. So here we are, waiting to exhale after pressing play on Mr. West’s seventh studio effort, especially after 2013’s polarizing Yeezus.
Yes, even after releasing the infectious “All Day,” the Kendrick Lamar-assisted “No More Parties in L.A.,” the hard-truth cut “Real Friends,” and “30 Hours” (all solid tracks), critics and hip-hop lovers alike still wonder whether the egotistical married father of two is poised for a downfall because he’s too focused on fashion and his expensive Air Yeezys—a subject he boasts about on TLOP’s infectious “Facts.”
Well, as much as the dream killers would love to kill Yeezus’ self-esteem, Mr. West isn’t having it. The kid delivered some sweet, healthy food for the soul on this project. On The Life of Pablo, Kanye has fun, enjoys family and taps into his Christianity, “Jesus Walks” style.
The 18-track project commences with the church-inspired “Ultralight Beam,” featuring an all-star cast of Chance the Rapper (who Kanye blamed for TLOP’s pushback), The-Dream, Kelly Price and Kirk Franklin. With church organs and a choir wailing in the background, this cut is drenched in faith from Sunday church services Ye picked up back in Chi-Town.
Later on TLOP’s “Low Lights,” Yeezy even takes time to give praise to his Maker by exposing how strong his faith is. On “I Love Kanye,” he goes in a cappella reminiscing about the pink Polo-wearing Kanye, which fans miss, and how we supposedly hate the new, rude, avant garde Kayne. But even here it’s done in jest, which shows how much fun he’s having with music.
“Pt. 2,” featuring the newest member of G.O.O.D. Music, Desiigner. Kanye taps into his personal life with lines about his deceased father, and not having enough time for his infamous wifey Kim K., some of the very things that his father did. Ye’s even admitted to crying while writing this song.
The personal, spiritual themes continue on standouts “Famous,” “Waves,” “FML,” “Wolves,” and “Facts.” They’re all laced with hypnotic production, Kanye finding a comfort zone in bulletproof bravado. Subject matter like not jeopardizing his family for random jump-offs and laying down his life for his loved ones makes it seem as if the explosive Kanye is only that way for the cameras. (After all, this is entertainment.)
On “Feedback” and the Young Thug-assisted “Highlights,” lackluster production fails to holds attention. But overall, The Life of Pablo finds Kanye West in a comfy spot in his life: not taking things too seriously, relishing domestic duties, giving thanks to Jesus for the spoils of endorsements and millions of dead presidents he’s milked off hip-hop. TLOP further solidifies Mr. West’s spot as one of the all-time greats.
Darryl Robertson is a senior at St. John’s University. He’s passionate about hip-hop and Black history, and he’s a voracious reader. After getting his Ph.D. in African-American history, Robertson plans to become one of the leading voices on issues concerning our community.