Death of the Critic

The Life of Pablo - Review

Written by: Tom Blaich


I never thought that I would say that
Kanye West was anything less than the most confident person in the room. No matter what room it was. Or how big it is. While we do get a feeling of insecurity in his music, as he tackles a feeling of not belonging where he is, it is more of a sense that no one will accept him for how great he is, as opposed to him not being great.

The Life Of Pablo feels different to me. It feels unsure, from its jumbled tracklist to its confusing lyrics. This album feels like an attempt to appease everyone, to make everyone accept him, from College Dropout fans to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy fans to Yeezus fans. But in doing so, the album that he delivers to us only achieves in confusing everybody present. The 17 track, 1 hour long album attempts to exist on too many levels, and ends up feeling jumbled and messy.

The whole ordeal started months ago, when the album was still called
Waves and it was going to be released last May. But over the subsequent nine months before the album actually dropped, we watched an artist obsessed with changing his album before he would give it to anyone. From changing the name to last minute tracklist changes before the album was released, to promises afterwards to “fix wolves” as he continuously tweaked the album after it was launched.


This mess isn’t evident at first, as the album opens with one of the better Kanye tracks of recent years in “Ultralight Beams” a gospel song that fans of Kanye should be familiar with, as he raps over roaring sounds with an album standout verse by fellow Chicago native
Chance the Rapper, who excitedly boasts “I’ve met Kanye West / I’m never going to fail.” It’s a celebration of success on the grandest scale of working together, of making music, of being alive. It’s joyous and bombastic and amazing.

Yet the album doesn’t really go back to this amazing sound in any way. As we move into the next track we are treated to an ethereal intro before one of the cheesier Kanye lines of recent memory. We go from Sunday at church to “if I just fucked this model / And she just bleached her asshole / And I get bleach on my t-shirt / Imma feel like an asshole” as he brings back the
808’s and Heartbreak autotune.

These kind of lyrics aren’t unfamiliar to fans of Kanye, as he’s “eating Asian pussy / All I need is sweet and sour sauce”, but what is most shocking is not what he says, it’s when he says it, which only serves to reinforce the absolute strangeness of the line itself. It just grabs hold of you and pulls you out of the album and back into the real world for a moment.

As always, it has been fantastically produced, with dozens of different sounds and features. Relative newcomer Desiigner’s track “Panda” has been sampled on the amazing “Father Stretch My Hands Pt 2”, as he stands alongside more established artists like
Chance the Rapper, Kendrick Lamar, Rihanna, Kid Cudi, etc.

In fact, some of these features are almost criminally underutilized, with Andre 3000 being credited for saying 2 words on the end on the track “30 Hours” as he simply states the name of the song, and Future popping in with the Young Metro hook on “Father Stretch My Hands Pt 1” threatening “If Young Metro don’t trust you / Imma shoot you”. Instead of satisfying your cravings, it only serves to make them worse, making me wonder what West could have done with an actual Andre 3000 or Future feature, instead of just the boring lines that they were given. It’s crammed full of what Kanye thinks that we want to hear.

Fortunately enough, Kanye knows how to make a good album. He does kind of know what we want to hear. It is nowhere near the top of his discography, where greats like
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Yeezuz, 808s and Heartbreak, and College Dropout exist. But even within this jumbled mess, West manages to craft some amazing earworms. “No More Parties in LA” has him rapping alongside Kendrick Lamar, which is as great as it should be, as Kanye tries to keep up with Kendrick as he tears through the track.

As is usual for him, he isn’t the lyrical standout on many of these songs. He’s there to help enhance the others that he brings in, and he does it amazingly well. Nothing here overstays its welcome, making you wish for more instead of wishing that it would end. And as West continues to tweak the album a month after launch, it looks like we will be getting more soon. “I know some fans didn’t think I’d write like this again, but the writer’s block is over MCs cancel your plans.” It’s an excited boast for the future that only promises more great things out of the artist.

1. Ultralight Beam (Feat. Chance The Rapper, The-Dream and Kelly Price)
Father Stretch My Hands Pt. I (Feat. Kid Cudi)
Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 2 (Feat. Desiigner)
Famous (Feat. Rihanna and Swizz Beatz)
Low Lights
High Lights (Feat. Young Thug)
Freestyle 4 (Feat. Desiigner)
I Love Kanye
Waves (Feat. Chris Brown)
FML (Feat. The Weeknd)
Real Friends (Feat. Ty Dolla $ign)
Wolves (Feat. Vic Mensa and Sia)
Frank's Track (Feat. Frank Ocean)
Silver Surfer Intermission
30 Hours (Feat. André 3000)
No More Parties In LA (Feat. Kendrick Lamar)
FACTS (Charlie Heat Version)
Fade (Feat. Ty Dolla $ign and Post Malone)
Saint Pablo (Feat. Sampha)

This title was reviewed before the inception of our current review system and as such is not scored. We still stand by the content of our old reviews.

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Tom has been writing about media since he was a senior in high school. He likes long walks on the beach, dark liquor, and when characters reload guns in action movies.

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