First Listen Review: Kanye West – “The Life of Pablo”

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The Good: Kanye is in top form on The Life of Pablo. There are eighteen songs on the album and almost every one is strong enough to be a single and there is a large diversity in sound and style. Kanye’s biggest strength is still his production and the beats on TLoP are one of the highlights. He takes an almost minimalist approach at times, utilizing empty space in ways you don’t often hear in hip hop. His perfectionism and expertise is obvious in every synth, drum beat and vocal sample, which are all finely honed and calculated. The beats themselves range from beautiful (Ultra Light Beams), to hard (Facts), to both (Wolves). They sound like the future, and I don’t mean Sci-Fi. If you want to get an idea of what hip hop will sound like a year from now, this is probably it, his influence and impact are just that strong. The list of features is an impressive sampling of artists at the top of their game, and includes Chance the Rapper, Donnie Trumpet, Kid Cudi, Rihanna, Young Thug, Chris Brown, The Weeknd, Ty Dolla $ign, Frank Ocean, Andre 3000, and Kendrick Lamar. Most of the songs are, unsurprisingly, about Kanye or his relationships; with his family (Father Stretch My Hands), God (Ultra Light Beams), his laptop stealing cousin (Real Friends), Taylor Swift (Famous) or even Nike (Facts). The weakest part of The Life of Pablo is probably Kanye’s rapping, but his rapping is good, it’s just that everything else is excellent. Overall, The Life of Pablo is not the greatest album Kanye has ever made but it is still good enough to live up to the mountain of hype surrounding it, which is remarkable.

The Bad: The entire experience of obtaining and listening to this album has been a mess, mostly because it was released exclusively on Tidal. If people give you money for an album, they should be able to listen to it. Tidal is one of the biggest offenders of exclusive releases, which only really  punish fans. You should make it easier for fans to listen to your music, not force them to sign up for a service that takes their money then doesn’t even work. Kanye’s indecisiveness and perfectionism can also be blamed for some of the problems with the release; he couldn’t settle on a name for the album, delayed the album at the last minute multiple times, and repeatedly changed the track list. The later is probably the reason for the lack of cohesiveness between songs, which is my biggest actual problem with this album (besides Kanye’s borderline perverted propensity for controversy). Transitions between songs can be abrupt and there seems to be no real overarching theme to The Life of Pablo beyond these are the songs that Kanye has been working on recently.

Would I Listen Again: Yes

Link to Tidal to Stream the Album

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