Release Date: Feb 13, 2016
Record label: Def Jam / GOOD
Pablo Picasso and Kanye West share many qualities—impatience with formal schooling, insatiable and complicated sexual appetites, a vampiric fascination with beautiful women as muses—but Pablo Picasso was never called an asshole. Kanye, specifically, toasted them. The Life of Pablo's namesake is a provocation, a mystery, a sly acknowledgement of multitudes: Drug lord Pablo Escobar is a permanent fixture of rap culture, but the mystery of "which one?" set Twitter theorists down fascinating rabbit holes, drawing up convincing stand-ins for Kanye's Blue Period (808s & Heartbreak), his Rose Period (My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy), and his Crystal Period (Yeezus).
Of course Kanye West would conclude The Life Of Pablo with “Fade,” a three minute and 14 second ode to dwindling love that moves more like a Ty Dolla $ign and Post Malone collaboration than a Yeezy solo offering. Since snatching the microphone from Taylor Swift during the VMAs, the Chicago icon’s likeability has been tested, if not completely evaporated. His marriage to a reality show princess; his haphazard Twitter “beef” with Wiz Khalifa; his billion dollar rants and constant mean mug, et al, have made the Michelangelo of Relatable Raps seem totally unrelatable.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Kanye West, an ambassador of perfection following a decade-plus of paradigm-shifting artistic conquests, changed everything with an all-access pass to his creative process; an inclusive experience, that like his Yeezy collection, proudly wears its shreds and seams. Listing the actual events leading up to the release of Kanye West's seventh studio album The Life Of Pablo would play out longer than the opus’ tangible 18-track running stretch; a timeline commencing in the fall of 2013 and extending through the mid-winter of February 2016, hurdling over four separate album-title deviations (So Help Me God, SWISH, Waves and T.
Review Summary: Excellence loves Kanye like Kanye loves Kanye. At this point, it’s less a question of “if” than a question of degree: just how much is Kanye West fucking with us? Fans have been completely disoriented by Yeezy’s social media presence at least a half-dozen times in the four or five months before The Life of Pablo’s eventual release on February 14 - the album’s cycling through four names, three within a month of it dropping; the nearly farcical yet absurdly well-attended (in person and online) album stream in Madison Square Garden last week; Kanye’s tweet - seemingly out of nowhere - of “BILL COSBY INNOCENT !!!!!!!!!!” which sent fans and writers all across the internet into a frenzy as they tried to work out what that meant; and so much more. The bloggerati have found themselves stuck in largely the same boat as the consumers in terms of their access to album details yet having to produce tens of thousands of words worth of coverage in order to appear to have a handle on things, only to have West tweet his wish that “white publication[s]” not “comment on black music anymore” in response.
The world has distracted from Kanye West's creative process – except, as he shows on The Life of Pablo, distraction is his creative process. This is a messy album that feels like it was made that way on purpose, after the laser-sharp intensity of Yeezus. It's a labored-over opus that wishes it were a mixtape, trying hard to curate the vibe of a sprawling mess, and that's because it's made by an artist who feels like a mess and doesn't care to hide it.
Maybe Kanye West is this generationâ€™s Pablo Picasso. All the signs are there: both artists express themselves in creatively fresh ways. Both challenge what is acceptable and beautiful within their medium. Plus, both are assholes.Plenty has been said about Kanye West over the last two weeks ….
Two confederates of ours not given to hysterics who follow Kanye West’s Twitter feeds recently expressed concern for the brother’s mental state. Fears of a looming meltdown were voiced by both his recently dismissed collaborator Rhymefest and poet Malik Yusef, who likened ‘Ye’s bridge-burning to Van Gogh’s ear. We’ve been on this ride before with MJ.
Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo has all the feel of a college paper composed during an Adderall-fueled all-nighter: Shambolic, half-baked, and haphazardly executed, it’s rife with cringe-worthy leaps of the imagination and displays of bravado. But there’s an exhilaration to the way the album’s strange links between Kanye’s many iterations—soul-sample enthusiast, heartbroken Auto-Tune crooner, hedonistic avant-pop composer, industrial-rap shit-talker—coalesce into something uniquely powerful, if not sharply honed. Right up until its contentious release, The Life of Pablo‘s stable of songwriters and producers ballooned to the point where a writing credit from Drake (for “30 Hours”) didn’t elicit any surprise.
It’s impossible to fish ‘The Life Of Pablo’ out of the stormy seas that preceded its arrival. Twitter meltdowns that painted him in a more than problematic light, constant delays and botched track releases, bizarre fashion shows that doubled up as the debut of a not-actually-even-finished-yet version of the record - there’s plenty more, but you know it already. Hogging the limelight for months, the Kanye West of 2016 is either a master puppeteer of every element of the modern media, or struggling to cope with that attention he refuses to relinquish.
Kanye West :: The Life of PabloTidal/GOOD Music/Def JamAuthor: Jesal 'Jay Soul' PadaniaI am not an art critic. Having read a few reviews of "The Life of Pablo" it's difficult for a lay person to understand just what the fuck they are trying to say sometimes. Throwing around words like "bricolage" is all well and good, but applying the rules of one world (art) cannot always translate perfectly to another (hip hop).
Can we let out a collective sigh at long last? Is The Life of Pablo finally set in its current incarnation? Will Kanye ever get around to physically releasing it?Of course we all know how much of a headache the rollout for Kanye West's ambitious seventh studio album has been to keep up with: the multiple name changes, the flip-flopping on the cover art and track listing, the adding and subtracting of features, the TIDAL exclusivity and the number of demos surfacing online. That isn't even to speak of the non-album events, which included flexing Twitter fingers with Wiz Khalifa, defending Bill Cosby, stream-of-consciousness musings on personal debt and the price of textbooks. These moments have been enough to either strengthen the listener's bond with West or make them miss the old Kanye that much more; but then, he challenges on "Feedback," "Name one genius that ain't crazy.
The back story of Kanye West's 2016 release, The Life of Pablo, is nearly impossible to put in a nutshell, but it involves an ever-changing album title, including one that offended Wiz Khalifa so much that a twitter war ensued. Then there was a "Bill Cosby is innocent" tweet, and a consensus among producers and insiders that this was the culmination of his career. There was the Season 3 release of West's fashion line, a coinciding event that seemed just as important to Yeezy as dropping this LP.
“Name one genius that ain’t crazy,” Kanye West requests on “Feedback,” a hypnotic, erratic highlight from his seventh LP (eighth if you count his Watch the Throne collaboration with Jay Z), The Life of Pablo. The line reads like a throwaway for a lyricist of Kanye’s caliber, but it resonates in the album’s real-life context, as the rapper-producer’s bizarre Twitter rants and obsessive tracklist fiddling have prompted some spectators (including former collaborator Rhymefest) to question his mental stability. “I been out of my mind a long time,” Kanye raps over droning synth tones.
Coming off the back of his 2010 masterpiece My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, the build up to 2013's Yeezus was relatively low-key, with Kanye West having then recently married and refocused on creating a decidedly experimental aesthetic following trips to study modernist art and design. In stark contrast to Yeezus’ hermetic process, West has struggled to control the hype surrounding The Life Of Pablo. Public outbursts, unsavoury Twitter feuds and countless revisions to the release have dogged the album while simultaneously ramping up the excitement of what history might call Kanye’s most anticipated record.
The 21st century offers a panoply of options for the pop star wishing to launch their new album. They can do it in time-honoured style: working the interview circuit, touring hard, keeping their fingers crossed for good reviews. They can go for the surprise approach and suddenly plonk it online without fanfare.
To hell with the narrative. In the days, the months, and even the years leading up to the eventual release of The Life of Pablo, Kanye West gave plenty of opportunities to grab low-hanging fruit. Would the album’s story be like West’s recent Twitter episodes: notable for questionable opinions, lack of self-editing, car-crash watchability, and possibly the result of a declining mental state? Or would the record be yet another installment in West’s history of defying expectations, silencing critics, and delivering all-time great album after all-time great album in spite of the off-putting nature of his persona.
Who exactly is Kanye West in 2016? Is he the envelope-pushing, genre-defining producer and artist who reshaped hip-hop (including 2010's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which I still believe to be the best album of the decade so far)? Alternatively, is he the haughty, rant-prone celebrity husband more widely known for his temper than his talent? This dichotomy sits firmly at the heart of The Life of Pablo, but the creaking structural integrity of the record never fully allows the argument to come to any conclusion. The artistic statement behind the record may illustrate the challenge between maintaining two personas, but the problem is that too much of the music here is unfocused and scattered, needing judicious editing or a tighter quality filter in order to justify its own hype. .
Despite what Kanye West may say, no: The Life of Pablo is not a masterpiece. To some, the above statement is outright heresy, because let’s be real here: we’re talking about Kanye West, an artist who is constantly referred to as one of the most innovative musicians of our time. He was a forward-thinking rapper and producer who dolled out classic, trendsetting albums time and time again, whether it take the form of his sliced-up-soul debut album, 2004’s The College Dropout, or the synth-heavy summer jams that made up 2007’s Graduation, or the wintery and cold depths of his heart that he revealed on the still-divisive 2008 set 808s & Heartbreak.
Shahabuddin Muhammad Shah Jahan, the fifth Mughal Emperor, reigned India between 1628 and 1658. Held among the greatest leaders of all time, he presided over ‘the Golden Age of the Mughals’. Despite this, exploits on multiple fronts – wars against the ancient provinces of Balkh and Badakhshan and attempts to regain the city of Kandahar from the Safavid dynasty – saw him lead his empire to the brink of bankruptcy.
A lot of famous musicians reach a point where their muse becomes the nature of fame itself, resulting in obligatory leave-me-alone kiss-off songs dedicated to the press, hangers-on and haters. On his seventh solo album, Kanye West does the Michaels and Madonnas one better by paying an album-long tribute to the joys, the anxieties, the energy and the extremes required to achieve the far-reaching ambitions he has laid out for himself as a nexus of music, art, technology and fashion. Most pop stars are content with a me-against-the-world mentality, but The Life Of Pablo posits a mantra more like me-against-myself, expressed as a mainline rush of gospel, rap, soul, house, noise and pop, and full of digressions into the highest highs and lowest lows.
A couple of weeks ago, Kanye West logged onto Twitter and promised the world that his next record—then titled Waves—wouldn’t just be the album of the year, but “the album of life.” The Life Of Pablo, West’s highly anticipated seventh studio album, falls short of that outsize pronouncement, but as a beautiful, messy, mixed-up collection of 18 songs, it’s a brilliant document. It feels far different from any of the tightly constructed, singular works of West’s past, and from a sonic standpoint, it sounds almost like a greatest-hits collection of nearly every sound and musical idea that he’s cultivated up to this moment. If you have a favorite Kanye West record, you can find it in here somewhere.
HALFWAY THROUGH Kanye West’s gloriously shambolic, ridiculously assured seventh album he addresses the many criticisms lobbed at him from fans and foes alike. On “I Love Kanye”, which could serve as an apt subtitle to The Life of Pablo, he airs some common gripes: “I hate the new Kanye, the bad-mood Kanye/ The always-rude Kanye, spaz-in-the-news Kanye/ I miss the sweet Kanye, the chop-up-the-beats Kanye.” West then launches into the second half of the LP, the most impressive string of songs he’s unleashed in an already comically towering career. The Life of Pablo as a whole isn’t only a devastating rebuke to the avalanche of negativity Kanye actively courts, but it’s also a capitulation to his critics.
Everyone knows Kanye West is one of music’s most polarizing figures. Sure, he types shocking tweets and makes absurd statements. He’s obsessed with fashion and has married into reality show royalty. And it seems like his arch-nemesis at this point is a perky blonde pop star who just won the Album of the Year award at the 2016 Grammys (congrats Taylor Swift but we really think Kendrick Lamar deserved it).
More an obscure self-portrait than a Picasso masterpiece, ‘The Life Of Pablo’ retains its author’s status as the most interesting man in music. But he makes it seem like harder work than the effortlessness we’re used to..
It’s unlikely we’ll get a song as singular as Kanye West’s “Ultralight Beam” anytime soon, so best to linger on it, feel out its grooves and curves, allow it to seep into the pores. Mr. West’s recent performance of it on “Saturday Night Live” captured its reverent tone well. He began singing through an Auto-Tune-like effect, an old trick but one that he destabilized, using it to exaggerate his imperfections, rather than mask them.
Never before have we had such a detailed insight into the chaotic making of an album as with Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo. Among glimpses into his unique mind, including ill-advised rows with ex-girlfriends, a computer game based on his mum’s journey to heaven, tweets about Bill Cosby and pleas to Mark Zuckerberg, we've witnessed the album change title four times, the tracklisting being revised on scraps of notepad and release dates pass by (For the record Waves, Swish and So Help Me God were all better names than T.L.O.P). Eventually a launch gig in Madison Square Garden failed to actually launch the album when Kanye instead decided to play an incomplete version of the record from his laptop to flog his latest fashion range.
Exhortations to greatness are everywhere. Advertisers of shoes, pizzas and video games encourage us to find it in ourselves via buying their products; dedicated Twitter accounts and financial magazine listicles deliver a barrage of motivational quotes like employers cracking the whip. It's cast as both innate and just beyond our reach, which means that the aphorisms that proliferate around it wind up as a noxious mixture of spiritual waffle and bootstraps rhetoric: New Age bullshit meets neoliberal ideology.
SMusical guest Kanye West performs on "Saturday Night Live" on Feb. 13, 2016. SMusical guest Kanye West performs on "Saturday Night Live" on Feb. 13, 2016.. Kanye West's "The Life of Pablo" (GOOD/Def Jam) sounds like a work in progress rather than a finished album. It's a mess, more a series of ….