In the second chapter of Charles Dickens’ second novel, Oliver Twist, a desperate, homeless boy, named Oliver Twist, is on the brink of starvation. He and the other boys of the parish workhouse suffer steady starvation over a three-month period, which in turn, drives them to near madness.
After receiving and devouring their first morsel of food in months, Oliver, to the disbelief of his peers, asks the master for more. The master subsequently scoffs at the boy’s notion, before publicly shaming him and ordering his hanging.
Kanye West and his highly anticipated new album, The Life of Pablo, make me feel like Oliver Twist. I want more.
The Life of Pablo, which was originally scheduled to drop on Thursday, was finally released following West’s Saturday Nigh Live performance, in which he performed “Ultra Light Beams”. The album previously went through names like So Help Me God, SWISH and Waves, but West ultimately settled on TLOP.
This album packs a punch and has enough star power that will entice the most shallow of Yeezy fans. Kanye assembled a well-rounded and effective collection of feature artists, including: Kendrick Lamar, Frank Ocean, The Weeknd, Rihanna, Chance the Rapper, Andre 3000, Young Thug, Ty Dolla $ign and more.
My initial takeaways:
Kanye came out swinging with his opening track “Ultralight Beam”. The gospel-themed, religious-narrative loaded anthem showcases West’s vocals, which pair perfectly with the gospel choir portion of the track. Fellow Chicagoan, Chance the Rapper, makes an appearance and is nice change of pace. His unique style compliments both Kanye and the choir nicely. I just really wish Kanye rapped at some point throughout the song. It had the potential to be epic.
“Waves” features R&B sensation Chris Brown and it feels like Brown dominates the song. This song is one of the lighter portions of the album, but has some nice melodic qualities and could be fit for radio.
The more I listen to “FML”, the more I enjoy it. It’s a much darker side of Kanye and its very fitting that this is the song that features the dark, drug-induced, turned pop star artist that is The Weeknd. The song “reveals the layers of my soul” and addresses Kanye’s struggles with personal demons and the constant judgement from the world around him.
“Wolves” is far and away the most complex song on TLOP. This track examines a plethora of emotions, including depression, anxiety, sadness, loneliness and Kanye’s personal insecurities. He makes yet another religious references, this time mentioning Jesus’s mother, Mary, and asks “’fore she met Joseph with no love?” Frank Ocean makes an appearance and adds to the ominous and soul-splitting vibes to this record. This song needs attention and a genuine listen, but this is perhaps the hidden gem of the whole album.
My favorite track on TLOP is “30 Hours”. This track features a steady stream of Kanye rapping and has a very old-Kanye feel to it. The beat is mellow, but allows Kanye to be the star of the show (wait, who am I kidding? He’s always the star of the show.) Andre 3000’s presence alone should be enough to let viewers know this song is the real deal. My favorite bar from this song involves a Matt Barnes-Derek Fisher reference, which is enough for me. This track is incredible and can be listened to on replay.
The most party-ready, loud-thumping song of this album is “No More Parties in LA”. The song’s intro is from Johnny Guitar Watson’s “Give Me My Love” and Larry Graham’s “Stand Up and Shout About Love” and is the perfect backdrop for this old school, Kanye atomic bomb. Kanye rips this song apart, but despite Ye’s greatness, Compton’s wonderkid, Kendrick Lamar, steals the show (which he often does). Kendrick is unbelievable and this song is a definite fan favorite.
Ultimately, this album is good. But it’s just that, good. I fully believe that Kanye has the ability to produce spine-tingling, soul-shattering, and heart-stopping music, album in and album out. He’s wildly controversial and is often hated for his self-obsession, but that’s in part what makes him great.
Kanye can and has done things that will never be replicated. His ability to change styles, integrate different elements and push the boundaries makes him a musical god.
Like he says in “No More Parties in LA”, “I feel like Pablo when I’m workin’ on my shoes. I feel like Pablo when I see me on the news. I feel like Pablo when I’m workin’ on my house.”
He’s Pablo Picasso, Pablo Escobar and Pablo from down the street all rolled into one. He is Kanye West.
Top 3 tracks:
1) “30 Hours”
2) “No More Parties in LA”