Yeezy Season has been approaching for what feels like forever, but it’s finally (kind of) here.
Kanye West dropped his latest album, “The Life of Pablo,” last Saturday following his sold out fashion show and listening party at Madison Square Garden, a Saturday Night Live performance and a botched roll out after its Tidal stream couldn’t handle the number of users trying to listen.
Kanye albums are like autotuned, controversial snowflakes: no two are the same. He has made a concerted effort to never do the same thing twice, much to the chagrin of purists who yearn for the backpack-wearing, youthful Kanye of old. He addresses this in a skit entitled “I Miss the Old Kanye,” in which he raps, “I miss the sweet Kanye, chop up the beat Kanye, I gotta say, at that time I’d like to meet Kanye.” It’s a rare moment of self-awareness and humor, with a laugh at the end that could be straight off of “Late Registration.”
The album gives listeners snapshots of old albums, while continuing to explore new styles. It’s a perfect compromise: give the listeners something new and original, while acknowledging their need for the Kanye they fell in love with on “College Dropout.”
“The Life of Pablo” sounds more like a collection of music instead of an album with a crystal clear theme, though it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It may seem strange at first, but the 18-track album embodies some of his best work. “Fade” will be a club song for years to come, while “Wolves” is quiet, brooding and one of his finest works to date.
Kanye delves into his personal life, drawing from his experiences as a father, his difficulties keeping his kids from the limelight and dealing with scorned exes. We’ve seen Kanye vulnerable on “808s and Heartbreaks,” but this struggle is one he conveys successfully.
Utilizing features to their full potential has always been a strong suit of Kanye’s, but it has never stronger than on “The Life of Pablo.” He is able to capture the earnestness and passion of Chance the Rapper on “Ultralight Beams,” the warbled bravado of Post Malone on “Fade” and even finds Frank Ocean for the outro to “Wolves,” a part that goes together like sunglasses and advil. These features, from Rihanna to G.O.O.D. Music newcomer Desilgner, are played to their strengths and, though they sometimes outshine Kanye themselves, make for a better album.
The issue with the album is that it feels mismanaged past its sloppy release. The intro track, “Ultralight Beams,” attempts to set a tone that the rest of the album doesn’t match. It is divided into what seems to be three sections, or acts as they were referred to on Kanye’s Twitter. There is a lack of cohesion between the songs at times, which can make for a confusing listen. It’s not that the music is poor; it’s just poorly organized.
This lack of cohesion disrupts the intermission and freestyle that are featured on the album, making them feel out of place. It isn’t the first time that Kanye has used skits or intermissions as transitions from song to song, but it’s the first time it hasn’t worked.
With that being said, “The Life of Pablo” is not finished. Kanye has stated that he’s going to “fix Wolves,” and has hinted at other changes. It’s entirely possible to release an album and change it over time with a digital release, which would not have been possible previously. It’s an opportunity for fans to see some of the creative process behind a self-proclaimed genius. There has already been a leak that contains some rougher demos of songs that made the album and songs that didn’t, peeling back the hood and giving us a glimpse of the decision-making of one of hip-hop’s greatest minds.
The Life of Pablo puts Kanye at 7/7 in successful solo albums. The album may not be perfect, but who knows what it will be in the future as it continues to evolve.