Joe Cadman looks back on what was hyped up to be the best album ever, by the man whose ego has its own gravitational pull. Three months on has Kanye West's 'The Life of Pablo' lived up to all it was expected to be?
After all the chaos that surrounded its release, The Life of Pablo has been with us for nearly three months now. All the rehashing of its track list, all the listening parties that were beamed around the world and all the standard batshit crazy antics that come with a Kanye album release have largely been put to the back of people’s minds. Yes the pointless, Buzzfeed beef between Taylor Swift and Kim Kardashian still rambles on but honestly, who cares about that?
Now what’s left is the album itself. A fractured piece that feels like it’s been thrown together incoherently with nothing holding it together, it bares all the hallmarks of something that’s been overworked and overproduced. There’s no distortion or anger similar to what held Yeezus together and instead The Life of Pablo never really seems to settle into its groove. The tempo of both parts of Father Stretch My Hands jumps about all over the place like a kid who’s had too much sugar whilst 30 Hours and the house influence on Fade just feels out of place all together.
One thing that is strange about Pablo is seeing someone who released something as volatile as New Slaves and previously declared that George Bush doesn’t care about black people largely ignore the current racial tensions in America. The only reference to the Black Lives Matter movement is “Hands up, we just doing what the cops taught us / Hands up, hands up, then the cops shot us” from Feedback. This isn’t saying that just because Kanye is an African American rapper he should be doing the same as other artists and making a political stand through his music, it’s far from it. It’s simply strange that with Kanye’s track record on speaking up about the racial inequality in America, he would miss an opportunity to be more confrontational and make a stand.
Instead the focus is on Kanye’s world as he attempts to be more self-aware with tracks like I Love Kanye and Real Friends but we don’t get the public autopsy of Kanye West; he doesn’t tear down his ego or dissect his actions. What we do get feels like flicking through a cheap gossip magazine that Kanye himself has edited just for a laugh. The afterthought of Saint Pablo is the only real track that feels introspective as Kanye delves into his problems of debt and touches on questions about his mental health. It’s the closest we get to everything being laid bare and is the only real time that we get an insight into what it’s really like to be Kanye West in spite of the album’s overarching theme.
Overall, Pablo isn’t a horrendous album as it does have its highlights. Famous and Ultralight Beam are Kanye at his best. As well as this the collaboration with Kendrick Lamar on No More Parties in LA is as good as you’d expect from two of the best rappers currently producing music. All Pablo needed was more restraint. If it had less guest spots and about half of the tracks that it does it would’ve been a much, much better album. Rather we’re left with the modern hip hop equivalent of Oasis’ Be Here Now. Someone given too much control with no one there to reign them back in and what’s left is something that’s far too over indulgent and bloated.