“The Life of Pablo” is not perfect. In fact, throughout Kanye’s entire discography, if I had to choose one album of his that was closest to perfect, it probably wouldn’t be “The Life of Pablo.” However, there is no denying that this album is a beautifully crafted piece of work.
It starts immediately with “Ultralight Beam.” On this opening track, Kanye proclaims, “This is a God dream.” That line, alone, sets a direction for “The Life of Pablo.” This album is much like “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” with a few “light dreams” sprinkled in throughout. We get songs like “Ultralight Beam” with the choir vocals in the background and “Waves” with the upbeat melodic sounds, but we also get dark songs, such as “Freestyle 4” where Kanye fantasizes about having sex in the middle of a dinner party and the whole party breaks out in a spontaneous sexual rendezvous much like “Hell of a Night” on “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” Some other dark songs from “The Life of Pablo” include “FML” and “Wolves” where we get a deep and somewhat introspective side of Kanye. But through and through, this album seems like a dream Kanye is having.
Aside from the light-to-dark continuum, the majority of “The Life of Pablo” can mostly be viewed as a piece of art. Kanye West really wanted to show and prove his artistry with this album, and I believe he succeeded in that regard. “The Life of Pablo” may not be the best rap album, but, musically, it’s definitely a great album.
“The Life of Pablo” consists of beautiful production from some of the genre’s biggest-name producers, such as Metro Boomin’, Swizz Beatz and Rick Rubin, to name a few. Along, with the excellent production, Kanye snags an A-list cast of features—from Chance the Rapper to Rihanna to Frank Ocean to Post Malone. Each feature adds a nice element to each song. The album is really capped off with Kanye’s perfected use of auto-tune and melodic tones throughout. It’s just great music to vibe out to.
But despite the beauty behind the musical aspect of “The Life of Pablo,” there are flaws. My first beef resides with Kanye’s lack of lyricism throughout most of the album. I know the term “lyricism” gets thrown around quite a bit in the rap world today, so I will define my version of “lyricism.” To me, lyricism really comes down to storytelling. Don’t get me wrong, Kanye definitely pulls out the old-Ye vibes with songs like “Real Friends,” “No More Parties in L.A.” and the first verse of “30 Hours,” but aside from those songs, Kanye doesn’t really tell us anything. I think that Kanye thinks he’s on that God-level, so he can just throw away lyrics. But I think the lack of lyricism is apparent when we get raunchy lyrics like “Sometimes I wish my d*** had GoPro, so I could play that s*** back in slo-mo,” and “If I f*** this model and she just bleached her a**hole; and if I get bleach on my t-shirt, I’ma feel like an a**hole.” I know they’re meant to be funny, but it just kind of felt like Kanye wasn’t trying.
My second beef comes with the cohesion of “The Life of Pablo.” Every time I listen to this album all the way through, it feels like Kanye is just passing the AUX cord around. I can’t find any real cohesive concept with this album, which isn’t always a bad thing—“My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” wasn’t really a concept album—but in the case of “The Life of Pablo,” it kind of feels sloppy.
However, I do really like this album a lot. Kanye West is an artist and “The Life of Pablo” is his canvas. He paints beautiful picture. The picture may be abstract, but there’s no denying its beauty. At its core, “The Life of Pablo” has breath-taking melodies, a great list of features, an outstanding variety of sounds and crisp production. “The Life of Pablo” really feels like a collection of music from Kanye’s entire discography. We get a “College Dropout/Late Registration” vibe with songs like, “Real Friends,” “No More Parties in L.A.” and the first verse of “30 Hours.” We get a “Graduation” vibe with songs like, “Waves” and “Famous.” We get an “808s and Heartbreak” vibe with songs like, “Highlights” and “Fade.” We get a “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” vibe with songs like, “Freestyle 4” and “Ultralight Beam." We get a "Yeezus" vibe with the song, "Facts."
Kanye West wants to be known as one of the greatest artists (not rappers) of this generation, and he certainly set out to do that with “The Life of Pablo.”