People often ask me why I choose to be an avid fan of the artist that the world has ultimately come to either admire or despise. To me he’s always been a distant character, a sort of make-believe being whose persona is far too complicated to be labelled as just ‘complex’. His controversial actions and pompous personality contrasts his evocative songs and award-winning albums, shaping a fine line between Mr. West and his alter-ego ‘Yeezy’ (a chilling similarity to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde). He’s always been the famous poster boy for narcissism, unpredicted talent and over-the-top madness. As with every album release, Kanye left a trail of hype and overbearing media attention. From sneakers to album leaks, petty twitter feuds and multiple album titles, The Life of Pablo (TLOP) has felt less like an album and more like a self-centered project that captures the creative but chaotic outburst produced by Kanye.
The album as a whole shifts mood from gospel to arrogance, to moments of clarity and repressed emotion. The first track, ‘Ultralight Beam’, begins with the preaching voice of a child banishing “the devils” in an extravagant fashion that could be expected from younger version of Kanye himself. Using his faith to forgive his mistakes and ego, the track focuses on the search for transparency from the evil that surrounds his maniac lifestyle. His lyrics symbolize the desperate pleas of a man whose overzealous pride can overshadow his talent. The track’s first two songs, and continuing further down the album in the songs ‘Wolves’ and ‘Waves’, follows the same hymn-like pattern and melody that contrasts the animated lyricism voiced by Kanye. The instrumental is kept minimal and allows Kanye to act as the preacher to the listener. Kanye also chooses to involve one of his more prominent disciples, Chance the Rapper, with a feature in both ’Ultralight Beam’ and ‘Waves’ as a testimony to satisfy his followers, a decision that ultimately led to delay the album release by a full day.
In fact, every feature and every mention of Kanye’s experience with various artists in TLOP speaks into how much this album feels like an abstract project that’s channeled the success of being in the industry for as long as Kanye has and the crippling pressure and controversy that surrounds it.
Much like Kanye’s belligerent twitter feed, it’s not long into the album when fans are reminded that his overconfidence is still very much apparent within the album in the tracks ‘Famous’ and ‘Feedback’. In ‘Famous,’ Kanye asserts his dominance by flaunting his success in the music industry and overall extravagant status. In an aggressive flow of beats with lyrics that are reminiscent of a man’s hind sighted and rage-fueled boastfulness, Kanye makes an unlikely and vulgar callback to Taylor Swift’s run-in at the VMA’s (“…I made that bitch famous”). Both tracks are set as reminders that ‘Yeezy’ has once again returned from the hard working Mr. West, and uses his ridiculous antics to challenge critics, stating “Name one genius that ain’t crazy.”
Despite having a somewhat incomplete and rushed vibe in the album, Kanye chooses to address some of his most controversial moments throughout it. He finally lays to rest his Twitter feud with Wiz Khalifa in ‘Silver Surfer Intermission’, and launches his vicious attack towards Nike surrounding his sneaker line in ‘Facts’. Kanye has left no loose ends with the release of TLOP and centralized his priorities to what matters most: his family and his legacy. Kanye’s more critically acclaimed, pre-album released track. ‘No More Parties in L.A’ looks to resurface a more seasoned man, ready to flex his poetic muscles with a bar-for-bar 6 minute track coupled with a heavy, yet smooth bassline. An overall catchy track that offers a glimpse into the lifestyle of Yeezy and his shift from the limelight and fame to a more responsibly-driven and veteran Mr. West.
While the album doesn’t leave much to the imagination and offers a boisterous yet conflicting insight into the life of Kanye West, it serves more towards the purpose of satisfying those who’ve patiently waited for Kanye’s highly anticipated masterpiece. Whether Kanye attempts to place his mark on the world the same way every visionary artist dreams of, or merely establish his empire and immodestly claim the power behind his provocative influence like Escobar, TLOP serves only to shut down his doubters. The album proves his passion behind his talents and simultaneously overlooks his haters, claiming despite all his demons and critics, his work on this Earth continues so long as nobody else loves Kanye like Kanye.