Kanye West is the source of a lot of controversy; Seemingly always present in the news, he sparks a huge amount of debate, with people either loving or hating his egotistical, in-your-face persona. No matter which side you land on, I think it’s good to try and separate his music from the guy you see in the news. He definitely doesn’t help his case, calling himself the greatest living rockstar, but his irrationality shouldn’t deter you from listening to his music. Kanye has undeniably had a massive influence on the music scene we see today and, in my opinion, makes some great music. In any case, “name one genius that ain’t crazy”.
The Life of Pablo is an interesting one. It received a lot of publicity before it dropped, partly due to the release of ‘Facts’, ‘Real Friends’ and ‘No More Parties in LA’ throughout January. A lot of the chat, however, happened because of Kanye’s relentless tinkering with the album. He changed the name, tweaked the tracklist and ultimately had to delay the release to finish some last minute touch ups. I get that he was trying to make this album as perfect as it can be, but I think you can hear the effects of his tampering when you listen to the album, and not in a good way. The album has some great tracks. ‘Ultralight Beam’ is a nice gospel influenced song and even features gospel legend Kirk Franklin (He’s got some great tracks and is seriously worth checking out). On ‘Famous’, Kanye voices his concern that his status as a celebrity holds him back from being as creative as he wants to be. It also features a great sample of ‘Bam Bam’ by Sister Nancy. ‘Wolves’ deserves a mention simply for it’s outro. It’s an emotional track about the psychological journey Kanye went on since the release of Graduation in 2007 and is topped off with a chilling feature from the elusive Frank Ocean.
Despite plenty of great tracks, if you listen to TLOP the whole way through it leaves you with a weird feeling. In between the good tracks are a lot of poor tracks. For example, I don’t really know what to think of ‘Low Lights’. It just doesn’t seem to fit. The bigger issue for me, though, is that even though there are a lot of high points in the album, they don’t particularly fit together. I think this is the result of Kanye’s repeated altering of the tracklist. A good album can become great if it pieces together like a puzzle. What’s missing in TLOP is continuity. There isn’t really a through line, lyrically or musically. It sounds like I’m nitpicking because I’ve already told you that I like several of the tracks, but if you compare TLOP to My Beautiful Dark Twisted fantasy, the latter feels like a full package, whereas the former doesn’t mesh in the same way.
TLOP is a good album. I’ve listened to it a fair few times and have already become attached to a good number of tracks. Kanye is clearly a perfectionist and he wanted this album to be one of the best, but for me his last minute changes might have been a shot in the foot. He did, however, manage to get Frank Ocean out of the cave he’s been hiding in since the release of Channel Orange, and for that he deserves a medal.