Design By Humans
Published On: Thu, Mar 10th, 2016

Kanye West: The Life of Pablo

pabloKanye West
The Life of Pablo
(GOOD Music/Def Jam Recordings)

“Nobody knows what it means, but it’s provocative.” A polished-yet-sloppy opus from pop culture’s most irreverently outspoken figure, The Life of Pablo was recently released by GOOD Music and Def Jam Recordings, and includes guest appearances from Chance the Rapper, Frank Ocean, The-Dream, Kendrick Lamar, Kid Cudi, Rihanna, The Weeknd, Ty Dolla $ign, and Chris Brown. Praised for his production chops, Kanye lays back as his coteries of collaborators compose the most definitive, album-length statement to the death of auto-tune and the culture that props up artificial perfection. Alongside real gems like “Ultralight Beam,” where a child leads an older woman in fervent prayer as Kanye and chorus cull forth in one slow, swirling motion, there is mere tabloid fodder, like “Famous,” where the producer’s famous rift with Taylor Swift reaches new levels of incitation. Called Kanye’s “gospel” album, TLOP is at times sermon-like, with an inundation of trite statements that reference current social and cultural topics like Black Lives Matter and November’s attacks at the Bataclan in Paris (“Pray for Paris/Pray for the parents”). In juxtaposing, prayer and bleached assholes, what is Kanye saying? Is faith as banal as an Instagram-ready picture or a shared call for solidarity on Facebook? In “Ultralight Beam” we hear, “I’m trying to keep my faith/But I’m looking for more.” As an album that reaches towards a breadth that the “Life” in its title purports,  TLOP is often overly-ambitious and perhaps too vast. Kanye both supports and mocks the culture he has implicitly helped build, at times offering tracks that ring Ten Commandments-like, meanwhile disavowing the icons of culture people follow religiously, like Oprah in “Feedback.” In its thrown-together, but far-reaching way, over multiple listens, the auto-tuned facade should slowly peel away to reveal some deeper insights into the culture that has developed in and around the behemoth that is Kanye.

You can listen to the album here.

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Kanye West: The Life of Pablo