Kanye West needs no introduction.
He’s one of the most talked about and influential artists of this generation, whether you want to admit that or not. Not only is his music insanely popular, he’s also made a substantial imprint on the fashion industry, be it with his grungy military style or with his massive sneaker collaboration with Adidas that brought us the ‘Yeezy 350 boost’, one of the most sought after shoes of this past year. On top of this, 2016 also saw Kanye release his 7th studio album; The Life Of Pablo, a confusing mess of conflicting themes and motifs, with no clear style or message present.
All of Kanye’s releases up until this album have had a clear emotion that drove the project, The College Dropout, for example, was ambition, but The Life of Pablo’s emotion is a lot more muddled and ambiguous. Now I’m not saying that the album is bad, its actually one of my favorite Kanye releases to date, but it can be hard at times to understand. To begin to do so I think we have to trace back to 2015 when the album wasn’t even called The Life of Pablo. See this album went through numerous evolutions. Its original name was ‘So Help Me God’ before Ye changed it to ‘Swish’ then finally settled on what fans thought would be the final name of the project, ‘Waves’. We even got what seemed like a final tracklisting, pictured below.
This picture showed fans that West was going back to what he was known for, a concept album with three acts that all dealt with a different aspect of Kanye’s progression into the man he is today. Starting with tracks like ‘Famous’ and ‘Father Stretch My Hands’, odes to materialism, arrogance and ego.
‘I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex” – ‘Famous’
‘If I just f**ked this model, and she just bleached her a**hole, and I get bleach on my t-shirt, then I’m gon feel like an a**hole” – ‘Father Stretch My Hands pt 1’
These lyrics greatly juxtapose those in act three where we see Kanye’s sincerity as he opens up about being a bad cousin in ‘Real Friends’, “I’m a deadbeat cousin, I hate family reunions”. The project would then come to a close with the beautiful and gospel inspired ‘Ultralight Beam’, a perfect contrast to ‘Famous’ that would frame the album gorgeously, with West finally finding happiness, a wife, family and friends.
But unfortunately ‘Waves’ isn’t what we got. Kanye scrapped this formulaic concept album and completely reworked it into ‘The Life of Pablo’. He moved ‘Ultralight Beam to the beginning of the album and followed it up with ‘Father Stretch My Hands’, two songs with contrasting themes that don’t belong anywhere near each other. Music critic Anthony Fantano of ‘The Needle Drop’ put it perfect when he said, “The Life of Pablo is like a Jackson Pollack painting, where each song is a different color of paint all splattered on top of each other”.
One of Pollacks’ most famous works of art
What was the purpose of doing this? Well I think it all boils down to Kanye’s own personality. He wanted to create confusion with this record. Its even emphasized in the with the album’s name and ‘Which One’ plastered on the cover art. Who is Pablo? Pablo Escobar? Pablo Picasso? We don’t know, and this is exactly what he wants. ‘Waves’ would’ve almost improved people’s opinion and understanding of Ye as we see a genuine and human evolution, but he doesn’t want fans to understand him and he revels in the confusion that surrounds him.
‘The Life of Pablo’ was released in an unfinished state and much like Kanye it constantly evolved after it dropped in February, the album wasn’t finally completed until 10th June. Ye likes mixing it up and going against the norm, and despite not getting the concept album that I think we all wanted, ‘The Life of Pablo’ is the most Yeezy Yeezy album to date.