Kanye West - The Life of Pablo (Album Review)

Updated: Jan 13

Moving towards the end of Kanye Season we come to his 2016 project 'The Life of Pablo'. This album had a weird roll out, and constantly Kanye was meddling with this album - but the album he was finally satisfied with was amazing. As always the production keeps you on your toes - it's immaculate and one of Kanye's best produced albums ever. It's cinematic with a trap/gospel fused inspiration to it containing elements such as synths, 808s, soul samples and just overall crazy beats. However lyrically this is one of Kanye's weaker projects - mainly because the major focus is on sound. Despite that, it's still really lazy at times and every now and then there's a bad line (such as the bleach line). Kanye's delivery has a bit of a melodic edge to it in this album, and with the help of auto tune his vocals sound great at this point of his career. He's come a long way from the beginning of his career during the bear days. He still has the mean, egotistical delivery and he sounds focused on this album. The star studded features on this project are tailor made to a specific role - rarely play a major part - and on Kanye's end it's a perfect choice of features and then the features themselves turn up on the majority of this album. The skits and interludes on this album are alright whether it be Frank's vocals on 'Frank's Track' or the spiritual spoken word of 'Low Lights', they fit right into the tracklist and don't sound out of place. The final thing to mention is subject matter - and there's a whole load of content on here. He talks on Kim, past relationships, fake friends, sex, drugs, criticisms, success and his life leading up to this - touching on nearly everything. There's also a lot of religious imagery and themes throughout - possibly foreshadowing what was to come in the future...

Ultralight Beam

This is a perfect introduction to this album. The beat, simple consisting of just a crescendoing organ and heavy drums is amazing and heavily gospel inspired as the track talks on Kanye's faith in God. The features all perform from The-Dream's vocals to Kelly Price's gospel-esque verse, doubting God to believing unconditionally and finishing it with Chance the Rapper's fire verse full of bars and punchlines - they all fit in perfectly. The choir as well adds great effect and gives me goosebumps.


Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 1

The second song of the album again is great. It has another gospel inspired beat with heavy synth kicks and rapid hi-hats as the track tells the story of Kanye and this girl arguing before realising how much he loves her by the end. The storytelling is decent but the lyrics are a bit questionable at some points, "Now, if I fuck this model // And she just bleached her asshole". Despite that it sounds great and Kid Cudi's vocals fit perfectly and are really catchy.


Pt. 2

This is a weird one - but still a good song. Again, a great beat which samples 'Panda' by Desiigner and while I'm confused as to why it's here, considering Kanye talks on his mums death, his dad and not having time to call his wife - it actually suits the atmosphere very well. Kanye's parts contain funny, simplistic yet classic braggadocios lines and the outro from this song is amazing. Despite its highs, it just seems a bit messy and disorientated but sonically it's still amazing.


Famous

Ah, 'Famous' which is all the more famous due to the Kimye & Taylor Swift beef deriving from the lyric, "I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex // Why? I made that bitch famous". The beat on this one is crazy and it explodes onto the scene with it's glistening synths and catchy drum pattern beginning with a standard Rihanna feature. Kanye's bars go hard (while not overly complicated) as he talks on what it means to be famous. The bridge as well on this song makes me feel so happy for some reason and it's easily one of my favourite songs on the album.

Feedback

The beginning of this album is amazing and it continues with this song. Another crazy beat with deep, distorted trap elements full of hard, braggadocios bars and decent enough punchlines as Kanye trashes his haters and flexes his lifestyle. The fourth verse specifically goes hard. The hook on this is so catchy, specifically the "Ayy, ya heard about the good news? // Y'all sleeping on me, huh? Had a good snooze?" part which is so inviting.


Highlights

This song here is good - but a bit of a step down in quality. The track talks on Kanye's life full of highlights and hoping to make more over these piano keys, synth kicks and bouncy claps. What I didn't like was the first verse for two reasons. Firstly, the lyrics were very basic while secondly the voice effect just sounded a bit meh. Things pick up in the following verse really saves the track. There was two features in this track, firstly there was Young Thug who was literally a backup singer and could've been left out while The-Dream sang the outro with his usual incredible vocals.


Freestyle 4

This track begins with a sinister beat as Kanye raps over it with a chaotic flow and voice effect seemingly to reflect his mind during the creation of the song. It would be fitting since the song comes from Kanye's high/drunken state of mind and his sexual feelings and desires are strong throughout. There's a Desiigner feature who dropped a nice yet small contribution at the end. It's a good song, and I get the purpose of it but it could've been better in my opinion.


Waves

Wow, this is great. The beat just explodes onto this track, sounding so grand as Kanye talks on his relationship with his loved ones using waves as a metaphor for his feelings and how they never truly leave you. The first verse is classic braggadocio from Kanye while the second uses some great metaphors, "Sun don't shine in the shade, ugh... // Bird can't fly in a cage, ugh". Chris Brown has a feature on this, singing the hook and he absolutely kills it making it a brilliant song at the midway point of the album.

FML

Another great track on this album with layers to it - despite overall it being pretty basic. The track is about Kanye's troubles with Kim and his haters, and it's sang over a slightly melancholy, simplistic yet great trap-themed beat. Kanye's disjointed flow and style actually sounds great and I enjoy everything on this track - except the hook. The hook by The Weeknd has great vocals - but like a lot of his music in my opinion (bar 'After Hours'), it's not very entertaining or catchy.


Real Friends

As you could guess, the title is a bit of a sarcastic one and talks on fake friends and trust issues. The beat is calm, yet desperate as Kanye spits with some honest lyrics and great verses, even going back and forth with the feature Ty Dollar $ign as they showcase great chemistry, with Ty taking the perspective of Kanye's former friends. It's a great track and slightly emotional at times.


Wolves

My least favourite on this album - but it's still a good song. The beat is great especially the deep synth bass as the song talks on fear, hope, love - with Kanye talking on his mums death and relationship with Kim Kardashian. Kanye's verse is simplistic but has a poetic edge, while Sia also uses poetry in her verse and Vic Mensah's vocals and metaphors probably make his feature the most enjoyable. The issue with the song is there's no need for a third verse and it gets slightly boring past this part.


30 Hours

Another great song with decent storytelling over quick drums and electronic vocals, '30 Hours' see's Kanye talk on a past relationship before fame. With some good lyrics, "You was the best of all time at the time though", almost humane feeling hook, "And I drove back 30 hours" and the speed at which this track moves at nothing goes wrong. It doesn't go wrong, until we can an unnecessarily long outro which goes on for way too long and lets the track down a bit.

No More Parties in LA

This track was always an exciting one as it features the man himself Kendrick Lamar. Firstly, with production from Madlib (sounding great) the track focuses on rich people problems and Kanye also touches onto his family and success. As usual Kendrick's verse is solid with a great flow and catchy rhyme scheme while Kanye's verse of swagger and confidence is solid - but just goes on for a bit too long and I start to lose interest towards the back-end of the song. It's great but could be shortened by a minute or two.


Facts (Charlie Heat Version)

The first thing we're introduced to on this track is a menacing beat, heavy trap 808s and some soul elements as it appears Kanye has made a Nike disstrack. Kanye uses some great braggadocios bars, great punchlines and once again though it just goes on for a little bit longer than it needs to and I lose interest. Still again it's a great song.


Fade

I mean as usual, it's a great song. The bouncy beat consisting of trap 808s, a bass guitar and soul sample collide well for a great instrumental as the song focuses on falling in and out of love with a woman and the fear of fading out of their lives. Kanye's simplistic, yet sets the tone right for the track as again his chemistry with Ty Dollar $ign is shown while a surprise Post Malone feature is present and despite it being short, it's great - he really hits them notes.


Saint Pablo

The finale to this fantastic album is 'Saint Pablo'. It's arguably the most lyrically dense, full of some great one liners, "I'm not out of control, I'm just not in they control", as he covers a range of personal topics such as his debt, black prejudice in America and how he's perceived by the media. The piano-themed beat is as usual fine, and the passion shown in his delivery really brings this track to life. Sampha's feature is great, he keeps the religious theme going with the hook and his verse and overall it's a great ending track to the album.

To conclude, this album which focuses on sound rather than rapping is a sonic experience I recommend everyone has. There's something for everybody to hear on this album, and even my least favourite song on this album is still good. It does fall off slightly in the second half but it's still enjoyable throughout - and there's a chaotic structure to the album, which really portrays the racing mind of a genius.


FAVOURITE TRACKS: Ultralight Beam, Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 1, Famous, Feedback, Waves, FML, No More Parties in LA, Saint Pablo

LEAST FAVOURITE TRACK: Highlights

OVERALL RATING: Light 9.5/10


*REVISED SCORE: Review may not match favourite tracks and overall rating because I've since re-listened and changed my score.*

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