So far 2016 has been an eventful year for world’s most notorious rapper. In the past month and a half, Kanye West has launched a new clothing line with Adidas, viciously attacked fellow rapper Wiz Khalifa via Twitter, publicly announced that he does NOT like his asshole fiddled with during sex, and changed the name of his seventh studio album twice, from Swish to Waves and finally settling on The Life of Pablo.  A record that’s been six years in the making, a record that Kanye himself called “the greatest album of all time”, a record whose delayed release only heightened my already-lofty expectations, and a record that was utterly underwhelming.

Kanye West has been on a hot streak since the start of his rap career with the release of 2004’s The College Dropout. Year after year, record after record, West has found new ways to turn the heads of critics and fans alike, conjuring up a variety of sonic flavors that left each new release sounding fresher than the last. From the soulful lyricism on Late Registration (2005) to the industrial melakanye-west2ncholy on Yeezus (2013), Kanye had never been one to make the same record twice. He just waited until The Life of Pablo to throw every single one of his previous sounds onto the same record. Pablo sounds like the audible equivalent of a white canvas muddied with splashes of every conceivable color. Kanye implements the minimalist electropop production of 808s and Heartbreak (2008), the grandiose maximalism of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010), the glitchy, cacophonous beats of Yeezus, and the soul-samples reminiscent of his College Dropout days. On the whole, Pablo is a disorganized cluster of old sonic ideas.

The album’s opener, “Ultralight Beam”, shows promise of forward-thinking artistry with subtle synth swells, booming bass drums, and an explosive gospel choir accompanying Kanye ’s delicate vocals. The track introduces a theme of imperfect Christian devotion prevalent throughout Pablo. Chance the Rapper closes the track with a dynamic, evocative verse, showing off his subtle finesse and melodic sensibilities. However, the record abruptly switches sonic directions with hard-hitting trap beats and obnoxious, excessive autotune present on “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1”. Often the most pleasant sonic moments on Pablo are samples, such as the pitch-modulated hook from Sister Nancy’s “Bam Bam” on “Famous”, or hooks not sung by West, like Chris Brown’s infectious melody on “Waves”. Kanye’s best

EDITORIAL USE ONLY / NO MERCHANDISING Mandatory Credit: Photo by Brian J Ritchie/Hotsauce/REX/Shutterstock (4453302ce) Kanye West 'The Jonathan Ross Show' TV Programme, London, Britain. - 28 Feb 2015

beats on this project are extremely minimalist, like the punchy, reverb-infused groove on “Real Friends”. The more samples and vocals Kanye adds to his beats, however, the more disorienting the track becomes, as evidenced by the messy, autotune-heavy “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 2”. Certain tracks on Pablo feel thrown next to each other without a regard to cohesiveness or flow. The catchy, whimsical hook closing out “Famous” starkly contrasts the aggressive, rough-edged beat on the subsequent “Feedback”, which abruptly transitions into the spoken-word gospel testimony set to piano and synthesizer on “Low Lights”. Despite its occasional sonic brillance, The Life of Pablo obviously lacks a clear musical direction.

Lyrically, The Life of Pablo details Kanye’s struggle to reconcile his three personas, or “Pablos”. Kanye’s reckless, degenerate side, embodied by drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, hinders Kanye’s ability to be a man of God and family, represented by Paul the Apostle, and his desire to be a great artist, like Pablo Picasso. The idea of exploring internal struggle between three different alter egos seems compelling when stated so clearly, but West’s true lyrical intents are obscured as he only mentions “Pablo” on two tracks. The record’s introspective concept is additionally corrupted by the inclusion several cringe-worthy lines that have become a staple in Kanye West music, like the line “Now if I f**ked his model/And she bleached her asshole” on “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1”. However, West manages to deliver a handful of introspective, thought-provoking verses. On “FML”, Kanye laments his belief that the public wants to see him fail in his family life, climaxing with the heart-wrenching line “They don’t wanna see me love you”. The a cappella track “I Love Kanye” attacks the haters who think they confine Kanye to a certain style or image, asserting that only Kanye himself controls Kanye. “No More Parties in LA”, featuring vocals from Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar, details Kanye’s struggle to give up his party lifestyle for his family. Kanye digs into a lengthy, lyrical verse atop the groovy Madlib-produced beat, out-rapping King Kendrick himself. Despite these highlights, much of the albums lyrical content features an insecure Kanye bragging about his money, skills, and sexual exploits, which turned me off to much of the lyrics that I could comprehend through the unrestrained autotune.

The Life of Pablo, while well-intentioned and sometimes sonically impressive, is ultimately an unadulterated mess of unrefined style and spotty lyricism, lacking a cohesive flow both instrumentally and lyrically. Unfortunately for Kanye, this isn’t “the greatest album of all time”; it isn’t even close to being the greatest Kanye album. Move over, Mr. West. The streak is over.


Highlights: Ultralight Beam, Famous, FML, Real Friends, No More Parties in LA, Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1

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