Kanye West’s latest promotions of his new album have been pretty fascinating.
His strategy seems to be broadcasting an apparent mental breakdown, which is probably at least partially fake. He got into a twitter war with Wiz Khalifa, bitched about white people reviewing his music, shared that he is over $50 million in debt and publicly asked Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg to stop investing in African schools and give him $1 billion. It almost makes you forget he has an album out. Almost.
Yes So Help Me God Swish Waves The Life of Pablo has finally dropped as a Tidal exclusive, and apparently will apparently never be sold or streamed anywhere else. The result is a mixed bag – while better than his last effort Yeezus – it never reaches the critical high of his earlier albums.
The album starts off on a high note with “Ultralight Beam,” a song that features relatively little Kanye. Instead we are treated to heavenly gospel inspired vocals of Kelly Price, and a solid verse from fellow Chicago MC Chance The Rapper that ranks as one of the best on the album.
However, things start to take a nosedive with the next track “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1,” where Kanye expresses a fear that only he could have come up with; “Now if I fuck this model/And she just bleached her asshole/And I get bleach on my T-shirt/I’mma feel like an asshole”.
The album picks up again with “Famous”. The track features vocals from Rihanna and Swizz Beats which make this song feel like a true club banger, something the album lacks. A solid Kanye verse also appears. However, this track is the most likely to piss people of with Kanye’s assertion that he still may have sex with Taylor Swift, because apparently he made her famous.
The next few songs aren’t worth giving much space to. “Feedback” has a glitchy off-kilter beat which was nice, and the ghetto Oprah line made me laugh. “Lowlights” is a glorified skit. “Highlights” is just okay. “Freestyle 4” sounds like one, and that’s not good. “I Love Kanye” is a short clever acapella track with a message akin to Jay-Z’s “Niggas want my old shit, buy my old albums.” “Waves” exists.
The album starts picking up steam again with “FML”, a song that shows Kanye sporting a couple of different flows, and The Weeknd is on point as always. The lyrics point to Kanye trying to maintain his family life, with the temptations of fame around.
“Real Friends” is well produced, well written and is probably the song that may actually make you feel empathy for Kanye. The track deals with how fame changes the dynamic between friends, with Kanye being too busy to spend time with his friends and his friends feeling rejected and sometimes trying to take advantage of him.
“Wolves” and “30 Hours” are both solid tracks that help save this album from mediocrity. But the real saviour here is “No More Parties In L.A.” a song that includes solid verses from both Kanye and Kendrick Lamar, and amazing production from Madlib. This song ranks as one of Kanye’s best in my book.
Unfortunately the album takes a nosedive from this high to the bottom of the barrel in the final two tracks. In short, “Facts” has Kanye rapping about his hideous shoes, and he is all but absent on “Fade.”
The Life of Pablo is like a roller coaster. At moments Kanye is at the pinnacle of his craft, at others he is wallowing in the depths of his own delusions. If Kanye had limited this project to 10 tracks, I would be singing it’s praises, but as it stands I can only call it okay. A missed opportunity.