The Life of Pablo Review (Valentine’s Day Special)

Top songs: Ultralight Beam, Father Stretch My Hands, Waves, 30 Hours, No More Parties in LA, Fade, & Saint Pablo.


Creative Commons

With assistant creative direction led by the late Virgil Abloh, the album artwork was designed by Belgian artist Peter De Potter.

I have never cared for Valentine’s Day. A day for love? Gross. A day for couples? Even worse.

And although back in 2016, I definitely did not have a Valentine, Kanye’s February 14th release, The Life of Pablo, gave me a digital LP I would hold close to my heart for years to come.

Seven years ago, Kanye gave a 14-year-old me a Valentine’s Day gift. However, looking back, the album is more likely a Valentine’s present, if not an ode, to himself. I mean, the notorious megalomaniac literally and hilariously titles track nine, “I Love Kanye.”

I assume the mentally struggling, and most socially aware yet unaware artist saw the brilliance in the piece during the final stages of mixing the record. Hence the name of the slam poetry-infused track nine.

It was his last true classic and cohesive record. Ye was too short to be a full studio album and Donda was too long and scattered.

With the help of legendary collaborations, producers, and A-list artists, Kanye adds one more feather to his cap, arguably being the greatest hip-hop artist of all time.

Rihanna. The Weeknd. Frank Ocean. Kendrick Lamar. Chris Brown. Post Malone. Chance the Rapper. Just to name a few. Yet not a single one is credited with a feature on the visually tangible tracks themselves, though all do receive written credits. The man’s ego was clearly at work once again.
The first track “Ultralight Beam” showcases his Christian roots. With production infused with the soul of a church choir and bars by Chance the Rapper, it just might have the compelling power to convert your most ardent atheist friend.

“You can feel the lyrics and spirit coming in braille / Tubman of the underground, come and follow the trail / I made Sunday Candy, I’m never going to hell / I met Kanye West, I’m never going to fail,” Chance raps, crying in gratitude as he carries the tracks with his youthful wit.

The continued megalomania and deification of Ye continues in his subtlety, but the sonic sensuality of the track distracts the listener like the effect a lullaby has on a baby.

Ye’s soulful melody, a staple of his work, continues to string through the project in ways that elevate the listener from the realities of Earth, transporting you willingly to another planet that revolves around the sun that Ye thinks he is.

It is that elation that fools the listener and his predominantly young audience to forget his many and repeated shortcomings. It’s almost as if Kanye knows exactly what he is doing. Because he does… At least when it comes to sound, sin, and music.

He’s trying to mix musical ecstasy with lyrical provocation.

And if you weren’t yet convinced of the artist’s brilliance while simultaneously being irked by the narcissism that infects the first half of the album, Kanye thrusts you into track ten, “Waves.”

The euphoric production of “Waves,” combined with its honest lyrical vulgarity is the culmination of The Life of Pablo’s, really the life of Ye’s, beauty, madness, and more madness.

Chris Brown sings the chorus as Kid Cudi balances the bliss of the song, deeply humming his way through the transitions.

However, even with two A-List features, it’s the ensemble of producers in Anthony Kilhoffer, Hudson Mohawke, Metro Boomin, MIKE DEAN, Charlie Heat, and of course Kanye West that led the song with elegant synths that foment its rapture, making the track a classic hit.

The melody of the song places his production center stage, reminding the audience of Ye’s roots as a producer, once again patting himself on the back.

That’s why there are no tangibly visible features.

Because he is the star.