Kanye may have outdone himself. The Life of Pablo.
Six songs I believe are the conceptual sinew of the album are Ultralight Beam, Pt. 2, Waves, Real Friends, F.M.L., and Wolves.
I got into a debate the other day about Kanye West and the legitimacy of the media declaring him mentally ill. Kanye's long time collaborator Rhymefest even publicly declared that his "Friend (Kanye) is Mentally ill... he needs help." I champion to believe the contrary.
The Life of Pablo I believe sums the narrative of Kanye being a genius in his own right. It's a testament to a driven, ambitious, artist – struggling internally and externally – as he strives for perfection through his artistic talents and tastes. This album brings us, The man who BEGAN the self-conscious rap movement. In it, he speaks of his flaws, perspective and strengths. He's a Wave crashing upon the shores of culture.
Crazy? I think not. Tortured artist seeking peace and sanity through his works? Yes?
In a verse on the song Feedback, Kanye says: “I’ve been out of my mind for a long time // I be saying how I feel at the wrong time // I can’t let these people play me // Name one genius that ain’t CRAZY!” He’s right!!! No? I mean, What great artist you know wasn't at least a little crazy by popular demand? DaVinci wasn’t always seen as a genius, now was he? At that time, radical and out of his mind might be more accurate terms associated with our beloved Leonardo. Kanye West is a man, driven by the very tick of his own clock. I can't name many male artist in this day and age who not only has reached his public plateau, but has done it, so unforgivingly to the candid magnitude that he has done it.
The Life of Pablo is a fitting title, for the album... A title I believe to be synonymous with his own life.
Pablo Escobar. Pablo Picasso. One an artist. The other... public Enemy number one. One driven by painting, culture, creativity, and humanity. The other driven by power, entrepreneurship, family, and rebellion. Both of them leaders and untouchable in their own rights. Kanye's no murderer of course... And Escobar was a stone cold criminal... But there are synonymous sensibilities as with any human.
On the song Wolves, he speaks to himself: "Lost and found out // If mama knew now // how you turn out, you too wild... I need you now // Lost in my doubt." Kanye West is the story of a man who chased the life of craft he so passionately desired... Moved his mother himself to Hollywood... but lost his mother in the process... And has never forgiven himself for it since. Tragic. Tortured. Perfectionist. Passionate. Van Gogh. Beethoven. Steve jobs. Michael Jackson. Painter. Classical Composer. Tech Mogul... Rapper. Has there ever been another hip hop artist that has reached his level of transcendence within themselves –artistically and sonically – while simultaneously maintaining their pop relevance AND paving the way for others? I mean... Let's take a step back to 2008. He lost his mother and internally fell from his own graces. What did he do? Mourn? No. Take time off? Nope. Not Kanye West. Instead he poured his heart into an album that created a sound for music that would forever change the sounds of pop music and hiphop for years to come. Let's not forget the evolution of Kanye West stepping from Rap image to something so completely left field, that some people thought the album to be one of his worst – even so to this day!!! Except... I say... secretly.... It may be his best... simply because it was his most important to the evolution of Pop and HipHop.
Say You Will. Love Lockdown. Welcome to Heartbreak. Amazing. Heartbreak Hotel. Let's not forget the time in which those songs were crafted. A time when the ultra gangster rapper 50Cent was extremely relevant as a musician still. I mean… 808's & HeartBreaks single handedly gave us Drake…. DRAKE!!!!
Kanye says you're fucking welcome Millennials. You're fucking welcome dad dancers. You're welcome Future. You're welcome Lil Wayne, and every other artist that uses the types of synthesized 808 base drops and autotune vocal touches within their musical style. The evolution of this sound has become sooo commonplace in music.... that Adele feels like a breath of fresh air in Pop Music and R&B! (Sonic Proof of this would require a sonic timeline breakdown via another article or podcast discussion :)
A man who cut off his own ear... What do you think he would have sounded like if HE had a Twitter account? Or the opinionated outspoken men of all men... Hemingway? Picasso for that matter? Have we forgotten about Picasso’s “Blue Period”? The Blue Period marks a moment in time when Picasso painted in predominantly hues of warm Blues and Greens. Picasso was suffering from depression following the loss of his best friend who committed suicide. The Blue Period lasted from 1901 roughly through 1904. It’s even cited that He painted most of his works during this time, in the very studio where his friend committed his suicide. Casegamas in his coffin and The Blue Guitarist” were just a few of the works that came from this period. 808’s and Heartbreaks anyone?
My point EXACTLY. What did people think about Michael Jackson during his life on earth? Tupac for that matter? Tupac was recognized and revered as a beautiful, radical, outspoken genius only AFTER he left this earth. Does anyone even remember what the media thought of him during his life on earth? Does anyone remember the media coverage of his arrest? His on stage rants with Death Row about the West Coast music dominance? The labels of hoodlum, gangster, and "troubled" rapper in the media? What's changed? My opinion? NOTHING. It was only in reflection that the masses came to the realization of how amazing a human being he actually was. It's the historical trend of most radical artists. Genius has always been seen – in the present – with perceptions of insanity.
TLOP is Kanye West, our artist taking mature sonic risks and blending 808's & Heartbreaks with The mature sounds of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy... While pulling on the soulful samples of his past.
The truth is... great artists live life through their crafts. They are documentarians of the life and times in which they exist.
In the end... You are going retreat your place of comfort, far away from the popular world, and listen to The Life of Pablo. You will turn up to the sounds of Power, or Good Life when you're feeling yourself. Or... you'll bump the sounds of 808's & Heartbreak when you are in your feelings.
So Kanye West says fuck you to the trendy haters – and you're welcome once again to the world of music, art, and culture.