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GOOD, Def Jam
The Life of Pablo introduces itself with a top ten Yeezy song in “Ultralight Beam.” This song is almost indescribably gorgeous. Imagine the resonant beauty of “Dark Fantasy,” and multiply it by 1000. Then, add the best features of the year, Chance the Rapper’s perfectly balanced attack and a soulful Kelly Price contribution, all on top of a deeply spiritual foundation, and you’re left with “Ultralight Beam.” What does the voice of God sound like? Something like this, I’d imagine. That’s just the first song.
Exiting the complete musical euphoria from “Ultralight Beam,” Ye and long time collaborator Kid Cudi proceed with “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1,” another churchy entry; this one with Kanye’s take on public perception. Pablo is littered with incredible features from top to bottom, including team-ups with Rihanna, Post Malone, Chance the Rapper, K-Dot, newcomer Desiigner, Young Thug, The Weeknd, and others. From “Father Stretch My Hands” to “Feedback,” The Louis Vuitton Don puts his soft-spoken grace on the backburners, and delivers some aggressive beats in the vein of “Jesus Walks” (I’m looking at you, “Famous”). “Famous” blends the smooth blissfulness of “Ultralight Beam” effortlessly with its toothed verses, an example of Ye’s notoriously cool cadence switch-ups. The highlight here is the casual claim he stakes on Taylor Swift’s fame in the first verse.
The middle of Pablo closes from the perspective of fans. “I Love Kanye” addresses the different evolutions its namesake has undertaken, and the respective attitudes Ye’s followers have assumed. The second half of Pablo begins with “Waves.” If nothing else, “Waves” could be the most obvious example of expansive production on his seventh studio album, simply put, because it doesn’t really sound like a Kanye West song, whatever that means. Chris Brown’s radio-friendly presence is the one most felt in the tenth track, which is a curious foil to West’s visionary approach.
“Real Friends,” “Wolves,” and “Frank’s Track” have a hypnotizing ambience that transforms into a thick drum beat on the Drake assisted “30 Hours.” Finally, the end approaches on the 19- song canon. You would think Dr. Dre produced “No More Parties in LA.” The song radiates with old school, Compton flavor; no doubt a byproduct of Kendrick’s company. The last song on The Life of Pablo feels like the perfect soundtrack to a drug-addled night at the club. It’s appropriately titled “Fade.”
At this point, who can be surprised by the artistry displayed on Pablo. His unapologetically honest brand, at times, seems to be one of the only palpable trends in his career. However, that anomaly is simultaneously proved and contradicted in his ability to create insanely diverse albums. The trick is, that diversity has been constant for some time. The Life of Pablo perfectly encapsulates Ye’s controversial style, while also intricately exploring Christianity. It’s borderline holy. Pablo is the Chicago rapper’s best since 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. With every album release, Yeezy pushes the ceiling of the hip-hop genre. His non-stop success raises one question: can he get much higher?