Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo is nothing less than a stellar, star-studded Hip-Hop masterpiece from beginning to end. Its opening track, Ultra Light Beams, functions as a Sunday-morning church revival, where Kanye is the ordained minister, standing in the pulpit, preaching a time-sensitive sermon to his loyal congregation. His message-God over Satan, keep the faith, pray for Paris, pray for parents, and we’re living God’s dream, sets the tone and declares where Kanye stands on religious and socially-driven issues. A Gospel choir emerges, and then The Dream and Kelly Price reinforce Kanye’s theme by singing verses of encouragement, leading into a heartfelt testimonial by Chance The Rapper. And while the collection plates are being filled with hopes of a better tomorrow, Kirk Franklin concludes the service by praying for everyone that feels they are not good enough, or have said, “I’m sorry,” too many times.
A spiritual figure, Pastor T.L. Barrett, ushers in the second track, Father Stretch My Hands (Pt. 1), with praises to The Most High. Future has a brief moment, and Kid Cudi delivers a stunning chorus. A liberated Kanye returns to the pulpit and gives a brief, but somewhat explicit testimony of his past and present relationships to Amber Rose and Kim Kardashian.
Kanye continues his testimony into the third track, Father Stretch My Hands (Pt. 2), where he raps about his personal experiences, such as the importance of returning his wife’s phone calls, not wanting to make the same mistakes his father made, the passing of the mother in Hollywood, being broke and the reason why he broke his jaw. Kanye’s words hit home, making room for another liberated soul to tell his story of triumph. Desiigner, a newly-signed artist of G.O.O.D. Music, emerges from the underbelly of the ghetto and raps about getting money illegally, drugs, and violence-familiarized by urban-street hustlers. Though his grim subject matter contradicts the song’s hopeful message of liberation, it somehow adds mysticism or substance to Kanye’s brutally-honest testimony. Desiigner, blessed with a futuristic flow, highlights a few things that Kanye’s congregation needs to examine, in order to be totally liberated.
Whenever an important event occurs in an urban community, an after party is sure to follow, and a host of celebrities are always on stand-by. Kanye’s The Life of Pablo album is no exception. The fourth song, Famous, features the beautiful Rihanna and legendary-producer Swizz Beatz-with timeless vocals from Sister Nancy and Nina Simone. But Kanye, no longer in church clothes, stands out lyrically with witty, braggadocios lyrics: For all my Southside ni^^as that know me best/I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex/Why? I made that b^tch famous/I made that bitch famous. Whether that statement is true or not, it’s doesn’t really matter because Kanye believes it.
The fifth song, Feedback, serves as a transformational period, where Kanye shows signs of the old, “Jesus Walks” Kanye: Hands up, we just doing what the cops taught us/Hands up, we just doing what the cops taught us/I’ve been outta my mind a long time/I’ve been outta my mind a long time/I’ve been saying how I feel at the wrong time/Might not come when you want but I’m on time. Kanye doesn’t need a psychiatrist to diagnose his problems. He does that himself by wearing them on his sleeves.
On the sixth track, Low Lights, Kanye wrote via Twitter, “I put Low Lights on my album just thinking about all the moms driving their kids to school, then going to work.” And listeners can now relate the everyday struggle that mothers endure. Then an unidentified woman gives her grateful-testimony of God’s graciousness over a laid-back, simple piano groove. Her honesty is felt because she sounds happy, and liberated because her Creator has accepted her for who she is, and He loves her-no matter what.
From lows to high, the seventh track, Highlights, is in direct correlation to the unidentified woman’s testimony of joy. And Kanye and Young Thug put on their festive robes because it’s time to celebrate life. El Debarge and The Dream chime in, and Kanye addresses a lingering issue: I bet me and Ray J would be friends/If we ain’t love the same bitch/Yeah, he might have hit it first/Only problem is I’m rich. But this is only the beginning, and Kanye finishes strong with more thought-provoking lyrics.
The eighth track, Freestyle 4, features Desiigner, and again, when he and Kanye are together, all hell breaks loose, and the once festive scene transforms into a grimy underworld filled a prostitute that Kanye is explicitly lusting after-making it difficult for him to stand on his opening statement-Jesus over Satan. The power of darkness is more powerful than Kanye thinks, and he subconsciously indulges in sexual misconduct.
On the ninth track, I Love Kanye, Kanye realizes that he is at war with himself, and the old Kanye, known for chopping up soul records and setting goals, is fighting against the new and extremely rude Kanye that everyone hates. But Kanye wants to go back to being sweet again, if that’s even possible, because now, Kanye has created multiple egos fighting for control over the “real” Kanye.
But Kanye doesn’t stare in the mirror too long. On the tenth track, Wave, redemption happens, and Chris Brown, disguised as an angel, comes to Kanye’s aid by providing a much-needed light, and miraculously, the sun emerges from the shade, a bird flies out of a cage, and a nostalgic feeling is felt. And Kanye realizes that nothing is impossible because waves don’t die, and feelings don’t really go away.
The eleventh track, FML (For My Lady), Kanye realizes what’s really important to him-his wife, someone he won’t jeopardize for no other woman, and his children, are all layers to his soul. The Weeknd appears in the form of Kanye’s conscience, and he declares, “They wish I would go ahead and f^ck my life up, can’t let them get to me.” So Kanye remains focused, and listeners can feel the positive aura of God surrounding him. And he is determined to remain faithful to only Kim, no other woman.
Kanye continues his introspective outlook on the twelfth track, Real Friends, where he raps about trust issues that everyone can relate to. His honest, down-to-earth lyrics, mixed in with Ty Dolla $ign’s vocals, paints a vivid picture, and forms a collectable souvenir that hangs nicely in listeners’ collective memories.
The thirteenth track, Wolves, provides a cooling effect with wild emotions and bizarre-sounds. The setting, maybe an extraterritorial realm in Kanye’s subconscious mind, perhaps the Milky Way Galaxy, or a dream-state of Saturn, where Frank Ocean sings: The rings all ring out/Burn out, cave in/Blackened to dark out/I’m mixed now, fleshed out/There’s light with no heat/We cooled out, it’s cool out. A time for relaxation, preparing listeners for a surprised guest.
The fourteenth track, Silver Surfer Intermission, features a phone conversation between incarcerated Max B and French Montana, and Max B voices his gratitude to Kanye for showing him love.
On the fifteenth track, 30 Hours, Kanye takes a trip down memory lane and raps about an ex-girlfriend that he used to drive 30-hours to see, from Chicago to St. Louis, St. Louis to Chicago. He recalls the good times they shared, but unfortunately, her infidelity was the reason why they broke up.
The sixteenth track, No Parties in L.A., will go down in history as a legendary bar-fest between two elite emcees, Kendrick Lamar and Kanye. Both emcees rapped with dope punchlines and clever metaphors, over a timeless beat produced by Madlib. And Kanye is once again flowing like the old Kanye that people love.
The seventeenth track, FACTS (Charlie Heat Version), is a standout anthem where Kanye brags that Yeezy just jumped over Jumpman. Kanye is now in boss-mode, talking that big-money talk: Nike, Nike treat employees just like slaves/Gave LeBron a billi’ not to run away (Yo!)/10 thousand dollar fur for Nori, I just copped it (Yo!)/Your baby daddy won’t even take your daughter shoppin’ (Yo!).
The eighteen track, Fade, features Post Malone and Ty Dollar $ign, and it has a reoccurring sampled line from Rare Earth: Your love is fading/I feel it fade, which is a perfect outro for “The Life of Pablo,” one of the greatest Hip-Hop albums of all-time.