Well, it was quite a journey, but we finally have Kanye West’s 7th full-length studio album (or 8th if you count Ye and Jay Z’s masterful collab on 2011’s Watch The Throne). It was originally slated for release in 2014 under the title So Help Me God, then over the course of 2 years delayed and renamed SWISH. Finally, in January of this year, Kanye’s Twitter announced “Swish Februrary 11 16”. Anticipation, both my own and throughout the Internet, began to mount. Two weeks later, the title was change to WAVES, until he eventually landed on the final title The Life Of Pablo. If you ask me, he should have stuck with So Help Me God. The title only got worse with each iteration.
February 11 16 finally came, and brought with it the premiere of Yeezy Season 3 (Kanye’s clothing line) and The Life Of Pablo live at Madison Square Garden and streamed online and to movie theaters across the country. Watching the live stream was absolutely one of the best musical experiences I’ve had. I had the stream from Madison Square pulled up on my phone, 2 forums open on my computer, and constantly scanning and posting to Twitter. I watched, along with 20 million others, as Kanye West walked into an arena with models wearing his new digs on the floor and surrounded by throngs of fans eager to hear what Yeezus had been working on. He walked up to front of house carrying his MacBook, opened it, plugged in an 1/8-inch aux cable, and pressed play. It was such a cool experience to be hearing this highly anticipated record for the first time with the rest of the world at the same moment and to be able to talk about it with so many people at the same time. Something else we got to be a part of that isn’t normally seen was being able to watch Kanye show off his work to the world. It was like watching a dad cheering for his kid on graduation day; you could see the pride, happiness, and perhaps a bit of relief on his face.
And that was Thursday, and then it was time to wait.
So we waited, Thursday night, Friday, Saturday… Refreshing forums and Reddit and Twitter and iTunes and Spotify and Tidal, just waiting to see if there was a record for us. On Friday he tweeted that it would be out “today” and that he had added “a couple of tracks;” by a couple he meant 7. Yet finally, at the end of his performance on Saturday Night Live, Kanye spastically declared that the record was up for sale on his website and streaming on Tidal. But, since I work for a church (not for too much longer, more on that to come later…), I was already asleep when the record went live at long last and couldn’t listen until the end of Sunday. But, worth the wait it was.
I’m not going to give a full review, because I think that is super shitty when someone “reviews” an album after hearing it so few times, but I will leave my first impressions.
And my first impression is, DAMN. Kanye West has done it again.
I just really don’t know if anyone can make a better sounding beat than that guy. “Ultralight Beam” is a fantastic opener, maybe my favorite of any of his records. Chance’s verse is a highlight, and cool to hear Kanye do more of a gospel inspired sound. Another early highlight for me is “Famous”. Despite the Internet’s grief over early lyrics in the song, I just love the beat and the flow. Immediately following, I cannot get “Feedback” out of my head. “Yall heard about the good news? Sleeping on me, huh? Had a good snooze?” “Highlights,” “Freestyle 4,” and “Waves” fall pretty flat for me right now, but the “I Love Kanye” skit snuck in there keeps me listening through those tracks. Then the trio that keeps me coming back: “FML” (featuring a killer hook from The Weeknd), “Real Friends,” and the ever changing “Wolves.” Each of these songs sets up the next one so well, and I am excited to return to this sequence over and over again. The rest of the songs feel kind of like bonus tracks, but are bangers nonetheless.
Kanye is an interesting case to me, because I am not sure if there is anyone in the world that could premiere a record like this. I love Ye because he never slows down, he is constantly making music and pushing the limit in hip-hop/rap music. And I don’t expect him to slow down anytime soon.