Kanye West unleashed his seventh studio LP in his own unorthodox Kanye way. Not appearing on its scheduled day, but two final track lists, and three days later, after the album went through a few title changes, four to be exact. In its final hours West settled on the name “The Life of Pablo.” Wondering which “Pablo” West is referring to be the question, but the title merely serves as a double entendre. There’s Escobar the drug lord who lived a flashy lifestyle from the drugs he sold. Kanye’s flashy and lavish lifestyle is provided by the music he slangs. Then there’s Picasso the well-known, beloved, and renowned artist, who’s respected for his artistic vision, and that’s who Kanye has become or aspires to become.
TLOP offers a litany of features. From Kelly Price, El DeBarge, Chris Brown, The Weeknd and more. One thing about them is they’re slightly unnecessary. West is able to perform anyone of the songs live without their presence. Rihanna’s presence isn’t needed for Swizz Beatz produced “Famous” when she’s simply singing the same Nina Simone sample that closes the track. And he wasted an Andre 3000 feature on the candid “30 Hours,” where he compares and contrast on his past life to his current. Who invites Andre on a track to provide background vocals? Chance the Rapper’s verse on “Ultra Light Beam” is the only feature that actually provides substance on “TLOP.” It’s as if he used his features for baiting purposes, because most of the intended features aren’t able to be distinguished.
West lightheartedly brings social awareness to the Black Lives Matter campaign on “Feedback” with “hands up, we just doing what the cops taught us, hands up, hands up, then the cops shot us” before taking a prayer break on “Low Lights” and readying us for “Highlights.” “Highlights” is simply a vibrant revival of “Good Life,” before the flow is disturbed and interrupted by “Freestyle 4,” that sounds like a leftover track from “Yeezus.” You know you reached the album halfway with the track “I Love Kanye” summing up his entire existence and sounding like the LP’s intermission. The downfall is the material of the LP’s first legs feels good, but most of the songs barley exceeds the three-minute mark.
With TLOP you hear Kanye stepping further away from the box of being just a rapper. The chosen sounds and infusion of music on the album showcases as it explores his artistic quest. He’s been listening to his fans and the public, who plead they want the “old Kanye back,” because you’re able to hear a piece of his entire discography on this one album. Sadly, as he challenged himself to reach new heights of artistic expression, a bulk of the album comes off as a “goodbye” to the rapper Kanye. The album doesn’t showcase West’s skills as a lyricist, but for those who think he isn’t able to rap are quickly reminded on “No More Parties in L.A.,” which is pretty much the only full out rap track. “I know some fans thought I wouldn’t rap like this again, but the writer’s block is over MC’s cash in your plans.” He managed to stay true to himself by saying whatever he felt like rapping about. Whether it’s Taylor Swift, Ray J., or him mentioning a family matter with his cousin on “No More Parties…” and “Real Friends.” TLOP is Kanye’s defining moment as an artist and not just a rapper. Giving him the notion to feel like Pablo Escobar and Pablo Picasso at this stage of his life.