By EMILY HOLLINGSWORTH
Over the course of the week, Kanye West has taken on several roles at once. West is the artist behind his newest anticipated album, “The Life of Pablo,” which became available to the public a few days after its expected Thursday release. He is the source of praise or disappointment, depending on the reaction, for his songs released prior to the album, “Wolves,” “Facts,” “No More Parties in LA.”
Or, especially this week, he has become an uncomfortable figure through a statement concerning Bill Cosby’s innocence and another unwarranted attack on Taylor Swift in one of his newest songs, “Famous.”
“The Life of Pablo,” Kanye West’s newest album, was officially released Sundaymorning, a few days behind its expected Thursday premiere at the Yeezy Season 3 fashion lineup at Madison Square Garden. The album is now available on the website TIDAL. The album itself can be purchased for $20 or listeners can join a free 30-day trial and stream the album.
“The Life of Pablo” boasts a hefty list of artists, including Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper, Rihanna, Frank Ocean and The Weekend.
The album bounces back and forth from scenes packed with noise and atmosphere and muted, almost minimalistic sound, describing the negative aspects of fame, the importance of faith, family, an artist’s life. A few of the songs, “Ultralight Beam,” “Low Lights” and “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” feel heavily influenced by gospel and have beautiful, resonate lyrics, some sung by Kelly Price, Chance the Rapper and a choir. From “Ultralight Beam”:
“But I’m looking for more / Somewhere I can feel safe / And end my holy war / I’m tryna keep my faith.”
Other songs feel very personal, and their sounds muted. West talks about his negative experience with fame, sharing a childhood story about his cousin in the song “Real Friends.” “Real Friends,” like give the feeling, despite the instrumentals and additional vocals, that West is telling a story. That he is standing in a room, telling the listener his experience.
A large part of West’s craft is his sampling, and this album does not disappoint. The synthetic and instrumental/vocal samples create the mood in the piece.
“T.L.O.P” underwent more than a couple revisions before coming out. The name was changed several times (Initially called “So Help Me God,” it was then titled “SWISH” and most recently “Waves” before finalized with “T.L.O.P.” Several songs also were added and cut and changed completely. A new version of “Facts” by Charlie Heat replaced the version that was released a few month prior and with “Wolves,” Sia and Vic Mensa were dropped, replaced by Frank Ocean.
West’s album and fashion lineup were not the only reasons West has blown up the news. A tweet and a referential lyric has caused discomfort among fans and the general public.
West posted a tweet last Tuesday that said “BILL COSBY INNOCENT !!!!!!!!!!” The tweet created confusion and outrage for fans and other prominent figures. Cosby has been publically accused of assault from more than 50 women, including drugging and sexually assaulting former Temple University employee Andrea Constand in his home in 2004, according to CNN.
Additionally, in one of West’s new songs, “Famous,” which also features Rhianna, West says “For all my Southside –s that know me best / I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I made that b– famous.” West had previously interrupted Swift’s winning the VMA award in 2009 for best female video, intimating that the award should have belonged to Beyoncé.
The lyrics in “Famous” prompted Swift’s publicist to comment, saying that Swift was aware of her presence in the song and had cautioned him against releasing a song with a misogynist message.
Kanye West is a mixed bag for a lot of people, and this week has been no exception. “The Life of Pablo” may warrant a listen even if Kanye isn’t your usual cup of tea.