Kanye Showcases The Life of Pablo in the Most Kanye Way Possible
The wait for Kanye West’s latest album was full of excitement and trepidation. Truly, The Life of Pablo earns the award for the most haywire album release in history. The album title was changed approximately three times. Tracklists were posted and changed in succession. Reports came in of hastily recorded songs and verses just days before the release date. Then there were Kanye’s rapid-fire tweet spurts — some of which attacked rappers, ex-girlfriends, defended alleged criminals and all of which set Twitter ablaze. Fans could not mask their anxiety. What if the album isn’t released on time? What if the title and tracklist change the day of release? What if — Yeezus forbid — the album sucks?
After all, this is Kanye we are talking about here. When referring to Kanye, one is describing an influential and innovative 21st century artists. This is a man who has nary a poor album in his prolific career, who has broken ground not only in his music, but in the way he markets and releases his music. It was no surprise to hear that he would be rolling out his album in grandiose fashion: a sold-out listening party at Madison Square Garden, complete with an exhibit of his Yeezy Season 3 collection. The party was live-streamed for free through TIDAL, Jay-Z’s often-mocked streaming service. And thus, over 20 million people tuned into TIDAL to watch Yeezy unfurl his latest masterpiece…Or at least they tried to.
Many excitedly opened the stream on their phones and computers, only to be met with the ever-infuriating spinning wheel buffering icon. Some were quick to figure out that if you watched it in a lower resolution, it streamed much more easily. Even so, those who logged in at 4 p.m. patiently twiddled their thumbs because Kanye was late to his own show. When Kanye finally did walk through the door — shortly following his fur coat-donning family — the hype was unreal. A dope entourage followed through, including G.O.O.D. Music president Pusha T, A$AP Rocky, Kid Cudi, and…oh my goodness is that Frank Ocean? He’s alive!
With his crew in suit, models in stationary pose, and audience more than ready, Kanye then did the most 21st century thing ever and plugged the aux cord into his laptop. I am still mystified as to how my own laptop did not catch on fire when the first song dropped. “Ultra Light Beam,” an auto-tuned gospel affair featuring the-Dream and a melodic Chance the Rapper. I thought to myself Damn, Kanye really was not kidding when he tweeted this would be a gospel album.
As song after song played, the place went wild. Kanye and friends all stood behind his laptop, mobbing to the tunes mosh-pit style. As low as the resolution was, the audio quality was surprisingly good. Every song could be heard clearly, and I would be lying if I said I was not jamming just as enthusiastically as Kanye and friends. The entire album sounded like a combination of the best of 808s and Heartbreak and Yeezus, with plentiful auto-tune, abrasive electronic beats, and epic collaborations. This should not dishearten those who disliked 808s for the lack of rapping, for there are several verses here where Kanye goes in. Heck, there is a freestyle here, officially titled “I Miss the Old Kanye” — where he mocks fans who have not enjoyed his latest creative ventures. He says his name just so many times. It is so Kanye, and I love everything about it.
As small as my screen was, the spectacle was one to behold. The crowd behind Kanye was an all-star cast list: now you could spot Vic Mensa, Mike Dean, Travi$ Scott, 2 Chainz, and several other faces. And you better believe they were all jamming. Though the audience was seated, you could feel their exhilaration. The models still stood faithfully, some eventually sitting down to rest. They were specifically told to not smile and to not “look cool,” adding a morbid air to the surrounding enthusiasm. It was absolutely surreal.
Although there were certainly some #problematic lyrics and aggressive songs, the biggest shock came to me with “Wolves.” The CDQ is still MIA, but in this version we lost Sia and Vic Mensa, gained a rap verse from Ye and heard Frank Ocean at the very end. Yes, this is the first time we have heard Frank Ocean’s voice on new music since Channel Orange. Throughout the album, we got to hear Kid Cudi, Rihanna, Young Thug and the Weeknd, but nothing affected me as much as hearing Ocean’s voice again.
My heart can only handle so much.
After the songs were played, Kanye grabbed the mic and addressed his spellbound audience. He thanked a long list of people and got the crowd into a spiteful chant of “F**k Nike!” (although he did excuse Michael Jordan). Then, like an excited eight year-old, he previewed a new video game he designed. That statement is one hundred percent factual. It is called “Only One: The Game” and is about his mother’s journey through heaven. Following the game announcement, Kanye turned into an excited house party DJ, passing the aux to anyone and everyone. We heard “FACTS,” we heard “Fade,” we heard a new Vic Mensa song, and we heard a new Young Thug song (which sounds dope by the way). After a little bit of jamming, Kanye and his family left the building, probably beyond the clouds at this point.
The release of The Life of Pablo is the most Kanye thing to have happened in a long time, serving as a breather to nervous fans worldwide. All those who believed Kanye fell off are now eating their words. Kanye West is a legend that continues to soar, and we continue to gaze at him, awestruck. It has been a long wait, but damn if it has not paid off magnificently.
Disclaimer: it is apparent that we live in Kanye’s world; he does not live in ours. All time is Kanye time, and anything written about him nowadays almost immediately becomes irrelevant. Something new is always happening. At the time of this writing, Kanye has dropped a new G.O.O.D. Fridays track and tweeted out the (supposed) final tracklist for The Life of Pablo, with a couple additional tracks. Who knows what is next. Whatever it is, we are ready.