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New Music: Kanye West

By Kent Wong, February 23 2016 —

Kayne West last touched our lives in 2013 with his seventh album, Yeezus. His long-anticipated follow-up, The Life of Pablo, is a thematically confused album marred by name changes and delays. But even though West’s over-hyped album is out, as of Feb. 23, it’s still not available for purchase — you can only stream a “work in progress” on Jay-Z’s TIDAL streaming service. ENT_KanyeWHICHONEWHICHONEWHICHONE

The Life of Pablo takes from West’s Christian faith, drawing parallels between the life of Paul the Apostle and West’s own life and career.

The record is acoustically varied, using Pentecostal chants, ‘90s rap, auto-tune and a smorgasbord of other tricks to paint Pablo. On the album’s highlights, the aural experience is great — but that’s certainly not the case with some of the record’s more unpolished tunes.

Tracks like the gospel “Ultralight Beam,” the controversial but funky “Famous” and “Real Friends” highlight the collection, but many of the album’s 18 tracks are a mess. Like his Twitter feed, The Life of Pablo is an uncontrollable force with surefire hits scattered among weak tracks that sound more like demos. Maybe West intended the album to be listened to like this, but many tracks feel like filler. It’s clear the record would have been better with a slimmer run time.

A few of these filler tracks clock in around the two minute mark,  most notably “Freestyle 4,” “Feedback” and “Facts,” a shoddy song focused solely on West’s soured relationship with Nike. “I Love Kanye” is a rare moment of self-awareness, where West mocks fans who complain about how much his sound and demeanor have changed.

Even “Wolves” feels like a missed opportunity. It features touching lyrics but, according to West, the song is still unfinished, with a possible revised version coming when the album finally sees a retail release.

West’s collaboration with Kendrick Lamar on “No More Parties in L.A.” is a breath of fresh air late in the album, as contemporary hip-hop’s two most iconic rapper’s share a rich beat. The song focuses on Hollywood-centric problems, but — like the rest of The Life of Pablo — that’s just Kanye West.

But it feels strange to excuse this shoddy album because it’s “just Kanye West.” The rapper is capable of greatness, but he needs to get his hubris in check before he makes another great record.

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