Artwork via thelifeofpablol.com
As they say, opinions are like assholes: Everyone's got one, some people bleach theirs, and you can't discuss Kanye West without bringing one up. Over the last three years, especially the last three months, in particular the last three weeks, and, above all, the last three days, the world has been captivated by Kanye West's next move and incredibly eager to discuss it. And now he has a new album, The Life of Pablo. Are you ready with your hot take?
We are! Although the album has barely been out 24 hours as anything other than a rip of an internet video, people are weighing in. Maybe you think it's too early for a review of the latest album from the self-proclaimed greatest artist of all time, but, as they also say, all time waits for no man. The reviews are out there, whether you want them or not. Taking them all in can be overwhelming: You can never read too much about Kanye. So we rounded up 41 of our favorite writers and thinkfluencers to write theirs and put them all in one spot. That way you can have all the opinions about TLOP and never have to click on another link about it again. We, too, feel like Pablo (probably Neruda, the one who wrote a lot, because we wrote a lot).
Kanye West's Game-Changing Contradictions, by Drew Millard**
Rather than create a neat little persona or make overtures at obscuring the less savory elements of his being, Kanye West really lets you into every little nook and cranny of his psyche, even when those nooks and crannies make you go “AH FUCK DUDE WHAT THE FUCK.” This is one of my favorite things about Kanye, and The Life of Pablo proves Kanye is a goddamn sensei at this particular brand of contradiction. He gleefully uses the image of getting stained by a model’s bleached asshole as the rising action in “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1,” which is straight-up goddamn gospel music. He turns Young Thug into the new Kirk Franklin on “Highlights,” a song you might recognize from your Twitter feed as The One Where He Disses Kim (as opposed to The One Where He Says He’s Gonna Fuck Taylor Swift). His near-Knausgaardian confessional—in which he admits to worrying his wife might divorce him and drops a Lexapro reference for all the real heads—is called, bless Yeezy’s heart, “FML.” “Freestyle 4” is actually the eighth song. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, spiraling on into infinity until we’ve all maxed out our credit cards buying Kanye’s fashion-brown clothes that kind of make you look like Dobby the house elf. But more than that stuff, Kanye’s great because every time he puts out a record it feels like a total sonic recalibration for hip-hop—now, rap must sound like goth-gospel (gothpel?), and if anyone has a problem with it, well, it’s too bad because that’s just what we’re all doing now, excuse me while I change into this burlap sack and go pick up the Yeezy Boosts that Taylor Swift’s little brother threw in the trash.
Drew Millard is a writer living in LA. Follow him on Twitter.
The Life of Pablo
Slava P's Haiku Review of , by Slava Pastuk**
you hate Kanye West
he doesn't care what you think
listen to the songs
Slava Pastuk is the editor of Noisey Canada. Follow him on Twitter.
Kanye's Personal Universe-Spanning The Life of Pablo, by Briana Younger
My eyes nearly rolled out of my head when Kanye West tweeted that The Life of Pablo—it was Waves at the time—was a gospel album. I stood corrected in about the first 90 seconds. To be fair, this is the same man who put a hymn on his debut, so perhaps I shouldn't have been so skeptical. The inclusion of Kelly Price, Kirk Franklin, testimonies and choirs serving God's Property realness throughout is overwhelmingly captivating and creates many of the album's highest points. Though this is hardly the “old Kanye” he apparently resents, at once TLOP presents as an attempted patchwork of all the best versions of himself: the pretentious and often obscene grime of Yeezus, the emo minimalism of 808s, the ambitious imagination of MBDTF and, occasionally, the endearing magnetism of his original trilogy. The fact that TLOP sounded incredible through a bootleg rip of a stream is either a testament to its quality, proof of our desperation for Kanye to be whatever we want him to be, or some combination of the two. I'm on the fence as to whether this mess of a rollout has managed to overshadow the album itself—both are evidence of an egregious battle between superego and id—but perhaps that's irrelevant. Kanye creates #moments, and this one is captured forever in all of its confused, sacrilegious bombast.
Briana Younger is a writer living in Washington, DC. Follow her on Twitter.
Let's Talk About Kanye's Voice, by Rebecca Haithcoat
I don’t like Kanye West’s voice. Not in the figurative sense. I think it’s tight that he says he’s the best at everything because here is a little secret about saying you’re the best at everything: People believe you sooner or later. (You might even convince yourself.) No, I mean the literal sound of his rapping voice. The nasality and whine of it have always been so off-putting to me that his music would be unlistenable if he weren’t so Olivier Rousteing with the production. On TLOP, Kanye really does stitch disparate sounds and tempos and rhythms together and they are just as exquisite as Kim’s bachelorette Balmain, each fitted to the song that wears it, each one pearlescent and lush and so full of detailed and intricate beatwork that you want to really examine it up close on good speakers. As a whole and off three or four listens, TLOP might contain my favorite production of any Kanye album, and a solid half of the songs moved me out of my seat. But his voice. It’s the very opposite of Ty Dolla $ign’s smoked-too-many-Backwoods-then-dipped-his-larynx-in-molasses vocals massaging the chorus on “Real Friends” or the host of angels moving mountains on “Ultralight Beam.” What the timbre of Kanye West’s voice manifests is deep frustration and wild insecurity—but frustration and insecurity over dumb, insignificant shit like the girl who curved him in eighth grade. I don’t think Kanye is crazy. But he seems to be the kind of man who always insists that he's right, the kind of man who will ALL CAPS YOU until you just give up, the kind of man a woman should be wary of. Just like those no-pussy-gettin’ bloggers.
Rebecca Haithcoat is a writer living in LA. Follow her on Twitter.
Kanye West, Artiste? by David Drake
More sketches and paint splotches than portraits, The Life of Pablo is a collection of ideas rather than songs. In some ways, it can feel quite minor, though certain moments—the melodic elegance of "Highlights," the lo-fi Timbo slouch of "Feedback"—transcend their surroundings. His lyrics jump from deep until you think about it (true as it may be "Name one genius that ain't crazy" sounds like the defensive rationalization of an asshole) to exuberant sloganeering ("Any rumor you heard about me was true and legendary"). He also veers from cat-poster-inspirational to embracing low-culture "trash" ("Awesome, Steve Jobs mixed with Steve Austin") to treating objects like women, man. Like most late-era Kanye, your enjoyment of his recorded material is proportionate to your appreciation or tolerance of Kanye the brand, now a fully-flowered oddball.
He seldom seems interested in connecting with his audience through the familiar—in pandering to their desire for the "old Kanye"—and is driven instead by blunt honesty, which was the Old Kanye's true strategy anyway. One of his coldest songs is also his best, warmth seeping in around its melancholy edges ("Real Friends"). It's unexpectedly relatable. Not that his reality TV lifestyle is in some way dishonest, but it shows the limitations of "honesty" as a window to art worth hearing: Kanye is a weird guy, easier to appreciate for his honesty in the abstract than to live with. If Kanye panders, it's to those who see art at its apex as a postmodern dream board. His work is a flex—his signing of Desiigner feels like a subtle dismissal of Future's career to a mere tonal color—his use of music history to pre-empt the default critical toolkit—drawing lines of influence to show progression. On the whole, Life of Pablo is not a retrenchment after the shock of Yeezus but will probably seem lightweight in the short term. There are lots of ideas on here, though, buds which will never gain full flower, as if Kanye didn't have the time or willpower to give them more than the initial spark of life.
David Drake is a writer living in Chicago. Follow him on Twitter.
A Kanye West Adventure, by DVS
Like many Americans, when I heard last week that there was a guy named “Kanye West” I was like “Hot Dog!! THIS I gotta SEE!!” I LOVE when people are named things. I went to my local library, which had burned down, and asked the Librarian if the library had any books on “people” and “finding stuff out.” She said that no, on account of it had burned down. This “Kanye” sure was going to a lot of trouble to stay under the radar.
Suddenly, the Librarian pulled me close and told me she had half a gram of “America Online” in her sweatervest and was willing to share. As the colorful fruit-flavored granules hit my tongue I was instantly able to know all. In this fleeting moment I learned that Kanye was originally known as “Logan” but was kidnapped by the Canadian Government, dubbed “Weapon X,” and had WILDLY durable pretend metal “adamantium” fused to his bones, only enhancing his natural healing abilities and great strength. It was shortly thereafter that he encountered Professor Charles Kanye, who enlisted him into “The Kanye-Men,” a group of students who shared similar amazing physical abilities and powers. He as such changed his name to prove his dedication and cement his place as the “enforcer” of the group. Also then he made like... a crazy prog rock album. Its called like Hey Here Comes Pablo, He's Your Friend. See even the name is wild.
DVS is the other greatest living artist of the 21st century. Follow him on Twitter.
Oh Yeah, There's Also an Album, by Jessica Goodman
The long march to Yeezy Season 3 ended when Kanye West walked into Madison Square Garden behind half a dozen Kardashians dressed in custom Balmain x Yeezy looks, lest we forget what family Ye's married into or that his massive celebrity status now means he can tweet "BILL COSBY INNOCENT" and still pack the most high-profile arena in the world at 4 PM on a Thursday. Sure, the spectacle may have been technically about muted fashion tones and some big reveal, but when you pack the most famous family on the planet, Anna Wintour, a hundred of rap's biggest names, 2,000 models, nearly as many press, and 20,000 Yeezus die-hards into an arena, it's basically the biggest power play a mere mortal can make. There were blunts and aux cords and hype-y rants about corporations and mile-long merch lines and FUCK NIKE chants and shoutouts to God and Tidal hype and Tyga. There was also music though, wasn't there? It's good. I like it a lot.
Jessica Goodman is the digital music and books editor at Entertainment Weekly_. Follow her on Twitter._
Teen Time: Kanye? Kan-okay, not Kan-yay, by Eli Zeger
Kanye West is a shvantz, and with The Life Of Pablo, his mercurial, conceited attitude has noticeably outshined his work. In the artiste’s (navel-gazing) eyes, according to numerous Tweets, this went from being the definitive “album of the life” to “ONE of the greatest albums,” but TLOP is worth taking a few steps further—it’s merely a good album, far from being worth the supposed legacy that its creator preaches. TLOP has its high points, however, in that some of the work cancels out my repugnance and is worth the hype—namely “Real Friends.” It’s impossible not to succumb to the track’s visceral, ghostly vibe. “Real Friends” sounds nothing like the abrasive backing instrumentals of MBDTF; instead it paints a realm of minimalist, intimate R&B. That loop of grainy piano and that cave echo of a beat sound so chilling together, and the brief self-harmonies Ye does during the choruses are gorgeous.
I'm also digging this Arthur Russell sample on “30 Hours,” which, while the track is more ebullient than “Real Friends,” also takes up a minimalist setup. Ye’s best moments here are when his backing instrumentals sound the most modest and (minus all the ad-libbing during “30 Hours”) succinct.
Eli Zeger is Noisey's teen correspondent. Follow him on Twitter.
The Ultimate Kanye Fan Fiction, by Ezra Marcus
When I was 12 years old, at the height of the Harry Potter boom, I walked into my mom’s room and found a thick pad of paper next to her bed. She’d printed it out from the internet and stapled it herself. I took a look—lo ad behold, here was a sprawling fan-fiction erotica narrative in which Severus Snape has illicit affairs with Harry Potter, Ron, and, god forbid, Albus Dumbledore. I was transfixed.
Erotic fan-fiction is one of the internet’s largest exports—websites like AdultFanFiction and AO3 offer millions of stories in which beloved characters from film, TV, literature, music and the celebrity sphere smash the living daylights out of each other. Maybe you’ve never read this stuff, but chances are that the with the girl cat-ear beanie or the guy with piping-hot Sherlock takes has. You know who else wrote some wild fan-fiction? Kanye West. In “Famous” he describes a potential tryst between himself and Taylor Swift. Sure, he comes off a bit awkward and desperate. But he’s not remotely original. Here’s a Kanye/Taylor erotic story. Here’s another. Here’s one where Taylor fucks Kanye with a strap-on. It’s pretty hot. It’s also totally normal. Hundreds of thousands of nerds write about their faves porking every day. Should Kanye be held to a different standard just cause one of the people he’s fantasizing about happens to be himself?
In the immortal words of SamuelX— “Lying on his back on the king-sized bed, Kanye tried to smile his trademark grin as he felt his ass stretch while Taylor Swift began pounding into him.” Amen.
For what it's worth, The Life of Pablo fucking bangs, but you knew that already.
Ezra Marcus is the cousin who stole Kanye's laptop. Follow him on Twitter.
We're All on an Ultralight Beam Now, by Brian Josephs
I was too stuck on “Ultralight Beam” to give a shit about the rest of the album. When Kanye West tweeted that The Life of Pablo was actually a gospel album, I thought it was cool. He went out of his way to defend his anus a few days later—the dude needed Jesus. He still does: Who plugs in their album in a Saturday Night Live performance like a DatPiff mixtape?
Truth be told, we all needed a little saving. The altruism of gospel is often something that’s aspiration rather than genuinely felt. But on “Ultralight Beam,” Chance The Rapper rolled through and floated with Kirk Franklin having his back. You’re probably doomed to damnation if the choir’s resonance at the end didn’t inspire a visceral reaction.
Brian Josephs is a contributing staff writer for VICE. Follow him on Twitter.
Fuck All That, Let's Get to the Real Star, by Paul Thompson
I’m not going to talk about Kanye West—at least not exactly—but stick with me for a second. As cool as it is for a producer-rapper from Chicago to sell out Madison Square Garden for his fashion show, it’s still a fashion show where the models are subjected to page-long lists of all-caps rules and where the clothes are available for the very populist price of $455 per Beige Cropped-Sleeve Pullover. So while the production on The Life of Pablo sounds as if it’s superb, Thursday's real magic came after Kanye was pretty much finished and figured he would just pass around the aux cord for a bit.
Now we could talk about Vic Mensa trying yet again for that tipping-point single, or we could talk about Kanye taking over again to taunt Nike. But I’m not here to talk about Kanye. The show-stopping song Thursday came courtesy of Young Thug, the skeletal Atlantan who had just finished walking the runway with a bottle of (ahem) Sprite in the pocket of his suede-and-fur combat jacket. He ambled up on stage and plugged in “Ridin’ Through the City,” a master class on black diamonds and kidney failure and AKs on laps. There’s something to be said for the guy who waits three years between albums, who brings in fans by the tens of thousands, who speaks loudly and without compromise about his place in culture, in history. But there’s something else to be said about the guy who snatches his spotlight. “Fuck all that, let’s get to it.”
Paul Thompson has two takes stuffed. Follow him on Twitter.
The Life of Pablo Surpasses Expectations, by Ty Howard
Let me just start by saying that I was actually afraid of what this album would actually sound like. Kanye hasn’t really let us down yet (except for not letting 808 Mafia produce Yeezus in full), but I was definitely concerned about this album. All of my fears were put to rest after hearing it.
Only Kanye could pull Kelly Price, Frank Ocean, Rihanna, Young Thug, Post Malone, Metro Boomin, Chance The Rapper, Kirk Franklin and more together for support on an album and not fuck it up. I was kinda hoping to hear ‘Ye and Kirk Franklin over some Metro production, but I guess we’ll have to wait until the next album for that one. We do get to hear Kanye send shots at Brandy’s brother on the same track (“Highlights”) as Thugger Thugger, The-Dream, and El DeBarge, and it sounds just as awesome as it reads. If I had to pick a favorite right now, it would definitely be “Highlights.”
Overall, ‘Ye delivered another dope album that the internet probably won’t appreciate until some time late next year and the new soundtrack for life until Views from the 6 drops. Thank you, Pablo—I mean, Kanye.
Ty Howard is an editor for Chicago hip-hop blog Fake Shore Drive. Follow him on Twitter.
The Life of Pablo: It's Complicated, by Aly Comingore
Hi. I am your female friend who jumped off the Kanye train after the Cosby thing and then caved to peer pressure and watched the entire Madison Square Garden show at her desk. Now I am here to tell you that Yeezus Season is an emotional rollercoaster ride and it is totally OK to like The Life of Pablo because, in fact, this record is really fucking good. Is that line about Taylor Swift misogynistic? Yes! Did she approve it? IDK. None of this matters because the Sister Nancy sample on that track is solid gold. Is Kanye writing a song about Kanye writing a song about Kanye egotistical? Yes! Should you be annoyed by his arrogance? Probably. Do the choir parts on “Ultralight Beam” totally overshadow all of this? 100 percent! Feeling conflicted yet? Perfect.
Aly Comingore is the managing editor of VICE's Live Nation TV. Follow her on Twitter.
**The Life of Pablo: The Tortured Metaphor Review, by Jeremy Larson
Einstein's Theory of Relativity was confirmed Thursday when two black holes collided with one another: Yes, Kanye West said something bad about Taylor Swift, and the internet responded. But that would be missing the planets for the galaxy: The Life of Pablo is a cosmic paradox. Like a galactic ballet, Kanye presents a war between the infallible and the mortal on the astral plane. It's filled with rays of light brighter than any star and antimatter so dark they elude all science and reason. There are celestial bodies Kanye probes with a GoPro, parallel universes with TLOP's “Feedback” and Yeezus's “I'm In It,” and the gravitational pull of Kanye himself proving that indeed everything revolves around him. Kanye dick-raps over Nina Simone samples because those are the immutable laws of his universe. He is the creator of memes and the devourer of LOLs. For Kanye there is no God or Man, only a fathomless intergalactic collision of the two: Pablo.
Jeremy Larson is a moonbeam and a sun beam, the Alpha and Omega. Follow him on Twitter.
Metro Boomin? Want Some More, but This Works Too, by Trey Smith
This is Sunday morning music for those who don’t go to church and think leftover bottles from the night before constitutes brunch (it does). Kanye has bad taste in some things, as we learned through his tweets these last couple weeks, but music is certainly not one of those things. I didn't think the album was going to be bad, but the social media circus didn't have me excited to listen to it.
All that changed during the Season 3 show as soon as “Ultralight Beam” sent goosebumps up my body. Now that I've listened to a full stream, this is about as complete as anything we've heard since My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. If a project in 2016 isn't at least half produced by 808 Mafia or Metro Boomin then it's probably trash, and this somehow isn't.
With his ventures into new mediums picking up speed, TLOP could be Kanye's last album for a while—maybe ever. If that's the case, this is about as great a conclusion (or beginning of a super extended hiatus, because this is Kanye) as we could ask for. Also that track Thugger played during the show is nuts and I can’t wait for Slime Season 3.
Trey Smith is Twitter's leading baked goods and bee population expert. Follow him on Twitter.
The One Big Question The Life of Pablo Leaves Unanswered, by Annalise Domenighini
After three years, months of back and forth, an excessive and stressful press cycle the likes of which have never been seen by many, at least three mental breakdowns and who knows how many strange, unexplored emotions this album forced on me, there's only one thing I really got out of The Life of Pablo, and it's that Kanye and Drake need to make out ASAP.
Annalise Domenighini is Noisey's Social Producer. Follow her on Twitter.
Deep Dish and Deep Thoughts: Kanye's Chicago Legacy Is Strong, but Y'all's Legacy Is You Need to Chill, by Ernest Wilkins
"Name one genius that ain't crazy"
While the rollout method for Kanye's newest album shouldn't be attempted by any one else—looking at you, major label rapper who's fresh out of ideas that aren't “Uh, get Metro Boomin?”—this one line keeps sitting with me.
Kanye West is my cousin. Not literally, but we shares a similar upbringing, from the piles-of-degrees-having moms who worked at Chicago State University to frequenting River Oaks Mall every weekend between 1999 and 2003. I want him to be successful, even when he's saying dumb shit or acting like a child because a woman broke up with him and he's still in his feelings about it years later. He might be a narcissist who really needs to have more people around him telling him no, but he's OUR narcissist.
As for the album... You know what?! No.
This is the sonic equivalent of a person waiting until 11:55 to turn in a midterm. Oh, I was happy to hear him finally reference Ray J's Top Five Diss Song Ever “I Hit It First,” albeit three years after it came out. Let's stop fooling ourselves here. Nobody's here for discourse. Chicago is gonna be happy he's got people from the crib on the record (YAY CHANCE), everyone who works in media is going to be happy they have things to write about, and everyone else is going to focus on making memes while trying to cop fake Yeezys from China. Music writer internet in 2016 is Galactus: When it locks in on something, that thing is ultimately left destroyed. I'm going back to bed.
Ernest Wilkins is not the guy who stole Kanye's laptop. Follow him on Twitter.
Seriously, We Were Promised More Young Thug, by Haley Potiker
First of all, I wanted a lot more Young Thug. I was explicitly promised there would be more Young Thug than this. I mean I would have been excited about the album regardless, but false expectations lead to despair. Also—why is there a Future impersonator on "Pt. 2"? Unfounded theory: Kanye asked Future to be on the album, and Future quoted an exorbitantly high rate. 'Ye, being $53 mil in debt, found a generic-brand Future—Desiigner—who could do a dead-on impression and signed him for a fraction of the cost. At first, Kanye schemed to make Desiigner rich and famous just to spite Future. Then, he got lazy and settled for putting the verse on his album.
Here’s something I don’t understand: there are a lot of lyrics on The Life of Pablo about fucking other women. So Kim Kardashian was in the studio with Kanye night and day listening to him talk about fucking everyone at his Equinox and was like “aw baby, great bars”? But speaking of bars, I find it personally reassuring that Kanye is on Lexapro.
None of this should be taken to mean I don't love The Life of Pablo or that I didn't spend all morning memorizing “I Love Kanye.”
Haley Potiker is a writer living in LA. Follow her on Twitter.
The Gospel of Pablo, by Judnick Maynard
When Kanye asserted that his new album was really a gospel album I built an ark of positivity around myself because I knew Hot Takes Twitter would be washed away in the flood. Kanye is black; we don't play with the word gospel. I did not feel anxiety or nervousness about what was to come. I had faith in his ability to keep his musical word because otherwise I've never met this man. If the tears I shed Sunday morning mean anything, it's that being black is still is very awesome, and the black youth are still very much the Original trendsetters. The younger generation did not lead him astray as you said they would, old farts. If there's anything to be sad about it's that once again Kanye has tied Taylor Swift's tired/boring narrative to the history of black music. He didn't make her famous; he made her relevant to the only culture that matters.
Judnick Maynard is a writer living in Brooklyn. Follow her on Twitter.
Kanye West Delivers His Most Personal Album Yet, by Joe Zadeh
From the title to the old family photo in the cover art, The Life of Pablo has gone out of its way to say: This will be reflective and biographical, OK? So it makes sense that it sounds like a consummate of every shade of Kanye we’ve ever known. There’s the College Dropout glints of soul and the peak Kanye bars of “No More Parties in LA”; the “Jesus Walks” style gospel elevation of “Ultralight Beam”; the introspective analysis of “FML”; the chronic self-awareness of “I Love Kanye”; the warm Chicago house groove of “Fade”; and the concentrated doses of Yeezus that briefly spot like blood on a white shirt, through the cheese wire synths of “Feedback” and the spitting animalism of “Freestyle 4.”
The result of all that is an album with seemingly no concept or theme or building narrative, and after records like MBDTF and 808s, it’s easy to feel disappointed by that. But maybe it’s the point. TLOP is a chaotic and erratic body of work that bravely lives by its own haywire decisions. The decision to redo “Facts” was a masterstroke; the decision to completely overhaul “Wolves” was a shitshow. The lyrics veer so drunkenly from righteous and meaningful to crude and lazy, it’s often hard to tell whether you’re in a chapel or a strip club, and the sampling feels like a child is bashing the search buttons on the most tasteful car radio of all time. Yet there’s some sort of magnificence in how fucking messy it is, how it treats its retrospection just like a brain treats memories, in a broken and disjointed way. Because of that greatest hits feel, that rampant unpredictability and that desperation to thrive off grid, it’s probably the most Kanye album of all.
Joe Zadeh is the editor of Noisey UK. Follow him on Twitter.
**All Praise Kanye? by Emilee Lindner
Kanye's yelling in the middle of his album listening party at MSG that he deserves more credit. "This shit was hard to do," he yelps repeatedly when fans don't cheer loud enough for his newly revealed video game. So they cheer louder when he makes them watch it again. They listen to Yeezus. When he says he's a god (or in TLOP's case, "Steve Jobs meets Steve Austin"), they believe it.
We can either be influenced by Kanye or parody him. He loves both options. His misogyny is fucked up, but even that seems like he's doing it for looks. He calls his wife a bitch and treats her like an object when he raps, "I bet me and Ray J would be friends but we love the same bitch / Yeah he hit it first but I'm rich." He claims Taylor Swift's fame and feels entitled to her body when he raps, "I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex. I made that bitch famous."
I can't get past the misogyny—whether it's performative or not—so I don't really have any other thoughts on TLOP. The only visual I get is of Kanye, surrounded by shitty clothes and bored models, desperate for attention while his fans laud his work at his command, passing by the problems along the way.
Emilee Lindner is a writer living in New York. Follow her on Twitter.
The Life of Pablo
Some Practical Notes on and the Soho Equinox, by Kyle Kramer**
I never feel like I can truly "understand" an album until I "get inside its world." And the world of The Life of Pablo is one that I don't really know. For instance, I've never been to the Equinox gym, where all the bad bitches are. I looked it up on Yelp to find out if the clientele lived up to expectations, and found this review, by L.D: "First off, let me be clear that Equinox isn't for athletes. It's for 'clients' who are afraid of death and ugly people." Maybe not something The-Dream would sing about, but it sounds like I would fit in, am I right? Bianca Z. adds, "On a positive note, there's a sit down, comunal space (almost like a foyer) between the juice shop on the first floor and the reception area on the second floor."
I also have never seen a bleached asshole. I looked up some homeopathic solutions for skin bleaching on wikiHow and discovered that papaya soap is one option. Or, if you can't find papaya soap, "you can also mash up a chunk of ripe papaya and apply a big dollop on the areas. Leave it on for 30 minutes and then wash it off. In a couple of week’s time, you should see significant lightening." My take? Kanye should not be worried about bleaching his shirt, although I have gotten bleach on my clothes before and it definitely is annoying. My other take? That tired line about Kanye being a better producer than rapper might finally be true for once on this album, but I digress.
Kyle Kramer recently canceled his Planet Fitness membership. Follow him on Twitter.
The Life of Pablo's Many, Occasionally Christian Messages, by Brandon Soderberg
Try and separate The Life Of Pablo from the stunning Dune_-meets-_The Warriors_-as-directed-by-Isaac-Julien listening party as well as the growing list of stupid Kanye tweets, and, then, ignore the moments on the album itself where Kanye comes off like Dirty Grandpa. If you do all of that, _The Life Of Pablo is a quilted, distracted throat-clearing hot mess of audio clips, chunks of other people's songs (not so much samples), half-songs, and Kanye-ized radio trends. It's celebration of inconsistency and an argument for being indelicate—the second half is more “cohesive” but less compelling, which says something about how flaws aren't always flaws. Even if every non-musical move Kanye makes these days seems like he really cares what the wrong people think of him (why must he pander to that anti-ass play contingent?), his music does not. It does sound like a gospel album occasionally, and when it does, oh does it, but every Kanye album—full of bittersweet exuberance—is a gospel album if you think about it. Kanye's Christianity is tedious next to the functional religiosity of Chance the Rapper or Kendrick Lamar anyway. The metatextual sampling thing here (via samples, Rihanna turns into Sister Nancy and Nina Simone, trap and house music become one, and Kanye morphs into a previous era's forever-tinkering genius, Arthur Russell), and those blips of IRL Kanye (laptop theft, Lexapro freak-outs) and “properly” personal-is-political Kanye (conflating the failing economy and his father's failings, a line about police shootings) are more profound than the crowbarred-in Christian imagery. It begins in the church and ends in a Chicago warehouse in the mid-80s, and those are kind of the same place really.
One way this record is very Christian: Its casual, caustic contempt for women. We should challenge Kanye on that (though maybe we should also acknowledge this mildly touching, anti-transphobia tweet), but I'd also add that when listeners—especially white boys—demand “better” from Kanye but not the rappers we turn up to in the club or dorm rooms or in our car, we are perpetuating all kinds of respectability politics-tinged expectations for certain kinds of black artists over others and all that old politics shit should go out the window as we enter the second Civil Rights movement—which oh, by the way, I do wish that informed this record a bit more. That one pointed, repeated line on “Feedback” though! And Chance mentioning Jason Van Dyke (on SNL at least)!
Brandon Soderberg is the arts editor of Baltimore City Paper. Follow him on Twitter.
Kanye West Makes Us Pay Attention, by Olivia Becker
This is how little attention I’ve been paying to the release of Kanye’s new album: When I was told to watch the live stream on TIDAL, I just googled TIDAL because I assumed that was the name of the album itself. So that should give you some idea of how up-to-date I am on the Kanye-mania that has taken over my Twitter feed, and apparently the world, right now.
That being said, I liked TLOP (TIDAL seemed cool too). Once I separate Kanye’s actual music from his persona, it’s not hard to see why he’s as revered as he is. What I enjoyed most about TLOP were all the parts when Kanye wasn't actually rapping, which I didn’t expect because I always liked his earlier albums mostly for the lyrics (is there anything more succinctly poetic than “I live by two words: ‘fuck you, pay me’”?). But what struck me most about TLOP was the pure sound of it. The layers, sampling, and beats all woven together made the album seem like a full-body experience you had to sit down for, rather than something I would just casually put in my headphones on the subway.
TLOP demonstrated yet again how Kanye is one of those rare cultural figures who has his own gravitational pull—everything he does forces a mass reaction and it works every time simply because he is who he is.
Olivia Becker is a staff writer for VICE News. Follow her on Twitter.
I Already Wrote What I Think for Another Noisey Article and Honestly It Feels Redundant to Write a Second Review but Here Goes, by Kat George
Kat George is a writer living in New York. Follow her on Twitter.
Some Thoughts About Paul Newman, by Nick Greene
Paul Newman’s last role was in Disney’s Cars. He provided the voice for Doc Hudson, a talking race car who, since retirement, had became a car-slash-doctor-and-judge. (Wikipedia has an extensive page on Hudson, in case you are curious.) The character, like Newman, had passed away before the release of Cars 2. (Wikipedia: “In Cars 2, the Piston Cup has been renamed after Doc who had recently died of old age and his clinic turned into a museum where his old newspapers and trophies are displayed.”) Naturally, no Newman obituaries listed Cars. There is so much more to discuss when celebrating the life of Paul Newman. He was an Academy Award-winning actor, a pasta sauce and salad dressing mogul, a humanitarian, and a devoted husband. He was a Navy veteran and, according to everyone who knew him, Paul Newman was an all-around great guy. Salt of the earth! Kind to a fault—that is, if he had a fault. Even if you don’t consider acting difficult, if you don’t believe the skill is compatible with, say, the distinction of “genius,” then you still have to consider Paul Newman a genius considering his many achievements. Hell, the guy even owned a successful race car team! (This is likely why he appeared in Cars in the first place.) I mention Newman because I am listening to “Feedback,” a very good song on Kanye West’s new album The Life of Pablo. Noisey asked to write my thoughts, and I got stuck on a line from that song: “Name one genius who ain’t crazy.”
Paul Newman. Paul Newman is a genius who wasn’t crazy. Kanye probably forgot about this because he was rushing to finish The Life of Pablo.
Though, if anyone could relate to having a lot on his plate like Kanye, it would be Paul Newman. He'd understand.
Nick Greene goes by Cool Hand Nick. Follow him on Twitter.
The Many Lives of Kanye West, by Brandon Caldwell
The Life of Pablo was forecasted as a gospel album from the words of Kanye West. It may be better served as The Life of Job. The way West plotted this course out felt like the Trials of Job: open confidence and arrogance were used as masks for mania and the yearning for acceptance. Getting here was a mess, and even more loyal parts of the Kanye West Think Tank departed. Still, TLOP result is a gorgeous deep dive into the mind of a 38-year-old who can still think he’s eight. Maybe that’s why the tones of TLOP hint at every robe he’s worn since 2004’s College Dropout: backpacker, industrial outsider who fails to realize his message is new establishment, misogynist who only knows rap masculinity. “Ultralight Beam,” “Low Light” and “Father Stretch My Hands” are gospel records fighting for identity on an album that celebrates Yeezus_-worthy pornographic hedonism (“Freestyle 4”), the summit of West’s egomania (“Famous”, “I Love Kanye”) and the marriage of both (“Highlights”, “Waves”). _TLOP continues West’s mantra of getting the best out of his guests, whether it be minimal (Andre 3000, Young Thug, KiD Cudi) or massive (Chance The Rapper). Kanye may have found perfection in darkness in 2010. Yet he’s still tormented and unwilling to let go of things he thought he was free from.
Brandon Caldwell is a writer living in Houston. Follow him on Twitter.
Noisey Australia's Editor Reviews The Life of Pablo, by Tim Scott
I live in Australia, so didn’t make it to Madison Square Garden’s Kanye Fest 16. Even if I lived in New York City I doubt I’d have shelled $160 for a ticket to watch the hip-hop star play new songs off his laptop, show off his new clothes and announce a video game that appears to entail his late mother Donda flying through heaven. Neither was I one of the estimated 20 million people around the world who watched the live stream of the event.
This is a new Kanye album, and by now we know what to expect on a new Kanye album: songs about Kanye. An initial listen of The Life of Pablo doesn’t disappoint. Among the diss tracks there are lines such as, “I miss the old Kanye, shit from the gold Kanye / Talking ’bout the soul Kanye, set all his goals Kanye.” One of the best lines Kanye has written about himself in a while. I also like that he wants to put Go Pro on his dick.
Tim Scott is the editor of Noisey Australia..
We're Gonna Need More Flame Emojis, by Kathy Iandoli
The Life Of Pablo, wow. If Graduation, 808s and Heartbreak, and Yeezus all met and had a very uncomfortable orgy, Pablo would be the illegitimate child who grew up to be the most successful member of society. You can tell Kanye curated the fuck out of this album, especially considering he kept adding tracks until the very end. The production—from Metro Boomin to Yeezus himself—all fits this puzzle of melding genres together until they’re putty. The cameos—Rihanna, The-Dream, El DeBarge, Kirk Franklin, shit even Young Thug—are all there for a reason. Kanye’s Twitter #barz also sound much better on wax, like "I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex, I made that bitch famous” on “Famous.” Or how about, “Blac Chyna fuckin’ Rob, help him with the weight” on “Highlights”? And yeah, the B word is not cute, and neither is using his wife as a show pony, but at some point we have to stop looking at Kanye West and just listen to his music. And it’s all so good: the audacity, the musicianship, the curation. It can make your blood boil sometimes because maybe you wanted The Life of Pablo to fucking suck. But guess what: It didn’t. Maybe every time you hear it you’ll picture Naomi Campbell in a cat suit or Thugger looking like he fell into a vat of blood or the Kardashians dressed like Cruella de Vil in Easter pastels, but that’s kind of the point, right?
Kathy Iandoli is a writer living in New York and ain't nothing to fuck with. Follow her on Twitter.
The Hottest Take of All, by Dan Ozzi
Kanye West’s long-awaited album was released Saturday night and if you spend any time on the internet today, you will no doubt be inundated with a barrage of reviews, hot takes, thinkpieces, first listen thoughts, and listicle #content. So let me ease some of your burden by saying this: I do not plan on weighing in on the album today.
In the internet’s anarchic stampede to be the first out of the gate to desperately compete for your sweet, sweet ad dollar-generating clicks, we have completely lost the ability to devote the time necessary to apply proper critical analysis to anything. Anyone claiming to have a deep understanding of an album that came out mere hours prior—especially an album that has been years in the making and has been touted as the greatest album of our time—is a goddamn liar.
I will listen to this album at my leisure. I will let it sink in over the weekend and in the days and weeks after. I will allow the layers to unravel on each listen to better understand them. But I ain’t jamming art through the gears of the Content Machine. BILL COSBY GUILTY.
Dan Ozzi is an editor at Noisey and America's only music writer. Follow him on Twitter.
The Life of Pablo is Gospel Punk, by Byron Yan
If I were to describe the album to someone in one broad stroke, I’d say that it’s a Kanye gospel album with punk lyrics. Kanye’s lyrics are often brazen, straightforward, and at times extremely self-aware, even for Ye. There are moments that’ll make you laugh, nod your head, and maybe even crinkle your eyebrows at some of his brash Yeezus_-esque lyrics. I initially thought that _Yeezus would have been his most punk rock record, but The Life Of Pablo definitely takes the cake. From his zine (thank you Kanye for enlightening everyone on how to pronounce the word), the merchandise at MSG, to this album, it all screams punk. Now when is he going to start stretching his ears and getting hand tattoos?
Byron Yan is a writer living in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter.
That Was Early Kanye, This Is Middle Kanye, by Al Shipley
Recent Kanye is best understood as a satire of the clichéd stages of a pop career narratives, like 2007’s Walk Hard, one of the few Apatow-produced comedies Mr. West has never quoted on purpose. Yeezus was Dewey Cox’s self-proclaimed “dark fucking period,” and The Life Of Pablo is the product of countless hours at the mixing board, demanding “more Aboriginal percussionists and an army of didgeridoos.” Cementing his sharp decline as an MC while settling scores with Nike, Ray J, and Taylor Swift that everyone else was ready to forget about, The Best Aesthete Alive at least continues to curate a perversely fun gallery of sounds and voices besides his own. And many of them relish the spotlight, including Chance, who leaps at his chance to be this album’s Nicki-on-“Monster” or Jay-on-“Diamonds.” “I Love Kanye” is such a perfect essay of all of West’s 70s Lennon angst towards fans that remember the early days that I wish he put it to a beat. But let’s not delude ourselves about the past: Late Registration was a mess, too, it was just a better mess.
Al Shipley is a writer living in Baltimore. Follow him on Twitter.
Do We Miss the Old Kanye? by Nevona Friedman
In an interview, Drake once said that the nostalgia for his old albums is just misplaced nostalgia for the listener’s own life. You don’t miss So Far Gone; you miss riding around with your high school boyfriend and singing along. I didn’t realize how little I missed “The Old Kanye” and how earnestly I missed just getting fucked over by Kanye. He shoved us all off for years and then asked us to digest everything we’d waited for in just over an hour (and in 240p on TIDAL nonetheless!). The Life of Pablo still didn't come out, which meant forming an impression on this impossibly long-awaited record based on KTT rips and hanger-on Periscopes.
If Yeezus was Kanye laying himself across the (physical and) metaphorical mountain, TLOP is the waterslide back down, immediate and fleeting. Equal parts indignation (“Fuck Nike”; “Maybe Fuck Dad too?”) and insulation (having kids is terrifying), where its forebears shouldered trends and techniques, it seems in the absence of trailblazing is when Kanye finds his hum. And plus, like he said, everyone loves a gospel album.
Nevona Friedman is a thought leader and Ted Cruz truther living in New York. Follow her on Twitter.
A Quick Review Written on a Phone While Out of the Office and Barely Hearing the Record, by Eric Sundermann**
It's been a stressful week. Kanye, in the most Kanye fashion, has completely fucked with the album release cycle. He's taken the idea of a surprise and flipped it on its head, as he's essentially been putting out The Life of Pablo for the last month. It's been annoying as hell, especially if you work in music media, but the end result is something special. I've only been able to listen to the final version of the album once, but some of these songs—in particular, "Waves," "FML," and "Wolves"—are some of the most dynamic of his career. TLOP feels like if Yeezus, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and 808s & Heartbreak had a threesome and then somebody gave birth to a creature named Pablo. Kanye has has full on entered his Steve Jobs phase, embracing the sociopath within, and is now asking for Mark Zuckerberg to donate a billion dollars to his ideas. I can't wait to see what he tweets next.
Eric Sundermann is gonna let himself finish. Follow him on Twitter.
I Have Some Thoughts About Sia, by Jabbari Weekes
I've said it before and I'll say it again: I will no longer be writing about Kanye West. I understand my place of employment makes that essentially impossible, but I'm not going to do it. Instead, I'd like to talk about singer/songwriter Sia Kate Isobelle Furler, otherwise known as Sia. You probably know Sia from the popular single "Chandelier," but did you know she's also penned popular hits for artists like Rihanna, Beyonce, Britney Spears, and an ex-client of Roc Nation? That ex-client happens to be Rita Ora, but again even by name, I'm sure you don't know who that is. Hence, why I'm referencing her by her job title. Anyways, Sia is also a vegan and owns a dog named Pantera. Not to be confused with Panthera, from the ill-advised 2011 reboot of Thundercats. Speaking of land mammals, Sia is no longer on "Wolves" and Chance the Rapper calls her a ghost on the first track. Damn it.
Jabbari Weekes is the world's foremost authority on "Wolves" CDQ. Follow him on Twitter.
A Good Ass Job, by Yung Costanza
Whatever names it’s been called, whatever iterations it’s been through, whatever you want to label the genre it belongs to, The Life of Pablo is incredible. I admit that with the clothing line, his erratic, horrible tweets, and the constant refusal to follow through on a release date, expectations were lowered. But whatever your expectations were, he delivered beautiful music. “Ultralight Beam” stands out as a soaring, perfect track one (with Chance’s verse as my favorite moment on the album). I wanted to say that this album is like a temporal bridge between College Dropout and Yeezus, but it also sounds like something different entirely, something that can’t be easily pegged to a time. It’s like each Kanye album to this point was him learning a single instrument, and now it culminates in him becoming a different and more complete artist. It doesn’t sound like a departure like Yeezus did; it sounds like an evolution. And while on any scale I think this is a wonderful album, I can’t help but think that he might’ve have thrown this, THIS, together in his “spare time.” Incredible. Simply, it sounds great and nothing else sounds quite like it. I’ll never doubt his musical ability ever again.
Yung Costanza is concerned, however, about Kanye's debt. Follow him on Twitter.
A Life of Pablo Diary, by Zach Kelly
February 11, 2016
I’m not so much of a purist in that I needed to hear Kanye’s album full CDQ for the first time (I guess I like “Wolves” as much as the rest of you “hypebeasts” do, sure), but I’m fairly certain I didn’t need to hear it during a Tidal livestream at four in the afternoon, which is the exact same time I try to haul my fat ass onto the treadmill. Here’s the thing: I fucking can’t stand sneakerhead culture, sloppy album rollouts, rich teenagers, and whatever else my proud and brave NYC media friends and colleagues had to brave at MSG yesterday.
But if I’m being really honest, I felt a little jealous. Didn’t you? I love the idea of listening parties, but actual listening parties are usually dreadful. Despite how slapdash the Yeezy Season 3 show appeared to be (I tuned in after he finished playing the record, hearing only a snippet of a new Young Thug song which sounded predictably great and more radio-ready than anything he’s offered yet), it was hard not to just marvel at how Ye can make an inclusive event seem exclusive, and vice versa. At one point, you’re passing the AUX to a guy who probably doesn’t deserve that much POWER; the next, you’re trying to figure out which one of these people might have had a hand in secretly killing Liberace.
I didn’t hear a lick of The Life of Pablo that afternoon. And I probably won't be able to hear it tomorrow afternoon. But when I do hear it, I’ll hopefully hear it with everyone else who actually gives a shit about it. Until then, I’ll still hate the guy’s ugly fucking shoes.
February 15, 2016
I finally heard it like the rest of you did, on TIDAL at 3 AM (remind me to cancel). I'm mixed.
Zach Kelly is on the treadmill, not at the Equinox. Follow him on Twitter.
Family Business: Kanye's The Life of Pablo, by Angus Harrison
The first words on The Life of Pablo are spoken by a young boy, who excitedly screeches “we don't want no devils in the house.” Deliberate or not, this was my main takeaway from my first listen. To me the album sounded like the demons of MBDTF and Yeezus running riot in a family home, like Kanye trying to build a house on regret and excess. I think this record is maybe the least I've ever liked Kanye, but I expect on repeat listens it could easily prove the most interesting I've ever found him. He's definitely at his most conflicted, praising God with more fervor but equally slinging some of his dirtiest lowest blows against the men and, sadly more often, women around him. Stand out moments: “FML” with the Weeknd, the Sister Nancy sample on “Famous,” and the newest version of “Fade.” I’m annoyed with some of his lyrical decisions, but there’s no other artist who could leave me gasping, nearly in tears at points, in the same way. For all his faults, he’s family.
Angus Harrison is an editor for Thump UK. Follow him on Twitter.
I Reviewed This Too Early And Didn't Get A Chance To Redo It, by Jeff Rosenthal
"I hate the new Kanye, the bad mood Kanye, the always rude Kanye, spaz in the news Kanye. I miss the sweet Kanye..." The fun of Kanye is knowing that whatever you want, you won't get—and whatever you do get, you'll most likely want more of. Sometimes he knows us better than even know ourselves; maybe he really is a god. So here I am, listening on repeat, now, to an incomplete and imperfect rip of a Tidal-streamed version of The Life of Pablo as gleaned through Zippyshare at 6:45 in the morning. It's good! It's bad! It's probably unfinished and could maybe be his best album (as some have said) if I can just figure out what I'm listening to. Now I know why no one was able to say, when asked in interviews. It sounds like nothing and everything, like he tried too hard or not at all. It sounds like every version of Kanye, shoulder to shoulder, positioned like Kardashians/Star Wars toys in boxes. Or maybe, if we're being honest, it sounds like Desiigner and Pastor TL Barnett. And who would've imagined that?
Jeff Rosenthal is about ready to spring for Zippyshare Hi-Fi. Follow him on Twitter.
I Feel Like Pablo When I'm Writing My Review, by Alex Hancock
Kanye West is three Pablos on The Life of Pablo. He is The Apostle (who he revealed as the namesake inspiration for the title), detailing a painstaking journey to stay favorable in the eyes of the Lord, straying from His light, stricken blind and becoming the most important messenger of Christ. He is Escobar, a man overcome by a lifestyle of opportunity of money, women, drugs and struggling with the same idea of the loss of freedom that comes with marriage and fatherhood he toiled with on Yeezus. He is Picasso, painting a landscape with sounds and carving a hunk of marble down to a final idea of an album, abstractions and all. The album itself is good, great even. But the most interesting aspect of The Life of Pablo is the rollout, a new age blend of sociocreativity that bordered on post-modern cubism and dadaism. Equal parts West and Kardashian, this was the first time we’ve been truly invited into the creative process and allowed a behind-the-scenes look into the creation of a Kanye West album, stripped of the mysticism of the My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy sessions. The iconic legal pad, the tweets, the MSG performance, the baptism on Saturday Night Live—without those the album isn’t as special. Trust me, I’ve never told a lie online.
Alex Hancock loves Kanye the way Kanye loves Kanye. Follow him on Twitter.
Music Reminds Us We Are All Human, by Ryan Bassil**
When you look into someone’s eyes, you’re granted momentary access to their soul. It can happen with a stranger, or with someone you love, yet each time the experience is extremely valuable in that it opens up a passage of communication so special it transcends language. So as the camera lingered on the faces of the models that had gathered at Madison Square Garden on The Life of Pablo's openin night, the idea that the eyes of these strangers were looking back into mine exuded a unique power. It’s rare to experience music for the first time as a unified body in the way we did Thursday, yet it’s those snatches of connection that humanized the experience. As though we weren’t just listening to an album; we were sharing a moment together. Without speaking on what we actually heard, it made yesterday special. With just their eyes looking back on us, there was a stillness and silence in those faces that created a space to think about the grand, affecting power music can have on us.
Ryan Bassil is aligning his chakras. Follow him on Twitter.
Kanye West Is Bae, by Larry Fitzmaurice
At once wistful, cutting, nostalgic, and utterly of-the-moment, Kanye West's The Life of Pablo is Kanye West's most overt pop move yet, an album that features one of American pop culture's most prominent icons moving further away from the country trappings that defined their earlier work. The title is not only a reference to West's birth year, but also the late-80s era of clean-sounding and airless pop that the album's contents frequently draws from. Songwriting collaborators Max Martin (“Shake It Off”) and Jack Antonoff (“Out of the Woods,” “I Wish You Would”) pitch in, but fans and newcomers alike will have no trouble identifying The Life of Pablo as the work of anyone but West's. There are missteps, because even gods have their failings—“Wildest Dreams” comes across as a tired Lana Del Rey reboot, and the Pet Shop Boys-recalling bonus track “New Romantics” should've undoubtedly made the album's final cut—but otherwise, West has delivered a millennial pop fever dream with The Life of Pablo, a generous gesture of a record with plenty of room for the haters to hate, hate, hate.
Larry Fitzmaurice thinks Yeezy Season 3 is totally #squadgoals. Follow him on Twitter.