West brings duality to the music after Yeezy Season 3 presentation
Human beings possess a haunting duality that is often taken for granted. That duality allows humans to take a stance on their beliefs, while somehow rationalizing the decision to then contradict those beliefs. In a world where every move is recorded and analyzed, Kanye West’s duality has taken front and center over his artistry. As one takes a look at some of his more influential work, we are reminded of his roots in songs like “Jesus Walks,” and “Good Morning” and “Stronger,” The Life of Pablo brings his controversial contradictions to the forefront. The Life of Pablo opens with a sample from Instagram’s sheisnatalie, as a mother encourages her daughter. She dramatically prays to God on West’s largest collaborative track, “Ultralight Beam.” Audiences are bought to their knees as West collaborates with some of both hip-hop and gospel’s biggest names. He insists that God’s ability to bring him his dreams pushes him when the darkness takes over. West, and singer, songwriter, and producer The-Dream, ricochet the hook off each other. Their sounds echo in rhythm that can only be appreciated in some of the greatest gospel. They call out, “deliver us serenity/deliver us peace/ deliver us loving/ we know we need it.” Gospel singers Kelly Price and producer Kirk Franklin lend their own vocals to the track, as Chance the Rapper gives West one of his most conscious features of his career.
West’s stream of consciousness continues to fascinate his fans and his enemies. However, in “Read Friends,” he takes the blame for the lackluster relationships within in his personal life that he once considered important. His awareness of his mistakes brings a dark sense of familiarity as audiences look back at their own repetitive anarchistic qualities. Yet, West’s ability to accept his role in the negative brings us to a more human side of this fashion icon.
“Famous” takes the place as the most controversial song of the album. Opening with Rihanna’s monotone verse, the song starts with the intention of taking us a story that can only be told by West himself. “Feedback” brings us back to the new sound of the era of Yeezy. As the sound drum drops over the arrogant tone of West, we listen to him boast of his recent success. He mocks his critics, “Ya’ll sleeping on me had a good snooze/woke up nigga/wake up/we bout to get this paper.” With the success of Yeezy Season I and Season II, West has hit an intense stride in his career. Returning to his melancholy belligerence, he lets audiences know he has “been out of my mind, long time.” “Name a genius that ain’t crazy,” he commands as he finds his way to sublimely compare himself to geniuses like Steve Jobs, Michelangelo and Albert Einstein himself.
“Freestyle 4,” reminds listeners of the days of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, with storytelling that duplicates the eerie feeling of a classic horror film, West goes off on an uncalculated rant about breaking the rules in only ways he could only imagine. His sweet dreams are seen as freak dreams, as he asks the subject of his lust, “would everyone start fucking?” He puts his sexual desire out in front of the crowd unapologetically.
Many have asked, which “Pablo” is West referring to in the title of the album? West makes a reference to Pablo Escobar, the subject of one of the Netflix hit series Narcos. Escobar was considered one of the world’s biggest drug lords, who would ultimately control more than 80 percent of the cocaine market at one point, while bringing in a profit that would even shame West himself. “Pablo bought a Roley and a Rottweiler, seem like the more fame, I only got wilder,” referencing Escobar’s ultimate downfall as his status began to be too much to contain.
Dropped before the release of The Life of Pablo, “Wolves,” introduces West’s experimental creative process, reminiscent of his most heart-broken album to date, 808’s & Heartbreak. Frank Ocean lends his own raw lyrics to the end of the track as he sings over a soft chord. He discusses the creation of the wolves, as the fire begins, “there’s night with no heat.” However, the wolves’ animosity is created by the loss of life. “Life is precious/ We found out, We found out,” Ocean closes his ode to the lost.
“FML” symbolizes a more conscious side of the human race. As he begins the dark piece, West discusses his thoughts as he would with a therapist. However, it is clear that this therapist is none other than God himself. He discusses his legacy, and the ideas he wants to leave behind for his children, as he “reveals the layers of his soul.” The beat maintains a simple soft rhythm as he walks one through the verses, as The Weeknd creates an escalated anticipation as West opens the hook.
Echoing the tone of The Weeknds’s “Real Friends,” he sings, “Wish I would fuck my life up/can’t let them get to me.”
West’s loyalty to his creative process is clear as the list of producers come to light. Using the same creative energy and collaborations from some of his most memorable works—Mike Dean, Rick Rubin, who produced on West’s last album, Yeezus, and Charlie Heat—West has created an arsenal of producers that can only be heard working with other hard-hitting artists, like Drake, Rihanna, Jay-Z and Atlanta native, Future. West has the capability to bring some of the best in the industry onto an album, and somehow keep his independence intact. This is the beginning of the year of Ye.