What we can learn from Pablo

Photo courtesy of pitchfork.com

Photo courtesy of pitchfork.com

When Kanye West decided to change the name of his new album 4 times, we knew that something big was coming, something so detailed that one of music’s most stubborn icons couldn’t settle on one title. Kanye West’s newest album, “The Life of Pablo,”  was released on the music streaming app Tidal on Feb. 14th.

The amount of hype this album garnered guaranteed its success from the birth of Kanye’s initial “For the Love of God” andSwish” tweets. From Twitter beef to fashion lines, Kanye West always does his “Kanye best” to keep us entertained. He lets us know in “Father Stretch My Hands, P.1” that he’d, “…be worried if they didn’t say nothing.” West makes sure to keep himself in the loop, whether you like it or not.

Even if you don’t like his music, you can’t deny that Kanye West is one of today’s most influential and interesting musicians to watch. He’s a constant enigma and his art is pure. Whether he’s crafted a four minute symphony or called out his exes on his tracks, you can’t help but want to see his next move.

In a Pitchfork Review for his 2005 album “Late Registration,” music critic Sean Fennessey notes Kanye’s popularity is due to, “…not sales; but souls.” His discography is entirely human in development. Any Kanye fan can tell you exactly how the rapper was feeling during his “808s & Heartbreak” era versus “Yeezus.” While his music definitely sells, one gains more knowledge about West through his actions, through the hype, and through his raw, unapologetic demeanor.

It’s hard to take his Twitter wisdom seriously, though. His mind ranges from ignorant and violent to lonely and soft. Every disgusting thought you’ve had, he’s probably had – he just doesn’t care what happens to him when he says it out loud.

So what can we learn from “The Life of Pablo?” It seems West is always trying to deepen his footprint in our ears, making sure his legacy is encrusted in gold and buried deep inside of the Earth. He keeps a choke hold on religion, utilizing gospel music attributes ever since “The College Dropout,” letting us know he remembers his roots no matter how famous he gets. But his fame, the ego that reigns through every album, is what makes this a Kanye piece. He crafts an ode to himself and his growth in “I Love Kanye,” works out his struggle with fidelity and family in “FML” and “Wolves,” and throws in reaction bars in “Pt. 2” and “30 Hours.”

We learn to understand instead of liking the artist. Kanye wants to be respected and powerful; loved but only by few. He tells us that this album is for himself, but cloaks it in a variety of production schemes to keep the public entertained. Every song sounds different, but not jarringly so. One of West’s biggest strengths is that he has a knack for crafting cohesive albums. Delicate interludes and shocking samples show us that Kanye never lost his producer foundation in the chaos of his fame. Kanye is Kanye; there is no old Kanye, new Kanye, good or bad Kanye. Kanye is a person, an artist; he’s not here to be liked; he’s here to work and to live his life.

West’s struggles with mental health has been evident in many of his works. While “Yeezus” was incredibly produced, it seemed as if Kanye was pushing a godly presence to masquerade his true sentiments. In “808s & Heartbreak” we saw the rawest, most radical shift in West’s style after the death of his relationship and his mother. In TLOP, we see that side of Kanye again; he tries many new styles this time and wears his heart on his sleeve. He shifts from maximal to minimal within tracks.

From the structure of this album, we learn that West may need help. Maybe he’s just putting up a front, but to friend and former co-writer Rhymefest, his “…brother needs help, in the form of counseling… spiritual and mental.” Maybe this album is a cry for help, Kanye desperately wanting to get away from the “Wolves.” But until we really understand the mystery of a man that is Kanye West, we’ll just keep on bumping to those Metro Boomin beats.