Saint Valentine’s Day. An annual Christian holiday (although is it really a holiday?) celebrated on February 14. Its origin is subject to many interpretations, but one of the widely told legends revolves around Saint Valentinus of Ancient Rome. As the story goes, Valentinus was captured and imprisoned for practicing the Christian faith and overseeing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry. Remaining true to his moral compass, Valentinus healed the ailing daughter of his jailer, Asterius. Prior to his eventual execution, he penned a letter to the woman and signed “Your Valentine” as a farewell.
Today, Kanye West returns from his hiatus to deliver his own valentine in the form of Pablo: The Life of Pablo. The EXTEMELY, long-awaited continuation of his 2013 release was originally slated to drop this past Thursday, but later delayed in true Kanye West fashion. “BLAME CHANCE” he exclaimed from his twitter account. Yeezy himself intended to make a classic down to the very last minute. Those who vehemently dismiss the Chicago native’s previous project will find gratitude in the Ye’s return to his lyrical roots.
TLOP is arguably one of Ye’s best works production-wise. The album, which I liken to sonic gold, is reminiscent of the College Dropout and Late Registration mixed masterfully with the futuristic sounds of YEEZUS. If anything this album is a reminder to everyone that ye may have fell off, but he most certainly did not lose his perfectionist touch. The album features guest appearances from Kelly Price, Kirk Franklin, Chance the Rapper, Kid Cudi, Future and many more. May I also add that these features are all in the first two tracks? Yeah. Let that sink in.
So, who exactly is Pablo? In my honest opinion, I thought he was referencing notorious, Columbian drug lord, Pablo Escobar. My reason for this being Pablo was so untouchable at one point in time and was the inspiration for the “Scarface” motion picture who many characterize as a “God” himself. Obviously I was wrong though as Kanye himself referenced in a 2015 Oxford University lecture, “My goal, if I was going to do art, fine art, would have been to become Picasso or greater”. Whether you’ve rocked with his music since “Through the Wire” or still hold a bitter taste in your mouth when he grabbed the microphone out of Taylor Swift’s hand, we have to give Kanye credit for the dedication and precision he delivers in his music.
Pablo opens with a sermon on “Ultralight Beam” asking God to deliver the world love, peace and serenity. You don’t have to be religious in order to be moved by the performances by The-Dream and Kelly Price (Her voice makes you want to get down on your knees and repent for the sins you’ve committed. Seriously, Miss Price, your voice is heaven.) As if the track couldn’t get any better, Chance The Rapper conveys his sixteen bars while referencing one of Ye’s famous lines: “I made Jesus Walks, im never going to hell” with “I made Sunday Candy, “I’m never going to hell. I met Kanye West, I’m never going to fail.” There is no deny the influence the God of rap has supplied to the game and this gospel-esque track is seemingly appropriate for an introduction.
It’s not long before Yeezy snaps especially on “Feedback”. “Ayy, y’all heard about the good news? Y’all sleeping on me, huh? Had a good snooze?” Mr. West has awakened. He says, “If Hov J then every Jordan need a Rodman”. It’s unfair to compare the careers of Jay Z and Kanye, but it happens anyway. Jordan and Rodman played together for three seasons and won a total of three rings together. While J’s résumé rivals that of Jordan’s, Ye’s flamboyant and bizzare style must not be overlooked as one of the all-time greats.
One of the more important songs on the album is none other than a song named after the man himself, “I Love Kanye”. Kanye flexes his weight on music, fashion and pop culture on freestyle. “See I invented Kanye, it wasn’t any kanye’s and now I look around and there’s so many Kanye’s.” Artists such as Drake, Childish Gambino, Lupe Fiasco, Kid Cudi, Chance the Rapper and others to name a few, would not have been able to successfully break out, if not for 808’s and Heartbreak. Ye’s presence is felt in numerous forms and its time we recognize it.
It would be disrespectful to proclaim the return of the old Kanye as I am in no position to judge another man’s art or any art in that matter. But what I can say is that he returns to the elements, which skyrocketed his career to begin with. The Life of Pablo may not be the greatest album ever, but it certainly is the album of the year thus far and must be considered as one of Kanye’s best.