If you’re reading this, I’m gonna assume it’s safe to say that your first semester of 2016 has already started. Sorry about that. However, while we’ve been away, there has been plenty of great music being released. In particular, Kanye West released his much anticipated seventh solo album entitled “The Life of Pablo” on Feb. 14.
If you’re a fan of West and are familiar with his work, this album being amazing won’t come as a surprise to you. However, if you’re in the middle–meaning you’re more of a fan of his past work than his latest projects–I highly recommend that you give this one a chance. Bottom line, if you’re a fan of hip-hop music, you should be able to appreciate the high quality production and innovation. All of his previous albums set a precedent to expect such a caliber. However, most weren’t expecting to hear a version of West we haven’t heard since ‘07. He brings back the “soul food beats” and sampling while blending it with a modern sound that we would hear on, say, Travis Scott’s “Rodeo.”
Honestly, it’s worth at least one listen. If anyone can prove haters wrong with a single album, it’s ‘Ye. Here are the five songs I recommend checking out first, but all 18 songs are astounding in their own ways.
- “Ultralight Beam”
A few months before “TLOP” dropped, West proclaimed that his next album was going to be gospel. A lot of individuals, myself included, would disagree and say the album is a cornucopia of different Yeezy’s throughout the years. The opening track, “Ultralight Beam,” is one of few (but all equally great) gospel-sounding tracks and quite possibly the greatest intro song to a hip-hop album in the last decade. This track is about West’s faith in God and the reassurance that no matter what trials and tribulations he may face, everything will be alright. “Ultralight Beam” is loaded with features; from Chance The Rapper, The-Dream, Kelly Price and even Kirk Franklin. All of these artists bring with them their own personal emotions and burdens which only add to the overall quality and sound to the track.
Another favorite of mine, because it’s almost too experimental to label it as anything but a favorite, is “Famous.” It is about West’s experiences pre & post-breakup with fame and the “fake” lifestyle that comes with it. Split up into two verses, the first verse being pre-breakup, ‘Ye dives into the world of materialism and ego, while the second verse is when he realizes the truth and is no longer affected by the judgment and scrutiny from the world around him. Featuring Rihanna on the hook, “Famous” also includes Swizz Beatz, however, this time he didn’t produce the track. Swizz provides ad-libs throughout, which relates to West’s earlier work. What really makes “Famous great,” nonetheless, is the sampling of Sister Nancy’s “Bam Bam.” West switches the overall style significantly, using a reggae sample that just makes you want to kick off your shoes and lay in a hammock.
Ever since “TLOP” dropped, I’ve noticed that not many people seem to have this song in their top five. Not only is the “soul food sampling” reminiscent of “Graduation,” but also has influence from his last studio album, “Yeezus,” as the verses are filled with heavy, distorted bass lines. You can thank producers Southside, Velous, Mike Dean and ‘Ye for that, by the way. In addition, the song features Young Thug, who provides the hook and adds a unique sound that we haven’t really heard since West teamed up with T-Pain. All of that set aside, what really makes “Highlights” shine is the lyricism and flow that ‘Ye provides. Hard, heavy, egotistical and unapologetic, the verses are filled with memorable Yeezy quotes while conjointly using a flow very similar to that of his first studio album “College Dropout” back in 2004. This, for the most part, has Yeezy fans blown away since we never thought we’d hear this sound from him again.
- “No More Parties in LA”
Almost my #1 favorite but not quite, Kanye dropped this gem on his Soundcloud a couple weeks before the album was released. Featuring an amazing appearance by Kendrick Lamar, (this being the first collab between the two artists) both spit verses pertaining to their lives in LA and the fake Hollywood lifestyle, while also playfully venting their frustrations towards “rich people.” This song is interesting to me because not only does the beat originate from the “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” sessions, but West’s flow during his verse is parallel to what we heard off his second studio album, “Late Registration.” This ultimately goes back to what I was saying previously about how “TLOP” is a combination of sounds we’ve heard from ‘Ye throughout the years. Produced by Kanye and Madlib, “No More Parties in L.A.” also contains sampling from Johnny Watson and Junie Morrison. It’s an overall feel good track that we have all grown to love.
- “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1 / Pt. 2”
I chose to combine the two songs since both are equally short but flow nicely into each other. These are a pair of the more meaningful and emotional songs on the album as West talks about the crumbling of a past relationship on pt. 1 and transitions into verses about his father on pt. 2. Even though initially these tracks seem too hype to be considered vulnerable, ‘Ye just has a way of still getting the emotion across. Seemingly, ever since his mom died back in ‘07, West dropped “808’s and Heartbreak” and began this trend toward a darker style of music. He has successfully been able to turn what was once soul food hip-hop into tracks with more elements of minor beats and an overall feel of not only sadness, but loneliness. Pt. 1 features Kid Cudi on the hook while pt. 2 features a new addition to the G.O.O.D music label, Desiigner. According to what I’ve been seeing, everybody is agreeing that Desiigner is almost like a cheap version of Future, but I actually didn’t mind it, though. Nonetheless, both of these tracks largely compliment the album in its entirety.