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Kanye West performs during a special concert on Aids day in Times Square back in 2014. Credit: Courtesy of TNS
Kanye West performs during a special concert on Aids day in Times Square back in 2014. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

Review: Kanye defines own genre on “The Life of Pablo”

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Quite a few people gathered at Lennox 24 Theatres off of Kinnear Road to experience Yeezy Season 3: Kanye West’s unveiling of his latest clothing line and album, which was finally given the title “The Life of Pablo.” Fans alike came with a friend, in a group or even by themselves to digest a piece of music together, all for the first time.

The worldwide streamed event was essentially billed as a movie, with the costumes and soundtrack making up the most compelling components. Even though it may have seemed that Mr. West had been more focused on fashion endeavors recently, the music took center stage, or rather court, at Madison Square Garden Thursday evening.

Kanye entered the arena around 4:30 p.m. with former Los Angeles Lakers star Lamar Odom, quickly gaining a posse of G.O.O.D. Music artists while he made the journey to his laptop. Minutes later he would press play on one of the most highly anticipated and hyped albums in recent memory.

What came out of the speakers at MSG was not a rap album essentially. In fact, only one featured artist, Chance The Rapper, laid down a lengthy verse on “TLOP.” The sound can be best described as a less angry rendition of 2013’s “Yeezus.”

Instead of irately lamenting about his frustrations with the world like he did on “Yeezus,” West has put those problems behind him on “TLOP.” He’s laughing at himself in stride and bathing in his successes, that now extend way beyond music.

The aforementioned theme was first elaborated upon on pre-album release “Real Friends,” one of the final tracks on the album. “Real Friends” could easily be mistaken for a Drake song, especially due to the beat backing of frequent Drizzy collaborator Boi-1da.

The introspective song is a parallel to earlier tracks from Ye’s career. Kanye grew famous off of the anecdotal and relatable family memories within his records, but creating a handful of critically and commercially-acclaimed albums and an atmospheric rise to fame has led to West becoming distant with his relatives.

He is, however, still making his audience laugh like he has done since “The College Dropout.” Lines like, “Sometimes I’m wishing that my d— had GoPro,” and, “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I made that b—- famous,” remind the Ye faithful why it started worshiping the rapper in the first place.

At the end of “Feedback,” one of the album’s few fallacies, Kanye almost jokingly spits an acapella rap/rant about the idea — or definition — of Kanye. The Chicagoan sarcastically raps about the idea of emcees wanting to copy his image, style and self obsession, leading to pleas from fans for the “old Kanye” to return.

That does not mean that West still isn’t taking himself seriously on his latest LP. Despite religion being referred to in his music in the past, there hasn’t really been a sincere representation of his faith since the mid 2000s. On intro track “Ultra Light Beams,” the Adidas mogul raps/sings, “Deliver us serenity / Deliver us peace / Deliver us love,” partly in regards to the November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks.  

Chance also appears on the opening song, fittingly delivering the longest rap on the album by far. He has a knack for making the subject of faith appear popular, and this feature will put him under a much-deserved wider lens. Kanye also brought in southern gospel artist Kirk Franklin who delivered an outro prayer of sorts on “ULB.”

The subsequent songs don’t feature other wildcard religious figures, but Kanye still continues to stray away from the rap genre. Guests like Kid Cudi, Young Thug, Ty Dolla $ign and The Weeknd add layers to Ye’s continuing complexity of trying to create his own genre within rap. With organ and choir backings to boot, there was a definite gospel-rap vibe to the album.

Samples, such as Sister Nancy’s reggae tune “Bam Bam” on the Swizz Beatz and Rihanna-featuring “Famous,” brought a nostalgic “Late Registration,” “Graduation” vibe to the album.

As far as the fashion show went, the models either stood still during the duration of the album or eventually sat down on the stage due to exhaustion.

Some famous entertainers, such as Naomi Campbell and Thugger, made appearances dressed in Yeezy Season 3 attire, but for the most part the clothing display was typical for Kanye: over-the-top material with pretty basic designs that reek of conformity. The combat-style camo boots, however, stole the fashion part of the show.

But even though the unveiling was being portrayed as a fashion project, music was the priority on Thursday. For those that thought “Yeezus” may have been too dark, “TLOP” represents a version of Kanye that is enjoying and appreciating life.

On the album’s eerie and powerful outro, “Wolves,” Mr. West fears how the media will “eat” his family alive. Kanye has plenty of experience with this, so he does not want his kids to go through similar treatment.

He’s still brash, but he’s now learning to love the successes of his creations while making sure no one tears them down in the process.

That includes his family as well — something that has always been contemplated in his songs but not realized until the release of his seventh solo album.

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