It’s been several weeks since he dropped ‘The Life of Pablo’ and I still find it hard to attempt to review or pass judgement.
Of course its dope, it’s another Ye’ classic, and ‘UltraLight Beams’ could be his greatest moment thus far, but its hard to compare his latest album to his previous albums.
I don’t read reviews, I talk to fans of music about music, and someone described ’The Life of Pablo’ as a collection of 4 different EPs that draw influence from ‘College Dropout’, ‘Graduation’, ’808s & Heartbreak’, and Yeezus’ which is the most accurate anaology that I’ve heard so far.
Most great artists have two or three exceptional albums in their catalogue if they’re lucky. They spend the rest of their career living in the shadow of their own greatness or trying to compete with it.
LL Cool J was the first MC to commercially release 10 albums. Not all of them were great, but 2 of 3 were exceptional. Its the same for your favourite MC. It’s like there is a spiritual creative limit that deliberately prevents MCs from surpassing sonic greatness too many times in their lifetime.
Kanye doesn’t have this limit. His catalogue challenges, but never falters. As an OG Ye’ stan I’m the first to point out that he has released 8 exceptional albums (yes, I’m including ‘Watch The Throne’), but even if you disagree with me, it would be difficult to argue that less than 6 of them were exceptional.
Most people that didn’t like ‘Yeezus’, admit that ‘Black Skinhead’, ‘New Slaves’, ‘Blood On The Leaves’, ‘Bound 2’, and ‘ Hold My Liquor’ were amazing…..which is half the album. A half good Kanye album is better than a regular artists best attempt.
Most people that hated ‘808s and Heartbreak’ or ‘didn’t get it’ when it was released now preach about how amazing it is.
Maybe it’s because he is more than an MC, he is a producer and visionary that demands more, constantly tortured by his own pursuit of excellence.
‘College Dropout’ through to ’The Life of Pablo’ cannot be compared. They are all very different albums, each created by unique individual creative processes. Each album reflects a different era of his and our lives. The artwork and packaging is like a timeline of art and design that influence each generation of artists that follow a Kanye West album release.
We’ve read too many interviews with artists where they regret rushing an album or years later agreeing that an album that they released wasn’t good enough. N.E.R.D. actually released “In Search off”, they weren’t happy with it and then rapidly re-recorded and re-released a new version with live instrumentation which was a totally different experience.
Re-packaged albums or deluxe versions enabled artists to add more tracks to their body of work at a later date. Anniversary or re-mastered editions of an album mean that you end up with several copies of the same album in your collection.
‘The Life Of Pablo’ moves the needle even further because it still isn’t finished, but it’s been launched. It’s been released, but it’s still being delivered and frequently updated on the Tidal streaming service. Kanye’s introduction of the developing unfinished album is new territory. It presents a new way of doing things for everybody.
If they have an attentive fanbase, the more creative artist could change the direction of their original work when they feel like it. The fans are constantly galvanised and vested in paying attention to the specific playlist or streaming service rather than buying multiple copies of the same album. Because the sonic history is re-written so must the reviews.
The artist that has a stake in the streaming company that has exclusive rights to their own work, who can control and dictate the course of one definitive master copy has actually cracked the code. It is the epitome of artistic control.
The endless launch, the unfinished developing album is great. I love the fact that Kanye has disrupted the mediocrity of how fans experience music, but I want the CD. My collection needs to be complete. Look what you made me do Ye’….