Kanye West's "The Life Of Pablo" Review
Yeezy saves, but do we forgive?
Photo Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images
Kanye West. Kanye West, Kanye West, Kanye West. The name has been so well-publicized in the last several years, we've said his name so many times, it is almost a mantra, a chant—which indeed it has become. As a self-styled messiah, West can be frustrating, pig-headed, moody, but also dynamic, honest, evocative.
The media's portrayal of West as an "angry black man" who is "in love with himself" is unfair, problematic, and ignores the fact that West's anger stems from his position as being an underdog throughout his very critically acclaimed career. He's from the Second City (which is truly the third or fourth city for rap). He's never been a "thug" in a world that values street cred (Pablo finds West lamenting the dangers of texting and driving, which is valuable…but not very "hard"). He was making backpack music at the height of 50 Cent; served up sentimental, soul-wrenching electro to his then-established hip-hop only audience in 808s. Currently, he's setting himself up as a fashion designer in a world that is sadly suspicious of black people and celebrity.
This is Kanye West. This is his duality. His new album, The Life of Pablo, sees the truest battle between these two sides of himself, between the two narratives he has actively told simultaneously. (For those of you who put credence in this sort of thing, West is a Gemini, that sign of the twins and the eternal battle of yin vs. yang. No surprise there.)
But West isn't an underdog anymore. Like his ideological opposite, Taylor Swift, he's turned his underdog-ness into being rap's standard-bearer. It's a place he got to by dethroning (pun intended) the consistently-at-80-percent output of Jay Z. Where HOVA crooned and leaned back, West flew high and went all out. Now a certified king approaching his 40s with seven albums under his belt, messy, scrappy Kanye West doesn't have the same appeal it did during, say, 808s.