"There are going to be people along the way who will try to undercut your success or take credit for your accomplishments or fame... but if you just focus on the work and you don't let those people sidetrack you, someday when you get where you're going, you'll look back and know that it was you," Taylor Swift passionately proclaimed Monday night whilst accepting her Album of The Year GRAMMY; an apparent rebuttal to long-time frenemy Kanye West's exceedingly distasteful claims that he "made that b*tch famous" and that "[he] and Taylor might still have sex," lines which he previously proclaimed to be Kim & Taylor-approved. Let me first, preface this by saying that I've been a Kanye fan ever since "Through The Wire" and The College Dropout, although, I don't exactly agree with his latest burst of social media over-activity and apparent mental breakdown... relentlessly bashing poor Taylor Swift, begging Mark Zuckerberg for a $1 billion "investment," claiming "BILL COSBY INNOCENT," announcing his sprawling $53 million bankruptcy, and enacting a generally sloppy The Life of Pablo (TLOP) weekend album roll-out. Despite, or maybe even because of, all this utter nonsense, TLOP isn't exactly the easiest listen to digest, at times and I think it's safe to say one of the world's greatest emcees has fallen from grace; of its 18 included tracks, I would say, after a few early listens, about 6-8 are fully fleshed-out coherent My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy-quality tracks and the rest, seem to be rough, largely unfinished song sketches. However, said 6-8 album-saving songs are haphazardly peppered throughout layers of nearly unlistenable garbage and seemingly pointless, forced guest appearances.
Amongst the most coherent listenable tracks scattered throughout Pablo are self-described "Gospel [tracks] with curses" "Ultralight Beams," "Father Stretch My Hands (Parts 1-2)," and "Highlights," the aforementioned Rihanna-assisted "Famous," 45-second a capella "I Love Kanye," DJ Dodger Stadium co-produced "Fade," Frank Ocean-revamped "Wolves," and one-time title-bearing "Waves." Mr. West additionally decided to include G.O.O.D. Fridays, Vol. 2 selections "Real Friends," Madlib-produced and Kendrick Lamar-featuring "No More Parties In LA," Charlie Heat's version of New Year's Eve single "FACTS," and Karriem Riggins-helmed "30 Hours" in the ninth hour. Ahead of The Life of Pablo's slightly delayed Saturday-Sunday morning unveiling, Kanye appeared on a Melissa McCarthy-hosted SNL with Kelly Price, El Debarge, Kirk Franklin, Young Thug, The-Dream, and Chance The Rapper in tow. Kanye and his G.O.O.D. Music posse ripped through soulful renditions of "Ultralight Beams" and "Highlights" backed by an angled pixelated fire-laden backdrop, show-stealing emcees Chance The Rapper & Young Thug, and even a denim-outfitted Gospel choir, at one point. Amidst his two church sermon-esque performances, Kanye appeared within one lone SNL Digital Short alongside Zoolander 2 co-star Kyle Mooney fittingly titled "Kyle vs. Kanye;" wherein Mooney foolishly decides to "challenge Kanye West to a rap battle in a bid to return to his Hip-Hop roots," although, Kanye absolutely slays him with what turns out to be his "I Love Kanye" micro-verse.
With all that said, I still have a felling there might be a half-decent album buried somewhere under this disjointed mess of a Gospel and Boom-Bap-drenched album Kanye's confusingly calling The Life of Pablo or maybe in retrospect, his leaner 11-track version debuted at Madison Square Garden Friday night would have sounded a little less cumbersome. It appears as though we'll soon hear a third revised version of TLOP, as the pirated 18-track version downloaded by some 500,000 disgruntled fans in 48 hours has now been pulled from TIDAL, so Kanye could reportedly "fix" SNL 40-debuted "Wolves" and the sonic quality throughout the album. It's currently unclear if and when The Life of Pablo will likely reappear on TIDAL, aside from exclusively streaming, or if it will become available from additional digital retailers or in physical formats. Let me just stress again, in closing, that this is merely a "premature evaluation" written after a few run-throughs of TLOP whilst traveling up to my Uncle Bob's dentist office Monday afternoon and maybe it'll take a few more spins to really catch on and hit me, but for some reason, don't see this having the same longevity and sheer Hip-Hop-reinventing qualities of say, Dark Twisted Fantasy or Yeezus. It's definitely a far stretch from the Born In The USA-magnitude follow-up Kanye once promised on the heels of Yeezus and it isn't exactly joy-embracing "cookout music that just feels good" either. It seems like a "Gospel album with a whole lot of cursing on it" still might be the most fitting description.