Despite this month’s release of Kanye West’s long anticipated album, The Life of Pablo, there will be no review for the album. If you are a fan of Kanye, you probably have already listened to it many times, looked up a review on Pitchfork, and continued about your merry Covenant studies. That is what I did. So why am I not writing a review of Life of Pablo?
Being an outspoken fan, I was asked if I wanted to write a review of the album. This was a long anticipated listen, and a long anticipated write. A write that now felt wrong.
I love Kanye! In a world full of people obsessed with image and reputation, Kanye reigns with a louder, more crass, yet transparent and honest voice—a god of modern culture. Kanye embraces pretension and turns narcissism into an art form.
Songs like “Jesus Walks”and “New Slaves” challenge our societal equilibrium. Kanye writes a song about himself, “I am a God,” as well as a song explaining that, “Everything I’m not, made me everything I am.” Kanye is an enigma. He is a rapper who feels as comfortable rapping about his problems as he does on why he might have these problems; a rapper who feels comfortable writing a workout plan for girls so they can “land a rapper, NBA player, or at least a dude with a car.”
While he most definitely crosses lines and provides a general pretence of infallibility, I find Kanye to be a great artist and fascinating to listen to. If I was once sheltered, Kanye undid this. His music helped me during some tough times in the last few years, and really challenged me to fight through what it means to be a Christian.
In one song, “Can’t Tell me Nothing,” from an earlier album, Graduation, Kanye raps about a media frenzy he caused when he “told God he’ll be back in a second.” At first, I kind of laughed at telling God things rather than praying about things. Soon I realized that while I pray, sometimes I do tell God things. I tell Him plans, expectations, and quasi-cynical assumptions about the outcome of various trials in my life. This is just one of many ways Kanye’s arrogant rantings have helped me articulate and identify my own arrogance.
It is too big. I thought to myself, I should not be writing a review of Kanye, he should be teaching me to write a review. It is too popular. Kanye puts as much effort into production as he does finding creative new ways to bolster his image. Writing an article with the wrong wording might spark a witch-hunt by a mob of campus Kanye fans.
It is different. All of Kanye’s albums are different, having their own distinct musical styles. Kanye’s work is not easy listening, or designed to climb the charts, though it does. Besides sick beats, there is never a shortage of cleverly concocted questions regarding the many conundrums that come with fame and the wildlife of the rap game.
Besides, our opinions cannot insinuate anything about Kanye’s honest reflection of himself in his work. An offbeat bass riff could just as likely be left intentionally as it could be accidental, and as his followers have learned, all lyrical faux pas are intentional.
How does one touch an artist like this? I personally cannot fathom it.
So I could have rolled out an article about the poor streaming quality during Kanye’s Madison Square Garden virtual listen/fashion debut in lieu of a typical release, or elaborated about the failure of Tidal (a music and video streaming service) to stream the album twenty minutes after Kanye declared on SNL that the album was released. I could also have tried to explain that Kanye only released his album to Tidal subscribers, so there are no legitimate hard copies circulating in an effort to allow for revisions to be made in the future.
It is not technically finished. So a review you write today may be obsolete. Even if it was, who’s to say yours or my take has apt judgments and useful insight on an artist who spends most of his time in the spotlight because the media is angry at him or has misunderstood him? I am overjoyed to be present for this new, long anticipated album. Just listen to it. Drop the facade that is understanding Kanye and enjoy what follows.