My Review of “The Life of Pablo”

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People often ask me to review albums on here and, generally, I prefer not to. Partially cause it’s weird for one artist to judge another artist publicly in detail. In fact, there are only two albums I’ve ever reviewed on here. One was Earl’s debut full length and the other was Yeezus. Why those two? Cause they seemed to be such divisive albums that I felt people on both sides of the argument were being ridiculous about. You know how the internet is. It’s black and white. Well, I’m a grey area ass dude. So, allow me to chime in on this whole Kanye “The Life of Pablo” album.
Little back story: I enjoy Kanye West. Sometimes. I think Yeezus was his worst album but it still had a few very good moments. Kanye is not a great rapper but , he can be entertaining. I enjoy when he raps more than a lot of people. That said, I also think he’s delusional and that he truly feels his shit might not actually stink. So that’s where i stand on him prior to even pressing play on this album.I generally appreciate his gumption and enjoy like 3-6 tracks on every one of his albums. I’d also like to add I’ve purposely avoided reading reviews of this album cause, well, music critics are generally dickheads with agendas that don’t reflect anything that matters. Kanye think pieces are as dumb as anyone who caught feelings about Beyonce at the superbowl.

I’m traveling in europe right now so there is plenty of downtime. Yesterday I took a 4 hour train across Russia and decided that would be the time to sink my teeth into “The life of Pablo”. What better way to really hear an album than to listen while looking at snowy emptiness whipping by you at 200 miles per hour. Admittedly, I rarely sit down and listen to albums front to back anymore so even doing this was a foreign experience. Well…one I haven’t done in a long time.

So, what do I think? Well…I think this is album is complicated. It’s got some great moments. It’s got some terrible moments. More than anything, it’s all over the place. It’s equal parts lazy and out there. This is Kanye’s “Nigga Please“. In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m referring to the ODB’s sophomore album. An album that spawned “Baby I got your money” and not much else. That said, it was a masterpiece of dysfunction. Entirely produced by a, at that time, little known duo called The Neptunes. “Nigga please” was the work of a man unhinged and the people around him who were able to pick up the pieces. A man who was extremely high all the time and given the keys to do whatever he wanted. I’ve heard stories of ODB refusing to come to the studio to record anything unless they paid him 20k for that day. Then he would go in, ingest mass amounts of various drugs and freestyle. I don’t know this to be fact but, you know, if certainly sounds like it at times. Listening to the album, it’s obviously cobbled together. He no doubt did a bunch of cracked out little takes and left the rest for The Neptunes to clean up. Now, it’s a mess of an album BUT it’s also as pure as it gets when showing what life as ODB was during that time. It’s actually a beautiful time capsule. That’s a long digression but “The life of pablo” seems to be that moment for Kanye. The main difference is that, no matter how off the deep end Kanye goes, he still is rooted in his songs having melody and catchiness to them. Where as “Nigga please” could not have cared less about you humming along to it.

Here we have one of the most famous men on earth, married to one of the most famous women on earth. He is loved and hated like very few other people on the planet. He’s richer than god. Much like eminem before him, rappers who become rich and famous kinda run out of relatable things to rap about. Kanye isn’t an underdog anymore. He’s a super nova. He’s also manic and quite possibly doing way too much cocaine. And that leads me to this album being a somewhat a shit show. But a very watchable shit show. Like “love and hip hop” or “Intervention”. I don’t have credits for this album but I’m fairly certain he didn’t make a single beat on it. He’s past that. He now sings and raps. Sparingly. Part of me feels like he’s so fucked up in his own head he’s abandoned song structure due to his mania…but, then again, maybe this is him saying “Fuck pop song structure!” and just doing what he feels. I guess we’ll never truly know, even though you can guess which one he’d cop to.

Okay, enough speculating why kanye does what does he does. Let’s talk about the music. That’s what this is about.
The album starts with “Ultralight beam” which is both messy and awesome. Kanye babbling over a gospel chorus , with a minimal yet powerful backing track that just works. It’s one of those songs that you can listen to late at night, walking home drunk, even though it’s seemingly talking bout some jesus shit. Or maybe he isn’t? This is a reoccuring theme on the album. Kanye rarely is talking about anything specific. Unless it’s personal stuff about his family, fame or dick, it’s mostly just gibberish being displayed as something like a sermon. Also, it should be noted that Chance the rapper delivers the best verse on the entire album on this song. It’s not even close. This song is dope though.

That song is followed by “Father Stretch my hands”. It’s an autotune, uplifting song that has Kayne singing about bleached assholes. I know there is a large group of people who hear autotune and kanye and throw their hands up in disgust. i get it. But, you know, he’s gonna do what he’s gonna do. It’s still kinda catchy. My major critique of this song is that it, I dunno…seems like it isn’t finished yet. It just sorta ends. I guess that’s cause it’s a part 1 , followed by “Part 2”. The wailing gospel vocals are the only bonding factor of the two songs. This one one features newcomer Desiigner, who’s basically like Future but obsessed with panda’s for some reason. Like, seriously, what the fuck is up with this guy and pandas? He’s worse than me and sloths.
Much like the part 1 of this song, it ends abruptly for no good reason. Kanye has created a cache for himself where he can do that kinda thing and say it’s his process or whatever but it just sounds lazy and poorly executed.

The next song is “Famous”. Rihanna sings on the beginning then vanishes, which is fine. This song is kanye at his cokeheadiest. It’s him rapping about his fame. Thing is , think about it…this is what he knows now. This is an honest song about his life. Now this song has extreme ADD and I wish someone would throw a Muzzle in Swizz beats mouth but there are parts in this that are just awesome. Like the reworking of Sister Nancy’s famous “Bam Bam” is fantastic. So subtle but that’s the kinda thing that jumps out to me, as a producer. Then he throws a nina simone vocal at the end. Why? No clue. It doesn’t fit the song but , overall, this is yet another mess of a song that somehow manages to work on some level.

“Feedback” sounds like a Yeezus outtake. He’s at least he rapping on it but, still, ultimately, it’s forgettable. That’s followed by “Lowlights” which is just a skit of some woman talking about some shit. Who cares? I suppose that’s there to prompt “Highlights”. It’s a weird attempt at a catchy song. Cause the “we only making the highhhhlights” part is the catch. Then it changes up and he spends like a minute dedicating the song to a dumb line about girls in equinox being freaks or not. It’s just another example of his focus being all over the fucking place. Sure, this is a meandering song but has parts that could make a coherent song in the somewhere…but Kanye don’t care. Cause, like, he’s a genius and shit.

Other songs worth noting are “waves” which is like a mix between Ushers “Love in the club”, Beyonce’s “Drunk in love” and Kanye’s face buried in a pile of that good white. This one is as close to a “single” as this album will get. it adheres to a more typical song structure and I think chris brown is on it.

“FML” is a song I’m drawn to. It’s similar to “Ultralight beam” in that it’s good cause of the sum of it’s parts. It’s a mood and it works. Sure, it’s self indulgent but when he’s being introspective, that’s when he’s at his best. Even if his “depth” rivals two teenaged girls having a heart to heart.

“Real friends” was an early leak and it’s cool but I also think it’s pretty boring. I get why people like it though. I much prefer “No more parties in L.a”. It’s just a classic, good old rap song with a good beat with some dudes talking shit. Nothing wrong with that. This is the “bound” of this album, in the sense that it’s what old Kanye fans want to hear but it’s also a relic of his past. He knows he can’t make an album of songs like this and he wouldn’t even want to. It’s more of a “Hey, i could if I wanted to but nah…” kinda song.

The last song that matters is “30 hours”. Dope beat. This is a classic Kanye kinda song. Problem is his self indulgence rears it’s ugly head at the end.And not the good kind I spoke of earlier. I’m thinking this song may be called “30 hours” cause that’s how long he lets the fucking beat run at the end. Not only does it run but he babbles line ideas and takes a call from his manager. It actually gives an interesting insight to his creative process. Or, I should say, exposes it for what it is. Just a dude in a booth flying by the seat of his pants. And in an epic example of classic Kanye trolling , the song feature Andre 3000, who only sings the words “30 hours” a bunch of times. It’s actually incredible he had him do that and nothing else. It’s such a dick move that I can’t even do anything but respect it.

The rest of the album is pretty forgettable, in my opinion. Overall, I think it’s a step up from Yeezus. Kanye still makes compelling, catchy, self indulgent, and flawed music. He’s not a genius. He never has been. But he’s a fucking weirdo with mental issues and , honestly, those are the people making the most truthful music out there. When you lack a filter and people around you to tell you “yo, chill”, it’s hard to not keep the insanity pure. I think, in 10 years, no one is going to look back on this album as one that mattered much in his legacy but, at the same time, it might be one of those sleeper albums that sneakily finds its way into peoples heads against all logic. Kanye gonna Kanye, and this album kanye’s all over the fucking place. For better of for worse.

Album Review: Earl Sweatshirt-Doris

I’m really not trying to make album reviews a regular part of this blog cause, honestly, it’s weird reviewing music when you yourself makes music. The only other one I did was Kanye’s new album but I felt that was okay cause it was such an “event”. However, Earl is someone I’ve been pumping up on this blog since his very first video dropped. Unless your name is Despot (Who, for those who don’t know, is the most ear to the street human being alive) or you’re one of the tumblr nerds, I doubt you’ve been big upping Earl in a public forum as long as I have. It’s because of this I feel obligated to comment on the finished product that many of us have been waiting on since first laying eyes on the bug eyed little kid in the barber chair who could rap his ass off in the “Earl” video.

By now you should know his history and all the drama that surrounded him over the last few years. If not, Wiki that shit.
One note though, due to the amount of leaks this album had prior to it’s release, it’s kinda hard to sit back and see this album as cohesive. That’s not Earl’s fault really but more just a testament of how albums get put out nowadays. It’s like every thing needs to sound like a mix tape. this doesn’t , but still, I’d imagine if I heard all of these songs for the first time upon getting this album, I might have a different take on it.
Anyway, enough bullshitting, I’ll get right into it and do a song by song review of his Debut full length “Doris”.
(Because they’re apparently being really tight about posting this album on youtube, I’m having trouble finding links so here it is streaming if you care to play along…)

Pre (Feat. SK La’ Flare)
I got issues with people setting their own albums off with verses by other people. While it has worked a few times in the past, this is not one of those cases. Mainly cause this dude SK La’ Flare is pretty mediocre. It’s almost as if this verse is there as a comparison for earl to look good next to for the rest of the album. It works on some level cause Earl comes in pretty hungry on this track. Beat wise, this song starts a theme that continues throughout the album. Beats that are okay. If Earl is dope on it, then the song is good, if he’s not, then it’s forgettable. That’s kinda the formula for much of this whole album.

This really should have been the intro/lead off song. It sets the table for exactly what you’re gonna get into. It’s a clearly depressed Earl self loathing over a choppy Neptunes beat. It’s got a less drastic “What’s up fatlip” vibe to it.

The dude either isn’t happy or he’s not into being a renowned rapper. The same way Tyler the Creator backlashed against his own notoriety, Earl seems to not wanna deal with the special powers he’s been given. Yeah, he’s a gifted rapper but I get the feeling he wishes he wouldn’t mind just rapping alone in a room to himself.

20 Wave caps (feat Domo Genesis)
I would have never Guessed Domo Genesis would emerge as the one Odd Future rapper from the early days that seemingly has the tightest grasp on making solid rap music. He’s more typical than Earl but he’s really tightened up his screws over the last few years. His energy kinda outshines Earl on this song even though Earl is clearly in a different league, mc wise. The beat is…okay. Again, another one of those “The rapping is gonna make or break it” kinda tracks.

Sunday (Feat Frank ocean)
Yeah, I don’t have time for the love jones ass tracks. I don’t doubt Earl is a sensitive man and has dealt with some girl issues. While he’s entitled to make these kinda tracks, I’ll stay skipping them until I die. Especially when done by 19 year old kids. I’m simply too old for that shit. But you probably aren’t so, have at this one.
Also, I like Frank Ocean….but his verse on this is like one of those Andre 3000 verses on R&B songs except it’s not very good. It’s not bad either. It’s more “who cares?”.

Hive (featuring Vince Staples)
This one sounds like it could have been on the first Earl Ep. Earl does really well over these super simple dark beats. But , let’s not avoid the elephant in the room, Vince staples murders this track. It’s funny cause I feel like Earl does better on songs that have guests on them. But, here, he simply can’t keep up with Staples energy. His mumblecore rap style just doesn’t match up with Staples swaggy shit.

This was the first song leaked. I like it. It’s the ramblings of a sad kid. Not to be confused with #sadboys. This is one of is his more personal tracks. You can even hear what sounds like pencils scribbling and pieces of paper being crumpled up in the back ground. Clearly, this one is a little deeper than many of the other tracks on the album. It’s basically a state of the union address for Earl’s headspace upon returning from his hiatus in Samoa. And that headspace? Cloudy with a chance of being overwhelmed by everything and possibly jumping off a bridge.

Sasquatch (Feat. Tyler the Creator)

Straight up, I can’t listen to Tyler any more. I don’t know if it’s him or me but, whatever it is, I hear that growl and just lose interest. His verse on this veers into a weird eminem like territory after he drops that line about Rihanna and Chris Brown. On the bright side, he seems to light a flame under Earl on this one. Earl’s verse is awesome. On, and that beat? Guess what? It’s…okay.

Centurion Feat. Vince Staples

The first start of this beat sounds like an outtake from one of the earlier Odd Future shit when Tyler did all the beats. Which isn’t good. Then, Boom! In comes a track that sounds straight off of a Kool G Rap album. For as badly as Staples blazed Earl on “Hive”, Earl makes up for it here. If there was a way to edit out the first part, this might be the best song on this entire album. At least for dudes who like “bars”.

Uncle Al
53 second song. how mad can you really be at it? This must have just been a verse he had laying around. I’m not mad at this but it’s kinda pointless.

Guild (feat. Mac Miller)
As part of Mac Millers image reconstruction, he’s doing tracks with all his favorite rappers and trying to rap like them. This is that. He does a decent enough job but, really, he simply doesn’t have much to say. He’s just getting better at saying nothing. Also, the last thing earl needs is his vocals pitched down. He already sounds like he’s sleep walking through the track so slowing it down only makes it seems like he’s barely breathing.#deathbedraps

Molasses (Feat Rza)
This is dope. The simple loop that screams “Wu-tang” seemingly breaths life into earls effortless/exhausted flow. As an old school dinosaur , it is nice to hear Earl rap over a sample like this. A whole album of this might be counter productive for a young relevant rappers career but , much like Kanye’s “Bound”, I’m pretty sure it’s secretly what we all were waiting to hear from Earl, production wise. Also, “I’ll fuck the freckles off your face, bitch” is a great hook.

Whoa (Feat. Tyler the creator)
This is kind of a forced hyped up track. Earl certainly kills it but I can’t help but think he’s not into these kinda tracks. Truth be told, he seems to prefer tracks where he can just sadly whisper his feelings. Maybe I’m reading into it too much though. Cause this song is as close to the song “Earl” as this album gets. The kids would say “he went in” on this one.

Now this seems like the kind of songs Earl wants to make. Emo, verbose, personal tracks with emotive beats. He sounds like a dude who either just finished crying or who is going to cry later in the day. I don’t mean it as a diss. This song is really good. In fact, if he’s gonna go the emo route, I wish he’s use this track as a playbook. He’s always sounded good over beats that have a feeling and, unfortunately, he decided to fill an album with beats that are…you guessed it..Okay. Emotive tracks really play so well of his lethargic rapping style. They seemingly connect the dots for him. Basically, he needs more this:

That’s his comfort zone that best puts his skills on display. The thing is, even when he’s on a more upbeat track and killing it, he just sounds more at home on depressing tracks where he’s allowed to rap about whatever he wants to rap about.

Knight (feat Domo Genesis)
This is a good farewell track. Domo does his thing. Earl does his thing. One problem, the slowing down the song thing seems like something that was a better idea on paper than in reality.

Overall, Earl made a solid underground rap album with above average rapping and beats that didn’t do him any favors. Sure, the audience may be more widespread and it might consist of people angry he didn’t rap more about rape but, to his credit, he seemed to make the album he wanted. That is to say, if he wanted to make an album at all. I can’t help but think that there’s an aspect to all this of a kid who’s very indifferent about his popularity and would rather be making demo’s in his bedroom for him and his friends than making music that will be judged by the entire internet. Earl is a great rapper. There’s not question about that. This album is very flawed but does show signs of what he’s capable of doing. The question I have is really “How much does he even want to do it?”. Hopefully, down the line, he’s figure out exactly what lane he needs to be in/feels comfortable it. He’s got the talent. All he needs is more focus (and high standards for beats).