The Life of Pablo: Flux After Death
by Mike Crumplar
The release of a Kanye West album is a fun time to be alive and on the internet because its popularity invites everyone to weigh in on it as a work of art. As Briana Younger writes, Kanye “creates #moments” which serve as points of collective critique from the very nature of its spectacle. Much has been said already: The Life of Pablo is a patchwork, not as conceptually focused as the previous albums, it’s long and meandering—feeling “unfinished” or, better yet, like it’s a product in an eternal state of unfinished-ness.
Yeezus was completely edited, stripped down to its abrasive core, primal anxious willing, mechanical willing. The Life of Pablo is that feeling reawakened, redeemed, re-whatever (it has to be re- something because above all else it is the Post-Yeezus album). I read somewhere that Pablo is in “flux” …. that sounds poetic enough for me. This sort of fluctuating sound also brings to mind the “old Kanye”/“new Kanye” distinction, which this album plays on. TLOP has the plodding, heavy buildup beats of Yeezus, the album with which it converses the most, but they are slightly more organic; TLOP relates to Yeezus like house relates to techno. And like the relationship between house and techno, the relationship between the old and new Kanye is hazy, confused, and ultimately indeterminate. The “life” of Pablo/Kanye is a fluctuation between the old tendencies and the new—the “traditionalism” of the gospel soul harmonies, the perfect sample, and so on versus the ominous post-industrial constructions of trap and drill. In Yeezus the latter triumphs, but The Life of Pablo throws both back into conflict and leaves it unresolved.