Despite his controversial fame, it is hard to deny that Kanye West, best known for songs like “Gold Digger” and “Stronger,” is a musical force to be reckoned. He thinks himself to be as influential as Michael Jackson or, oddly enough, Albert Einstein, whom he alludes to in his new song, “Closest Thing to Einstein,” (featuring the British electronic music producer Sampha) off of his latest album, The Life of Pablo.
Pablo, however, falls somewhat short of expectations. In his seventh studio album, released in February 2016, West steps into uncharted territory. Guest vocalists are numerous, ranging from Frank Ocean, Rihanna and Chance the Rapper to Chris Brown, Kid Cudi and Kendrick Lamar. Sonically, West pulls from gospel inspiration while sticking to his hip hop roots.
Recently, it seems West has been caught up in the spotlight for reasons other than his musical pursuits. Since 2014, he has married Kim Kardashian, had a child, developed his fashion line Yeezy, and remained in an ongoing feud with pop star Taylor Swift. Pablo lyrically reflects events such as these in West’s life as well as his resulting fear that people only like him for the entertainment he provides by simply opening his mouth. The songs reflect his fear of being seen in certain ways: in “FML,” unfit to be a good husband; in “Real Friends,” fake in persona; and in “Father Stretch My Hands Part 2,” unfit to be a father, for example.
Many critics continue to claim that Pablo feels like it was thrown together and unfinished before released. West, nevertheless, still leaves an impression.
Perhaps the most famous lyrics off of the new album are in the song “Famous,” where West jokingly claims he is responsible for Swift’s fame after stealing the microphone from her at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. However, the problem is that Swift and the music industry at large do not find such misogynistic lyrics amusing.
What is curious about West is the way he always seems to contradict himself. His album lyrically reveals that he is aware of the harmful way the media has latched onto his actions as entertainment, yet he continues his antics. Maybe, at the end of the day, this contradiction reflects true art at its finest; West, undeniably, knows what he is doing.