Why “The Life of Pablo” isn’t the “Old Kanye” we were expecting

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It’s 8 am and I’m sitting in bed watching the snowfall outside while simultaneously listening to “The Life of Pablo” on Tidal. The first track plays and Kanye announces “this track is called “Ultra Light Beams.”” Okay, I’m ready now! My bestfriend called and told me that I was going to love it, so I’m ready to be overwhelmed by Kanye!

The initial sound isn’t music, but a young child exclaiming “we don’t want no devils in the house, we want the Lord, that’s it! Kanye, have your music,” while a mother, I imagine, wraps her arms around herself rocking back and forth shaking her head left to right eyes closed lets out “yesss” barely above a whisper. Okay, so we’re getting THIS Kanye. “Jesus Walks” Kanye? We’ll see where this goes. I continue to listen.

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Truthfully? I kind of zoned out until Chance The Rapper came on. Let’s just say he saved the first song. “Foot on the devils neck like a drifted pangea / I’m moving all of my family from Chatham to Zambia /… I laugh in my head ’cause I bet that my ex looking back like a pillar of salt!” Those aren’t even his hardest bars on the verse, but those are the one that made me smile. He goes off the entire verse. It was #SummerTimeChi chilling at the lakefront on 75th street with your people–you didn’t want it to end.

As I continue to listen I realize that the beats go hard, and Kanye’s style of flow is right, but something is off. What’s missing? I just continue to listen. Oh, that’s it–Kanye is attempting to make surface level, shallow nonsense deep. You made Taylor Swift’s career? I mean, maybe, but I don’t want to hear about that right now. I want you, Kanye West, to make me feel this music in my bones, we’re not even close. Yet still, I continue to listen.

As if Kanye understands that I, Ms. Malcolm Hughes, am not pleased, “I Miss the Old Kanye” comes on. After six listens I’ve determined that I want to like this song more than I actually like the song. It kind of reminds me of “Dear Old Nicki” meets “Stan” but way less epic.

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I could expound on the rest of the album–like how “Real Friends” should remind me of “Family Business” or how Kanye allows us to peek into his private thoughts, but I feel so uninspired by it all. Writing this actually makes me sad because whenever I hear Kanye I revert back to the teenager who both clapped and cried in her living room while watching Kanye win his first grammy. What makes this feeling hard for me to understand is that Kanye has the perfect recipe for success on the album–well, almost. He has some of the best producers: Swiss Beatz, Mike Dean, Rick Rubin, Metro Boomin, Derek Watkins (Fonzworth Bentley), and many others. Also, he has some truly amazing features: Chance the Rapper, Kirk Franklin, Kendrick Lamar, Kid Cudi, Desiigner, Rihanna, and others. His flow is even on point. I can definitely dance to it. Then what’s the issue? The depth.

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I guess I’m trying to say I feel the way Kanye felt about Jay-z: “And I heard it, and I was thinking like, man, I really wanted more like of the simple type Jay-Z, I ain’t want like the, the more introspective, complicated rhy- or the, in my personal opinion.” Except, I don’t want the simple type of Kanye, I want the more introspective, complicated rhyming Kanye. So Kanye, I understand that this is the life of Pablo, but I find it more authentic when you rap about the life of Kanye–no matter how far removed some people say it seems.

– Ms. Malcolm Hughes


Ms. Malcolm Hughes is the editor-in-chief of For Your Black? Conscious. She is a Chicago, IL native–from the city, not the suburbs–strategizing in Washington, D.C. She strives every day not to disappoint or defer the dreams of her 13 year old self. Because at that age, more than any other, she just wanted to see her people win. You can find her on Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter @fybconscious.

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