WAKE UP MR. WEST!
Is Kanye living a nightmare that he simply can't wake up from? And if so, why is he taking us along for the ride? We didn't ask for this. We didn't ask to be part of his 'beautiful dark twisted fantasy'. We didn't ask for his misconstrued and misguided Twitter soliloquies. And yet, here we are again... riding shot-gun to his crazy, as he recently unveiled his latest two passion projects: the Yeezy Season 3 clothing collection for Adidas, and his new album The Life of Pablo (TLOP for short).
'Ye's combined fashion and music event took place at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 11, to kick off New York Fashion Week. If you've got about an hour and a half to kill, you can see the entire show via Tidal. And, while I don't completely regret spending the time to take in the show and hear this long-awaited album, I'm left frustrated to say the least.
First off, the fashion show was neither 'fashion', nor a 'show'. What it was, was an unsettling display of lost, forlorn, and downtrodden-looking models on two large risers. The models were revealed from underneath gigantic silk sheets, and then had no other purpose, but to stand still for over an hour, looking "un-pretty", depressed, and bored at best. Seriously. These models just stood, looking all kinds of 'punished', while Kanye played and "fan-girled" to his entire new album on loud speakers for the 20 thousand attendees who came out to witness his 'genius'. And once the entire album was played, he even re-played a few of the tracks...just because.
(Also worth mentioning: During this show, Ye revealed that he is working on a video game about his late mother, Donda West's, travel to heaven. He showed the audience a sneak preview of the game, and when they didn't react with quite the amount of amazement and enthusiasm he needed, he played the clip again.)
Never have I felt such a sense of sympathy for models, lol. Some of them had to take impromptu breaks and just cop a squat on the platform for a few minutes before standing back up again to continue their awkward stoic stance. I don't know if it was due to their extended 'human statue' obligation, or the fact that they had to do it while being subjected to Kanye's album, but the looks on their faces said it all: "FML" (which, ironically is the name of one of the tracks on TLOP).
Much like the previous Yeezy Season 2 collection, there was a lot of sheer spandex, bodysuits and awkward crop tops for the ladies, while the guys donned variations of ripped sweaters, over-sized coats and utilitarian-style boots. The best way I can personally describe the collection's aesthetic is "views of impoverishment and desolation from the 1 percent". The fact that seasoned supermodels like Naomi Campbell, Veronica Webb and Alex Wek came through and stood in the show did nothing to elevate the no-fashion fashion show. All it did was leave me hoping that the cheques they received for their appearances were well-worth it.
Now, let's talk TLOP (the album formerly known as So Help Me God, slash SWISH, slash Waves). Ever since 'Ye released Yeezus back in 2013, many people have been wondering what kind of sound he was going to bring with his next album... Enter The Life of Pablo.
Before hearing the full album via the fashion show event, I had only heard one song called "Real Friends" from the album, and a teaser of a song called "No More Parties in LA". "Real Friends" made me happy because the production and the lyric flow were unmistakably reminiscent of the old 'Ye from the College Dropout. I said to myself, "if the rest of the new album feels like this... perhaps Kanye hasn't lost his ever-loving mind after all". Don't get me wrong - I completely understand that artists have to grow, experiment and evolve. But let's be honest: Kanye has made some very questionable choices both with his music and personal life over the last few years. To say that I had low expectations for this new album, would be a fair statement.
So, does the new album deliver? Overall, I'd say it's pretty decent. Production-wise, it's interesting in a good way... much better than Yeezus. The samples and eclectic beats that appear throughout the album are sonically intriguing. Two of my favourites, beats-wise would have to be: "Wolves", a Frank Ocean-assisted song, produced by Cashmere Cat and Sinjin Hawke, and a Swizz Beats-produced banger called "Famous", which includes vocals from Rihanna. The song has already garnered all kinds of attention, due to some disparaging lyrics about pop starlet, Taylor Swift.
Lyrically and in terms of cohesiveness, though... TLOP is kind of all over the place. Kanye himself described the album as "a gospel album with a whole lot of cursing on it". Umm. No, Kanye. But, given that guests on the album range from Kirk Franklin and Kelly Price to Kid Cuddi and Rihanna, I'd say TLOP is an album that has: moments of introspection based on faith, unbridled narcissism, and enjoyable "ratchetry". It's got a little something for almost everyone - including a track/interlude called "I Love Kanye", in which Kanye rhymes:
Nuff said, lol. Clearly, Kanye stands firm in his belief that he is the best at what he does and that he is destined for a level of greatness that none of us can even fathom. He has no problem showing us his crazy, and relishes in the fact that all geniuses usually are crazy. And while there may be some truth to that theory; you know what else is true? Not all crazy people are geniuses! Sometimes bat-shit is just bat-shit...
Personally, I haven't quite figured out yet where Mr. West falls on that 'crazy-genius' spectrum. Until I do though, I'll continue to indulge in his creative efforts with extreme caution. I just wish someone would tell 'Ye that a real genius knows when to take a step back and let their audience find their own way to the art.
Dear 'Ye: We don't need you to drag us kicking and screaming, into the dark depths of your brilliance. We've seen glimmers of the genius you could be. Just let us take our own journey to that conclusion. Please & thanks.
(To hear official track snippets from The Life Of Pablo, you can head here on Tidal.com.)