Pushing the envelope – a figure of speech that means to expand the definition, categorization, dimensions, or perimeters of something. Who’s the first person that comes to mind when you think about someone pushing the envelope in today’s society? For me, it’s the always outspoken Kanye West. Kanye has never had a problem saying how he feels, man. But he’s not one of the Cosbys, he ain’t go to Hill-man. His latest, and highly anticipated album, The Life of Pablo, was nothing short of Kanye pushing the proverbial envelope yet again.
Before I continue, I have to congratulate Mr. & Mrs. West on the birth of their newborn son, Saint. There’s no greater joy in life than the birth of your child. Now, as for The Life of Pablo? Put it this way, it’s officially Yeezy Season!
Kanye continued to deliver with top of the line collaborations. Chance the Rapper, Rihanna, Chris Brown, The Dream, Kendrick Lamar, and gospel legend Kirk Franklin all made appearances on The Life of Pablo. As expected from a Kanye project, the samples were really dope. One of my favorite samples came on the two tracks, “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 2” and “Facts,” is from the 1990’s video game Street Fighter. “Facts,” is a track where he also made an odd comparison of Bill Cosby’s recent legal allegations and Steve Harvey’s mishap at the Miss Universe pageant. Then, on the same track, Kanye goes on to pay respect to the late great DJ Timbuck2, who lost his battle to cancer this past December.
Kanye has never really wavered lyrically. While his subject matter may have changed over the years quite a bit, Kanye maintained his respectable prowess this time around. The album was prefaced by nearly a month’s worth of Twitter rants, a Twitter beef with Wiz Khalifa over a misunderstanding, which led to some really weird (which is probably an understatement) allegations by Amber Rose who’s a mutual ex-girlfriend of the two rappers, then photos of Amber and Kim Kardashian-West surfaced making things even more weird. There were also several changes to the album’s title to add to the circus, one of the supposed titles for this album was going to be Waves – which would have been a dope way to show Byrd Gang rapper Max B, who made a brief cameo on the album as well, some support after having been incarcerated since 2009. Always a good moment for me when I can make mention of someone from Dipset!
The hype surrounding the album was immense, and increased expectations for him. Then of course there was his feud with Nike, which led to him leaving and going to rival shoe company, Adidas. However, if there’s anything we know about Kanye aside from the fact that nobody loves Kanye like Kanye loves Kanye, it’s that he never folds under pressure. Regardless of the situation, Kanye seems to direct that negative energy into projects that are masterful time and time again. For someone who is so well established and respected in Hip-hop and throughout the entire music industry, it’s truly admirable that he still has the same passion as he did when he first started. How often do we see some of our favorite rappers tail off because they don’t feel they have anythingto prove? As one of the generation’s most decorated artists, with 21 Grammys to boast, over 30 million records sold, and countless other accolades, he found a way to give us one more great album.
So now we’ve come to the part when we address the question everyone’s been asking since the title was officially finalized, who is Pablo? Is Kanye now equating himself to the modern day Pablo Picasso? Or is he piggybacking off of the recent success of the show Narcos, that generated a large following based off of the life of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar? As of right now, I think we’re all still speculating about the meaning. Knowing Kanye, Pablo might just be an acronym in which he will use as a rap moniker, who really knows? There’s no telling, but you’ve got to love his unpredictability!
A writer from urban Hip-hop chronicle, Hot New Hip-Hop, referred to this album as great, but “not in spite of these things (the aforementioned controversies), but because of them.” I for one, am compelled to agree. Kanye’s rise to stardom began on the night he was in a near fatal car accident in 2002. The accident played as the inspiration for his first hit single as a rapper, “Through The Wire.” Before then, Kanye was told by Jay-Z that he should just stick to producing. Yet ever since then, everywhere he’s been really did need a news crew’s presence. From the accident, to bad breakups, to losing loved ones, most notably his mom, to not being able to get a fair shot in fashion design, Kanye has continued to turn tragedy to triumph. While we can all pretty much agree he’s got a couple screws loose, and rightfully so after the tragic loss of his mom. “Name a genius that ain’t crazy!”
– Blake Holmes