At a highly anticipated live event in Madison Square Garden, streamed at theaters around the world as well as on the online music streaming service TIDAL, Kanye West debuted his seventh studio album The Life of Pablo and unveiled his new fashion collection. Yeezy Season 3 may be the kind of fashion event that gets talked about a lot in the days immediately following and is soon forgotten, but coupled with the world premiere of The Life of Pablo in a sold-out Madison Square Garden listening party, West guarantees that this is the kind of thing that people will remember.

‘The Life of Pablo’ by Kanye West Album Preview

After featuring singles from the album at the other fashion shows (“Wolves” featuring Sia and Vic Mensa at the Season 1 show and “Fade” featuring Post Malone and Ty Dolla $ign at Season 2), it was at YEEZY Season 3 that the rapper premiered his new album in full length. Joined by the Kardashian-Jenner clan dressed in white fur coats and many of his fellow collaborators on the album, Yeezy took the stage in the full Madison Square Garden and eager to share the final product, premiered his album with a reticent introduction just after 4:30 pm on February 11.

With some controversy about its title in the past few weeks, West announced the final title of his new album – The Life of Pablo – a day before the MSG event. It’s unclear who is the person the title alludes too (some speculation claim that to be 20th-century artist Pablo Picasso or drug lord Pablo Escobar), but in any case, the title is not the album’s most impressive feature.

Final track list for The Life Of Pablo

The album opens with a slow track, “Ultra Light Beam,” which gradually builds on West’s balanced rap with the vocals of a massive gospel choir. Featuring fellow Chicago rapper Chance the Rapper and gospel singer Kirk Franklin, the song’s poignant lyrics recall the recent tragic events in Paris: “Deliver us liberty, deliver us peace, deliver us love… Pray for Paris, pray for the parents.” The soulful opener is a promising start. The gospel themes are sustained throughout the rest of the album with more deliberations on faith and god in “Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 1 & 2” and the sampled gospel vocals on “Highlights.” The album takes several unpredictable turns with several more explicit tracks that pay homage to West’s 2013 Yeezus such as “FLM,” featuring haunting vocals by The Weeknd and “Feedback.” He foregoes his emotional vulnerability on tracks like “Famous,” which features the now notorious and controversial line about Taylor Swift. He seems to go back and forth between the style used in his early work and that from more recent albums and singles to give us a blend of all that he is capable of. The two closing tracks on the album, as announced by its official tracklist, “Real Friends” and “Wolves,” take another melancholic turn, reminiscent of West’s sound on 808’s & Heartbreak. The lyrics layered over an electronic melody on “Wolves” are personal and introspective with recurring religious imagery. Both songs have already been previewed by West, so they provide a solid ground and few surprises for the conclusion of the album. The most unexpected one is perhaps the previously unreleased verse by Frank Ocean on “Wolves,” who has been away from music for more than a year now.

While the record has yet to be officially released, it strikes the listener as a very carefully crafted product that was worth and near two-year wait. Overall the album finds its footing in downtempo minimalist melodies, West’s rap lyrics, which are more sophisticated than ever and occasional romantic-sounding harmonies similar to the ones heard on his single “Only One.” With The Life of Pablo, West is truly at the top of his game. He employs some familiar techniques of sampling and layering that he used on Yeezus, but the new album is certainly more approachable than its 2013 predecessor. The new record shows West’s full maturity as an artist and his confidence in what he has to deliver.  

UPDATE: Kanye West has revealed in a tweet on the morning after the Madison Square Garden listening party that he will be adding more songs to the final version of the new album.

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