This week’s round-up is headlined by Kanye West’s The Life Of Pablo, so far the best album I’ve heard all year, but I also give my two cents on BONES’ USELESS and Wiz Khalifa’s Khalifa.
Kanye West – The Life Of Pablo
After countless delays, another Taylor Swift controversy and last minute album cover and track listing changes, Kanye West’s The Life Of Pablo is finally here, and it doesn’t disappoint.
Now firmly established as a creative genius without filter, TLOP is peak Kanye, with the Chicago producer/rapper turned fashion mogul at his egotistical best. Taking inspiration from his entire career to date, TLOP is a collection of songs that don’t really mesh, but somehow fit together as an overall project. Album opener Ultralight Beam adheres to West’s claim this is a gospel album, with a soaring choir and Chance The Rapper proving once again why he should be a household name. From then on TLOP swerves through a multitude of genres and styles. Metro Boomin adds elements of trap to soul sampled Father Stretch My Hands Pt.1 & 2 and Yeezus (Feedback) and The College Dropout (Real Friends) inspired numbers appear alongside 70’s sampling No More Parties In L.A. and personal favourite 30 Hours.
Lyrically, West is at his humorous best, be it claiming he and Ray J could have been friends if not for Kim or the satirical I Love Kanye, where he claims “And I love you like Kanye loves Kanye.” Unfortunately it’s not all fun and games, as West continues his recent streak of misogyny that’s not always an easy listen, making me wonder if he really believes what he’s saying or if it’s all for show.
The roll call of producers, writers and guest is the biggest yet for a West album. Rihanna and Swizz Beatz show up for the hook on Famous, Young Thug makes no sense on Highlights, Kendrick Lamar kills it on No More Parties In L.A. while next big thing Post Malone’s auto-tuned drawl steals the show on the House sampling closer Fade.
Verdict: Until Drake drops Views From The Six, this is the best major label hip-hop album you will hear all year.
BONES – USELESS
BONES, like his contemporary Yung Lean, is one of the few Internet rap stars who’ve managed to not only cultivate a world wide fan base off the back of an endless stream of Soundcloud mixtapes, albums and Youtube videos, but also make bank. Along with the mysterious TeamSESH (a group of producers and artists all involved with BONES and other related projects) BONES has sold out show all across the States without support from radio or having a single song on iTunes.
USELESS is the 21 one year olds best work to date, a hazy myriad of BONES lo-fi beats and goth-rap style that shows a maturity in his ever evolving sound. His change in genres is evident from the get go. The self-titled opener finds the Californian native singing over a creepy guitar lick and sedated production before taking things next level on RestInPeace, rapping over heavy distorted beats that descends into screaming chaos. His singing voice is more defined on USELESS, especially on the snare stinging RightOnSchedule, while his rapping is at its best on KeepTellingYourselfThat and GladWeHaveAnUnderstanding.
Verdict: USELESS is not only a tremendous album but the biggest step in BONES career towards breakout success.
Wiz Khalifa – Khalifa
I’m not a Wiz Khalifa fan. It might seem strange that I’m reviewing his latest effort, Khalifa, but as someone who writes about music on the daily, you quickly discover you’re not always going to like what you hear. Now there’s nothing wrong with Khalifa’s stoner rap persona, and hey, I bumped Black & Yellow when it dropped, but I don’t find him interesting enough to give my full attention. Khalifa hasn’t done anything to change my opinion.
This album is everything you’d expect from a Wiz. The beats are tight, bouncy and trap-heavy while his lyrics are concerned with weed, girls, weed, his home town of Pittsburgh, weed, his hip-hop lifestyle and, you guessed, weed. That’s not to say there aren’t a few head turners. Khalifa gets reflective on the Metro Boomin opener BTS and displays his somewhat charming singing voice on Call Waiting, but it’s when his contemporaries show up that Khalifa excels. Travi$ Scott makes his presence felt on first single Bake Sale (basically a rip-off of his own hit Antidote), one of the albums strongest cuts, Juicy J comes through on iSay and the slept on Chevy Woods shows up Khalifa on the spacey No Permission.
Verdict: If you a Khalifa fan you’ll be all over this, for everyone else, go listen to the new Kanye.