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The Life of Pablo is the seventh studio album by American rapper and recording artist Kanye West, released on February 14, 2016 by GOOD Music and Def Jam Recordings. Recording sessions took place from 2013 to 2016 in Italy, Mexico, Canada, and the United States. Production on the album was handled by West and a variety of producers, including co-executive producers Rick Rubin and Noah Goldstein, Mike Dean, Metro Boomin, Hudson Mohawke, Plain Pat, and Madlib. He also enlisted a wide array of guest vocalists, including Chris Brown, Ty Dolla Sign, The Weeknd, Desiigner, Kid Cudi, The-Dream, Kelly Price, Kirk Franklin, Chance the Rapper, Rihanna, Sia, Frank Ocean, Sampha, Vic Mensa, Post Malone, Kendrick Lamar, Young Thug, and Caroline Shaw.

The Life of Pablo
The life of pablo alternate.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedFebruary 14, 2016
RecordedNovember 2013 – February 2016
Studio
Genre
Length66:01
Label
Producer
Kanye West chronology
Yeezus
(2013)
The Life of Pablo
(2016)
Ye
(2018)
Singles from The Life of Pablo
  1. "Famous"
    Released: April 1, 2016
  2. "Father Stretch My Hands"
    Released: June 7, 2016
  3. "Fade"
    Released: September 20, 2016

The album was preceded by several promotional singles as part of West's GOOD Fridays giveaways, including the tracks "Real Friends" and "No More Parties in LA". In the months before its release, the album's title and tracklist went through several publicized changes, and West's erratic activity on social media became the source of several controversies. An early version of the album was premiered by West at Madison Square Garden on February 11, 2016, as part of his Yeezy Season 3 fashion show in collaboration with Adidas. After several additional sessions and alterations, the album was launched exclusively through the streaming service Tidal three days later.

Following its official streaming debut, West continued to make changes to The Life of Pablo and declared the end of the album as a dominant release form; Def Jam confirmed his intention to continue making updates to the album over the subsequent months. A largely updated version of the album, including alternate mixes and other changes was made available on other streaming services and for digital purchase on his website on April 1, 2016; no official CD release was planned at the time. The album was supported by the singles "Famous", "Father Stretch My Hands", and "Fade".

The Life of Pablo received mostly positive reviews from critics, with particular attention drawn to the fragmented, unfinished nature of its composition and release. Following Tidal's disclosure of its streaming data and the album's release to competing streaming services, the album debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200, becoming West's seventh consecutive number-one album on the chart and the first to reach the summit primarily through streaming. In April 2017, The Life of Pablo became the first streaming-only album to go Platinum in the US and West's eighth Platinum-certified release. It was named among the best albums of 2016 by multiple publications, and was nominated for Best Rap Album at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards, while "Ultralight Beam" and "Famous" were nominated for Best Rap/Sung Performance and Best Rap Song.

Contents

BackgroundEdit

In November 2013, West began working on his seventh album,[1][2] under the working title So Help Me God for a 2014 release date.[3] The album was initially to include production work by Rick Rubin and Q-Tip.[4] Early recording sessions resulted in several tracks that were released as standalone singles or were given to other artists, including his Paul McCartney collaborations "All Day", "Only One", and the McCartney and Rihanna collaboration "FourFiveSeconds".[5][6] Some of the earlier tracks to make the final cut for The Life of Pablo were "Famous" (formerly titled "Nina Chop") and "Wolves", the latter of which West performed on Saturday Night Live's 40th anniversary episode with Australian recording artist Sia and fellow rapper Vic Mensa.[7] In 2015, West announced the new album title SWISH, though he clarified that this could still be subject to change.[8] West announced in January 2016 that SWISH would be released on February 11, and that month released new songs "Real Friends" and a snippet of "No More Parties in L.A." with Kendrick Lamar. This also revived the GOOD Fridays initiative in which West releases new singles every Friday. On January 26, 2016, West revealed he had renamed the album from SWISH to Waves.[9]

 
Chance the Rapper contributed to several tracks, including "Ultralight Beam" and "Waves."

In the weeks leading up to the album's release, West released several changing iterations of the track list for the new album while becoming embroiled in several Twitter controversies.[10][11] In February, West posted a tweet seemingly asserting Bill Cosby's innocence in the wake of over 50 women making allegations of sexual assault directed at Cosby[12] and became involved in a short-lived social media altercation with rapper Wiz Khalifa on Twitter that eventually involved their mutual ex-partner, Amber Rose, who protested to West's mention of her and Khalifa's child.[13] The feud involved allegations by Rose concerning her sexual relationship with West, and received significant media attention. The track "Famous" was met with scrutiny on social media for a controversial lyrical reference to American singer Taylor Swift, partially in relation to West's interruption of her 2009 VMA acceptance speech.[14][15][16][17][18]

Several days ahead of its release, West again changed the title, this time to The Life of Pablo.[19] On February 11, West premiered an early version of the album at Madison Square Garden as part of the presentation of his Yeezy Season 3 clothing line.[20] Following the preview, West announced that he would be modifying the track list once more before its release to the public,[21] and further delayed its release to finalize the recording of the track "Waves" at the behest of co-writer Chance the Rapper. He released the album exclusively on Tidal on February 14, 2016 following a performance on SNL.[22][23] Following its official streaming release, West continued to tinker with mixes of several tracks, describing the work as "a living breathing changing creative expression"[24] and proclaiming the end of the album as a dominant release form.[25] Although a statement by West around Life of Pablo's initial release indicated that the album would be a permanent exclusive to Tidal, the album was released through several other competing services starting in April.[26]

RecordingEdit

Initial sessionsEdit

The album was recorded between 2013 and 2016, with recording for the track "No More Parties in LA" starting in 2010, during the sessions for West's fifth studio album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.[27][28] Reports stated that the album was written and recorded in several locations; including Los Angeles, Mexico, the Isle of Wight and Florence, Italy. West's recording in Los Angeles was rumored to be at Shangri-La Studios, which is the home base of Yeezus executive producer Rick Rubin. The production in Mexico occurred with Paul McCartney and frequent collaborator Rihanna.[29] American rappers Pusha T and Consequence confirmed that they had ended their feud in order to work with West on his eighth album, with Consequence saying in an interview: "Pusha and I deaded everything and we creatively vibed with Kanye for this new LP."[30]

In April 2014, in an interview with Self-Titled, GOOD Music's producer Evian Christ explained that while West wasn't always musically clear, he seemed "...interested in pushing aesthetic boundaries as far into the Avant as possible. Kanye is the one dude who's like, 'This is not experimental enough. This is too poppy. Make something else.' The other guys are like, 'We don't get it.'" Christ said that West's "a dream to work with," adding that "...no one else gives you that level of creative freedom. When he wants you to work to a blueprint, the blueprint is: 'Don't make a rap beat. Anything but a rap beat.'"[31] In May 2014, in an interview with Billboard, James Fauntleroy of Cocaine 80s spoke of his recording sessions with West and said, "I went in there and did some stuff on that shit. I sang shit on there and left. We'll see how it turns out, when I went in it was early, [during] the early stages. I know there will be a lot more other people, a lot of interjections." In February 2015, while West was continuing to work on the album, he confirmed that the album is at about 80% completion. He went on to say that:

I'm trying to get it finished. I'm trying to get it to the people… Release dates is played out. So the surprise is going to be a surprise. There go the surprise... [It's] cookout music that just feels good. My last album was protest music. I was like, 'I'm going to take my ball and go home.'[32]

 
Vocals from Ty Dolla Sign are featured on the third single "Fade" and promotional single "Real Friends".

In March 2015, in an interview with MTV, Big Sean spoke about the multiple recording locations involved this album, whilst promoting his own third studio album, Dark Sky Paradise: "...We done did a couple, to like Mexico, like how we did Hawaii before and stuff like that. We work as unit for sure, that's all I'm gonna say I'm not gonna drop nothing else."[33] In an October 2015 interview with The Fader, Post Malone, who (along with Ty Dolla Sign) is featured on the track "Fade", discussed his experiences with West:

I met Kanye at Kylie Jenner's party and Kanye was like, 'Let's make something.' So I went over to Ye's and we just started working and then we just started talking. And we just kept on going. I went in the studio with Kanye and we just recorded the scratch vocals and then I wrote over it… He was just a normal guy, like me, and super cool. He was wearing all camo, just all camo. He was very quiet and he was very, very humble.[34]

On January 27, 2016, West revealed the update of the final track listing on his official Twitter account. This updated track listing also revealed a number of the unannounced potential collaborators, which included Earl Sweatshirt, The-Dream, Tyler, the Creator, The World Famous Tony Williams, Diddy, Danny!,[35] ASAP Rocky, Kid Cudi, Lil Uzi Vert, Drake, Teyana Taylor, Zoe Kravitz, Bibi Bourelly, Doug E. Fresh, How to Dress Well, and French Montana, as well as a return of his frequent production collaborators, such as Mike Dean, Hudson Mohawke, Plain Pat, Vicious, Anthony Kilhoffer, A-Trak, and Noah Goldstein.[36][37][38] Following his album's premiere at Madison Square Garden, it was revealed that Brooklyn-based rapper Desiigner contributed vocals to "Pt. 2" and "Freestyle 4".[39]

Post-release updatesEdit

Following the album's initial Tidal release, West declared his intentions to continue altering the music, declaring it a "living breathing changing creative expression."[40] On March 13, 2016, over a month after the album's release, West uploaded an updated version of "Famous", swapping out the lyric "She be Puerto Rican day parade wavin'" for "She in school to be a real estate agent," as well as making slight tweaks to the overall mix.[41] Three days later, West updated the album's Tidal track list with a reworked version of "Wolves", which included previously removed guest vocals from Vic Mensa and Sia, and separated the ending portion sung by Frank Ocean into a separate track called "Frank's Track".[42] On March 30, the album received a major update, with at least 12 tracks appearing in altered forms.[40] Updates included prominent vocal additions, new lyrics, and altered mixes.[40] Def Jam confirmed this incarnation to be "a newly updated, remixed and remastered version," and clarified the album would continue to appear with "new updates, new versions and new iterations" in the following months, calling it "a continuous process."[43] On April 2, a corrected version of "30 Hours" was quietly released, fixing the off-time vocals that plagued the March 30 reissue. Finally, on June 14, The Life of Pablo was updated to include an additional track titled "Saint Pablo" featuring Sampha, with other miscellaneous alterations throughout the album.[44]

Discussing the album's continued alterations, Jayson Greene of Pitchfork wrote "at what point is a record 'over', and who gets to make the call? Kanye West is seeing how far he can stretch the point right now, in a way no pop star has ever quite tried," describing West as "testing the shifting state of the "album cycle" to see if he can break it entirely, making his album like another piece of software on your phone that sends you push updates."[45] Winston Cook-WIlson of Inverse described the album as "a fluid construct," writing that "as a way of holding the public's attention span, Kanye's choice to continue to tweak The Life is Pablo indefinitely is genius [...] It encourages people spend time processing an album that deserves it: a bewildering, sprawling, and controversy-courting piece of art.[46] The album's unconventional updates post release inspired other artists to do the same, with Future and Young Thug making similar alterations after the release of their albums.[47][48]

Music and compositionEdit

The Life of Pablo was noted for its "raw, occasionally even intentionally messy, composition" in distinction to West's previous albums.[49] Rolling Stone wrote that "this is a messy album that feels like it was made that way on purpose, after the laser-sharp intensity of Yeezus," stating that "It's designed to sound like a work in progress." Carl Wilson of Slate suggested that "the point is that in the context of all this sonic landscaping, in West's kamikaze, mood-swinging way, Pablo now seems undeniably (not half-assedly, as I'd been about to conclude) like an album of struggle," adding that the album created "strange links between Kanye's many iterations—soul-sample enthusiast, heartbroken Auto-Tune crooner, hedonistic avant-pop composer, industrial-rap shit-talker" while making use of bass and percussion lines "that are only the tail-end decay of some lost starting place, some vanished rhythmic Eden."[50] NME described The Life of Pablo Pablo as "an album on which, at a moment's notice, Kanye veers from futuristic beats on the likes of 'Feedback' to bog-standard modern trap – as when up coming rapper Desiigner turns up on 'Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 2' – to vintage soul on 'Ultra Light Beam'.[51] Corbin Reiff of The A.V. Club claimed that the album only works "as a gospel record if, as a listener, you worship at his altar."[52] Similarly, Madison Vain from Entertainment Weekly called The Life of Pablo "a gospel album that journeys through grief, a meditation on internal wounds, and an unapologetic assertion of where'Ye believes his rightful place is in the world is."[49] The song "Famous" features a segue from "braggadocious, bell-ringing hip-hop" into samples of Sister Nancy's dancehall song "Bam Bam" chopped up over the chord progression featured in Nina Simone's "Do What You Gotta Do."[53]

Prior to the album's release, West tweeted out that the album was a hip hop album, as well as a gospel album.[54] Additionally, in an interview on Big Boy Radio, West stated "When I was sitting in the studio with Kirk, Kirk Franklin, and we're just going through it, I said this is a gospel album, with a whole lot of cursing on it, but it's still a gospel album," adding "The gospel according to Ye." West elaborated, explaining that his gospel is somewhat different from the bible, "but it's this story idea of Mary Magdalene becoming Mary."[55] "Ultralight Beam", particularly, is noted to feature several gospel elements, from "the sound of a 4-year-old preaching gospel, some organ," as well as a church choir singing the refrain of "This is a God dream."[56] Gospel elements similar to those of the song are included in "Low Lights".[57] Chance the Rapper and his instrumental collaborator, Donnie Trumpet bring elements of soul revivalism into the track during Chance's guest verse.[52] Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune contrasted Chance the Rapper's "gospel-informed hip-hop tracks" with West's take on that tradition, stating that "West's version of gospel touches on some of those sonic cues – heavy organ, soaring choirs – but seems more preoccupied with gospel text and the notion of redemption."[58]

Lyrics and themesEdit

Ray Rahman of Entertainment Weekly noted the album's frequent meditations on matters of faith, family, and West's own role as a cultural figure while observing that "Pablo frequently (some might say abruptly) toggles between Sad Kanye and the bombastic and celebratory Kanye."[59] Neil McCormick of The Daily Telegraph described West as "constantly veering between swaggering bravado and insecurity bordering on paranoia, smashing the sacred against the profane and disrupting his own flowing grooves with interjections that sound like they are spilling over from another studio altogether."[60] GQ wrote that the two-part "Father Stretch My Hands" "begins as a gospel song about fucking models, transitions halfway into a soul-baring confessional dance track, then drops in two entire verses of an entirely different song about drug-dealing and cars by an 18-year-old Brooklyn rapper, before resolving into a meditative piece for vocoder by a contemporary classical composer and ending with a snippet of the sampled gospel song that the whole thing started from, just to remind you how far we've traveled from there in the span of four minutes."[61]

The song "Famous" included the controversial lyric "I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex/Why? I made that bitch famous." The lyric refers to country/pop singer Taylor Swift, whose acceptance speech West interrupted at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, and was heavily publicized and criticized by media outlets and listeners.[62] Kot called the song "an example of just how brilliant and infuriating West can be at the same time."[58] Jayson Greene of Pitchfork wrote that the lyric "feels like a piece of bathroom graffiti made to purposefully reignite the most racially-charged rivalry in 21st-century pop."[56] "Feedback" features West's riposte to his critics: "Name one genius that ain’t crazy."[59] The interlude "I Love Kanye" features self-aware a cappella lyrics referencing West's image in the public.[52] Tracks such as "FML", "Real Friends", and "Freestyle 4" feature "gloomy, doomy" discussions of trust issues, antidepressants, and familial problems.[59] The song "Wolves" features the lyrics, "Cover Nori in lamb's wool/ We surrounded by/ The fuckin wolves," among other Biblical allusions, offering a comparison between West and his wife Kim Kardashian to Mary and Joseph.[56]

Promotion and releaseEdit

 
West performed the Saint Pablo Tour in 2016 for promotion of the album.

West marked his first release of music since "All Day" with the release of the promotional single "Facts" on December 31, 2015.[63] A new version of the song was released on The Life of Pablo titled "Facts (Charlie Heat Version)".[64] On January 8, 2016, West's wife Kim Kardashian announced via Twitter the release of "Real Friends", which initiated the return of West's GOOD Fridays.[65] West had previously done a weekly free music giveaway leading up to the release of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. "Real Friends" was released the day and it was announced via SoundCloud, simultaneously along with the album's release date and a snippet of the forthcoming GOOD Friday release, titled "No More Parties in LA", which features guest vocals from Kendrick Lamar.[66][67] "No More Parties in LA" had its proper release on the following week, also via West's Soundcloud account. The song was produced by Madlib and West, and contains a sample of "Suzie Thundertussy" performed by Walter Morrison.[68] West premiered The Life of Pablo at Madison Square Garden during his Adidas Yeezy Season 3 fashion show event.[23] On February 12, West released a new track, titled "30 Hours", as part of his GOOD Fridays series.[69]

On February 14, West performed "Highlights" and "Ultralight Beam" on Saturday Night Live.[70] The Life of Pablo was later released exclusively through the streaming service Tidal on the same day.[71] It was available for purchase for a few hours but reverted to streaming-only after that.[72] West announced that the album would be available outside of Tidal a week later,[73] however, on the following day, West claimed that he would never release the album outside of Tidal, encouraging his fans to sign up for the service.[74] On the same day, Pigeons & Planes detailed that the version of the album, which was made available for streaming on Tidal was not its final version.[75] After an active weekend, during which he was finishing his album, he stated that he was $53,000,000 in personal debt and called for Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to invest $1 billion in West's ideas. He also called on other tech billionaires to help him.[76] The albums premier and launch won multiple Clio Awards for its innovation[77][78]

Streaming and commercial releaseEdit

The album initially received an exclusive Tidal release on February 14, 2016. West urged the public to download the application to hear the album, which resulted in it temporarily reaching the number one spot on the US App Store.[79] West later tweeted that he "was thinking about not making CDs ever again," and stated that he would never release The Life of Pablo outside of Tidal.[80] The album's initial exclusive release on Tidal resulted in a large increase in subscribers to the service, 250 million streams in the first 10 days, and 400 million streams in the first six weeks before its release to other streaming platforms.[81] Following the Tidal exclusive release, it was announced that "Famous" would be sent to radio stations in the United States on March 28 as the lead single from The Life of Pablo; the song was exclusively released for streaming on Spotify and Apple Music on the date.[82] It peaked at number 34 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and lasted for 34 weeks on the chart.[83] The song was certified 2x Platinum in the US by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for selling 2,000,000 units on March 7, 2018.[84] The song reached number 33 on the UK Singles Chart and remained on it for 16 weeks.[85] On January 19, 2018, "Famous" was certified Gold in the United Kingdom by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) for sales of 400,000 units.[86] "I Love Kanye" was the next song from the album to be released on streaming services other than Tidal on March 30, 2016.[87]

On April 1, 2016, West released an updated version of The Life of Pablo for streaming on Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Play. He also made the album available for purchase on his official website.[82][88] "Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1 & Pt. 2" and "Fade" would be released as singles in the following month.[89][90]

LawsuitEdit

The release on to other streaming platforms and West's website, along with his claims that the album would be a Tidal exclusive forever, caused a lawsuit to be filed on April 18, 2016 against West, Tidal, and Jay-Z (whose company, "Project Panther Ltd." owned Tidal) by law firm Edelson PC, on behalf of California resident Justin Baker-Rhett, for false advertising. The lawsuit, which was seeking class-action status, claimed that Tidal and West never intended to have the album as a Tidal exclusive forever, but decided to say so in an attempt to boost Tidal's struggling subscriber growth.[91][92]

TourEdit

In August 2016, West embarked on the Saint Pablo Tour in support of The Life of Pablo.[93] The performances featured a mobile stage suspended from the ceiling.[93] West postponed several dates in October following the Paris robbery of his wife Kim Kardashian.[94] The remainder of the tour was later canceled on November 21, 2016, following controversy over comments made by West that week regarding his support of president-elect Donald Trump and public criticism of other artists.[95] West was later admitted for psychiatric observation at UCLA Medical Center.[96][97]

Critical receptionEdit

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
SourceRating
AnyDecentMusic?7.4/10[98]
Metacritic75/100[99]
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic     [100]
The Daily Telegraph     [60]
Entertainment WeeklyB+[59]
The Guardian     [101]
NME4/5[51]
Pitchfork9.0/10[56]
Q     [102]
Rolling Stone     [103]
Spin8/10[104]
Vice (Expert Witness)A−[105]

The Life of Pablo received generally positive reviews from critics upon release. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream publications, the album received an average score of 75, based on 35 reviews, which indicated "generally favorable reviews."[99] Rolling Stone's Rob Sheffield dubbed it both a mess and masterpiece: "This is a messy album that feels like it was made that way on purpose."[103] Sheffield elaborated, writing that "West just drops broken pieces of his psyche all over the album and challenges you to fit them together."[103] Reiff opined that The Life of Pablo "feels far different from any of the tightly constructed, singular works of West's past," asserting instead that "as a beautiful, messy, mixed-up collection of 18 songs, it's a brilliant document."[52] Writing for The New York Times, Jon Caramanica stated, "West [...] has perfected the art of aesthetic and intellectual bricolage, shape-shifting in real time and counting on listeners to keep up," concluding that "this is Tumblr-as-album, the piecing together of divergent fragments to make a cohesive whole."[106] In a highly positive review, Jayson Greene of Pitchfork wrote that all of West's work is animated by "a madcap sense of humor," and claimed that "The Life of Pablo has a freewheeling energy that is infectious and unique to his discography," finding that "somehow, it comes off as both his most labored-over and unfinished album, full of asterisks and corrections and footnotes."[56] Robert Christgau of Vice found the record "wittingly casual and easy on the ears," writing that, "unlike Yeezus, it won't top many 2016 lists—it's too blatantly imperfect, too flagrantly unfocused. But that's also its charm, and I prefer it."[105] Greg Tate of Spin wrote that "even if Mr. West feels (for now, at least) that his best years as a rap superstar are behind him, there's still hella great beats roaming around that dazed and befuddling noggin per The Life of Pablo for dang sure" and described the album as "long on musical confidence and short on inspirational verses," though viewed the "plaintive vulnerability and alienation" expressed by West as at least seeming "cathartically crafted."[104]

Rahman was somewhat less enthusiastic, calling The Life of Pablo "an ambitious album that finds the rapper struggling to compact his many identities into one weird, uncomfortable, glorious whole [...] Like the man himself, the album is emotional, explosive, unpredictable, and undeniably thrilling."[59] Alexis Petridis was more critical in The Guardian, finding it "at turns, rambling, chaotic, deeply underwhelming, impressively audacious, and completely infuriating," suggesting that "[i]t appears to have had ideas thrown at it until it feels messy and incoherent" despite concluding that "when The Life of Pablo is good, it's very good indeed."[101] McCormick wrote, "The Life of Pablo is certainly rich in musical scope, chock a block with inspired ideas," but also felt the work to be "so self-involved it crosses over into self-delusion, marked by such a tangible absence of perspective and objectivity it is as if [West] has actually lost sight of the elemental basics of his art."[60] Writing for the Chicago Tribune, Greg Kot felt that "The Life of Pablo sounds like a work in progress rather than a finished album."[58] In another mixed review, PopMatters's Evan Sawdey wrote that "The Life of Pablo's obscurities and eccentricities make it ripe for endless dissection by West's fans and followers, but make no mistake: this album is flawed, it’s problematic, and most of all, it's no masterpiece."[107]

AccoladesEdit

The Life of Pablo appeared on year-end lists of the best albums of 2016 by multiple publications. Dummy Mag ranked the album as the best of 2016, claiming that "it delivered some of the hugest musical moments of the year," noting elements of songs such as "Ultralight Beam" and "Pt. 2".[108] Jon Caramanica of The New York Times also named The Life of Pablo the best album of the year and called the album: "A grand, caustic album about grace: finding it, praying for it, falling from it."[109] Time Out London was among the three publications to list The Life of Pablo as the best album of 2016, writing that "the incredible, exciting and daring 'The Life of Pablo' really does show Kanye as a restless, Jobs-esque genius, with a flair for convening talented people and getting exceptional work out of them."[110]

As well as ranking at number three on the Pitchfork Readers' Poll: Top 50 Albums of 2016, the album was voted by readers as the fifth most underrated and the most overrated album of the year, respectively.[111] On the Top 50 Songs of 2016 poll, "Ultralight Beam" ranked at number one.[111] "Real Friends" and "No More Parties in LA" also appeared on the list as the 13th and 16th best song, respectively.[111] In February 2016, Inverse named The Life of Pablo as West's best album and mostly praised the sonics of the album.[112]

Publication Accolade Rank Ref.
The A.V. Club The A.V. Club's Top 50 Albums of 2016
18
Billboard Billboard's 50 Best Albums of 2016
2
Complex The 50 Best Albums of 2016
4
Dazed The 20 Best Albums of 2016
5
Digital Spy 20 Best Albums of 2016
7
Dummy Mag The 25 Best Albums of 2016
1
Entertainment Weekly Best Albums of 2016
11
Esquire The 30 Best Albums of 2016
5
FLOOD Magazine The Best Records of 2016
8
The Guardian Best Albums of 2016
4
HotNewHipHop Hottest 20 Albums of 2016
2
Idolator The 10 Best Albums of 2016
3
Laut.de The Hip-Hop Albums of the Year
2
The Independent Best Albums of 2016
10
The Irish Times Top 10 Albums of 2016
7
Les Inrockuptibles Les 50 Meilleurs Albums de 2016
6
New York (Vulture) The 15 Best Albums of 2016
5
The New York Times The Best Albums of 2016 (Jon Caramanica's list)
1
The New Zealand Herald The 20 Best Albums of 2016
4
NME NME's Albums of the Year 2016
2
Paste The 50 Best Albums of 2016
11
Pitchfork The 50 Best Albums of 2016
5
Pitchfork Readers' Poll: Top 50 Albums of 2018
3
Rap-Up Rap-Up's Best Albums of 2016
2
The Ringer The Best Albums of 2016
4
Rolling Stone 50 Best Albums of 2016
8
Slant Magazine The 25 Best Albums of 2016
2
Spin The 50 Best Albums of 2016
13
Splice Today Top 10 Records of 2016
2
Stereogum The 50 Best Albums of 2016
9
Time Out London The Best Albums of 2016
1
Uproxx The 20 Best Albums of 2016
10
Us Weekly Best Albums of 2016
5
USA Today The 50 Best Albums of 2016
9
The Village Voice Pazz & Jop Critics Poll of 2016
10
The Wire Top 50 Releases of the Year
13

AwardsEdit

At the 2016 BET Hip Hop Awards, The Life of Pablo was nominated for Album of the Year.[145] The album received a nomination for Best Rap Album at the 2017 Grammy Awards, ultimately losing to Chance the Rapper's third mixtape Coloring Book.[146] At the same ceremony, "Ultralight Beam" and "Famous" earned nominations for Best Rap/Sung Performance and Best Rap Song.[146] West's failure to win any awards gave him a streak of losing 16 Grammy nominations in a row.[147] Despite The Life of Pablo being more successful in terms of Grammy nominations than Yeezus, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and West's fourth studio album 808s & Heartbreak (2008), several publications viewed the lack of a nomination for Album of the Year as being a snub.[148][149][150][151] Writing for Bustle, Sam Rullo called West not receiving an Album of the Year nomination "so disappointing," though claimed that "the snub can't be deemed surprising, because it follows in a long tradition of the awards show shying away from his more experimental albums."[148] Rullo also claimed that other tracks from The Life of Pablo should have been nominated in award categories as well as "Ultralight Beam" and "Famous".[148] West skipped the 2017 Grammy Awards, though his mother-in-law Kris Jenner explained that this was due to him debuting Yeezy Season 5 at New York Fashion Week.[152] The Life of Pablo was nominated for Best Album at the 2017 NME Awards.[153] At the 2016 Soul Train Music Awards, the album earned a nomination for Album of the Year.[154]

Commercial performanceEdit

After being made available solely on Tidal, The Life of Pablo failed to chart initially due to West declining sharing the streaming numbers with Nielsen Music.[155] The album was reportedly subject to over 500,000 illegal downloads within 24 hours of release, standing as the most illegally downloaded album ever up to February 2016.[156] This cost West $10 million in sales since he originally planned to offer album downloads for $20 each, which would have equated to $10 million if 500,000 purchases had been made.[156] Despite West requesting Tidal to withhold streaming numbers for The Life of Pablo in February, the service revealed in March 2016 that the album was streamed over 250 million times within ten days of being released.[157]

On April 9, 2016, it was reported by Billboard after The Life of Pablo had been released to services other than Tidal that the album was set to debut atop the US Billboard 200 and had sold 90,000 album-equivalent units at the time.[158] The Life of Pablo ultimately experienced a chart-topping debut on the US Billboard 200, giving West his seventh consecutive number one album in the United States and selling 94,000 album-equivalent units.[159] By doing so, the album blocked American singer-songwriter Chris Stapleton's debut studio album Traveller (2015) from the top spot, which sold 73,000 units.[160] 28,000 of the album-equivalent units for The Life of Pablo were pure album sales, many of which came from pre-orders, while the remaining 66,000 units were streaming equivalent albums that equated to over 99 million streams and accounted for 70% of the units.[159][161] This stood as the first time that an album had topped the Billboard 200 with the majority of the units coming from streaming equivalent albums, surpassing the previous benchmark of 44.6% set by Rihanna's eight studio album Anti (2016).[159] The Life of Pablo's 66,000 streaming equivalent albums stood as the second highest streaming sum, standing behind the 67,000 of Canadian singer Justin Bieber's fourth studio album Purpose (2015).[159] In its second week on the Billboard 200, The Life of Pablo descended three places to number four and pushed 47,000 album-equivalent units, experiencing a 50% decline from the first week sales.[161] The album dropped 95% in pure album sales, selling around 1,000 copies.[161] However, when official numbers were distributed for album sales for the first half of 2016, The Life of Pablo was revealed to have sold only around 30,000 CDs and physical downloads and that added to units from streaming brought the album's sales totals to 339,000.[162] The album has since appeared on multiple year-end Billboard charts. The Life of Pablo ranked as the 27th most popular album of 2016 on the Billboard 200, while ranking at number 88 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart for that year.[163][164] The following year, the album descended 34 places to rank as the 64th most popular album of 2017 on the Billboard 200.[165] Despite this decline, The Life of Pablo ranked at a higher position in its second appearance on the year-end Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, rising 40 places to number 48.[166] Two year after being released, the album fell down 109 places on the year-end Billboard 200 for 2018, ranking as the 143rd most popular album of that year.[167] On April 4, 2017, The Life of Pablo was certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA for sales of 1,000,000 album-equivalent units.[168] Though it had been confirmed that the RIAA don't break out the components of any certifications, West's label Def Jam gave confirmation that the album was certified from streaming-only.[168] This made it stand as the first streaming-only album to go Platinum and also gave West his eight album to achieve an RIAA certification of Platinum or higher.[168]

The Life of Pablo reached number one on the Norwegian Albums Chart and remained on the chart for 62 weeks, giving West his first solo studio album in Norway as well as his longest-charting album in the country.[169] The album peaked at number two on the Swedish Albums chart, standing as West's highest charting album in Sweden.[170] In Denmark, The Life of Pablo attained the same position on the Danish Albums chart.[171] The album ranked as the 12th most popular album of 2016 on the chart.[172] The next year, The Life of Pablo fell down 27 places, ranking as the 39th most popular album on the Danish Albums chart in 2017.[173] In 2018, the album further descended by 50 places to rank as the 89th most popular album of the year on the chart.[174] On November 12, 2018, The Life of Pablo was certified 2x Platinum in Denmark by IFPI Danmark for shipments of 40,000 copies.[175] The album debuted on the Finnish Albums (Top 50) chart at number 12 and climbed seven places to number five in its second week on the chart.[176] On the Canadian Albums chart, The Life of Pablo entered at number six and ranked as the 40th most popular album of 2016 on the chart.[177][178] The album reached number eight on the Dutch Album Top 100 and ranked as the 72nd most popular album on the chart in 2016.[179][180] The same position was attained by The Life of Pablo on the Irish Albums Chart.[181] On the UK Albums Chart, the album charted at number 30.[182] It stood as West's eight top 40 album in the United Kingdom and spent 47 weeks on the chart.[182] The Life of Pablo was certified Gold in the UK by the BPI on March 3, 2017 for sales of 100,000 album-equivalent units that were the results of streams, becoming the first album to ever do so in the country.[182] Official Charts data reported that the 100,000 units required for being Gold accounted to each song being stream an average of 10.5 million times and that the album equivalent streams amounted to 100,316.[183]

The same week that The Life of Pablo debuted on the Billboard 200, 12 of the tracks appeared on the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, with "Famous" charting the highest at number 13.[184] However, since the song had debuted on the chart a week prior, only 11 of the 12 tracks entered the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs that week; the entry of "Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 1" at number 14 stood as the highest debut.[184] Eight of the tracks debuted on the US Billboard Hot 100, with "Famous" having the highest entry at number 34.[184] The tracks appearing on the charts lead to West reaching a new peak of number 3 on the Billboard Artist 100, which was the first time that he reached the top ten on the chart.[184] On the UK Singles Chart, nine of the tracks charted initially, with "Famous" having the highest debut by opening at number 33.[185]

Track listingEdit

This track listing reflects the final June 14 version. Credits adapted from West's website[186] and Tidal for tracks 14 and 20.[187]

No.TitleWriter(s)Producer(s)Length
1."Ultralight Beam"5:20
2."Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 1"
2:15
3."Pt. 2"
  • West
  • Menace
  • Rubin
  • Plain Pat[a]
  • Shaw[b]
2:10
4."Famous"
3:16
5."Feedback"
  • West
  • Brown
  • Goldstein
  • Young
  • Darius Jenkins
  • K. Rachel Mills
  • Marcus Byrd
  • Bennett
  • Ardalan Sarfaraz[f]
  • Manouchehr Cheshmazar[f]
  • West
  • Charlie Heat[a]
  • Goldstein[a]
2:27
6."Low Lights"
  • West
  • DJDS
  • M. Dean[b]
2:11
7."Highlights"
3:19
8."Freestyle 4"
2:03
9."I Love Kanye"WestWest0:44
10."Waves"
3:01
11."FML"
3:56
12."Real Friends"4:11
13."Wolves"
5:01
14."Frank's Track"
  • West
  • Cashmere Cat
  • Sinjin Hawke
0:38
15."Siiiiiiiiilver Surffffeeeeer Intermission"West0:56
16."30 Hours"
5:23
17."No More Parties in LA"
6:14
18."Facts (Charlie Heat Version)"
  • West
  • Metro Boomin
  • Southside
  • Charlie Heat
3:20
19."Fade"
3:13
20."Saint Pablo"
  • West
  • M. Dean
  • Ritter[a]
  • Goldstein[b]
6:12
Total length:66:39

Notes

Sample credits[186]

PersonnelEdit

Credits adapted from West's website[186] and Tidal for tracks 14 and 20.[187]

ChartsEdit

CertificationsEdit

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[175] 2× Platinum 40,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[193] Gold 100,316[183]
United States (RIAA)[194] Platinum 1,000,000 

^shipments figures based on certification alone
 sales+streaming figures based on certification alone

Release historyEdit

List of release dates, formats, and label
Region Date Format Label Ref(s)
Various February 14, 2016 Streaming (Tidal exclusive) [71]
April 1, 2016 [195]

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