Kanye West’s 7th studio album, “The Life of Pablo,” has been making waves since he dropped it on Valentine’s Day this year. There had been much buzz around the album, as expected with an artist of Kanye’s relevance in the culture. One of the songs that made for much fanfare and Black Twitter arguments was the song “Famous,” in which Yeezy refers to Taylor Swift as a “b---- he made famous.” Four months later, now there’s a visual. And Kanye chose to premiere the visual art for “Famous” at none other than Inglewood’s Fabulous Forum last Friday.
It’s been argued that Swift knew about the line, and that Kanye reached out personally prior to releasing the track. Recently, as the song has grown in popularity, Swift has backtracked, saying she knew nothing about it, causing a clash of cultures and opinions on whether or not the self-proclaimed, “greatest artist of all time” pushed the envelope a little too far.
The music video is a genre clash of found footage/Reality TV meets 13th Century Italian Renaissance paintings brought to life in a way only Kanye West’s mind could envision. The video is directly sampled from the mind of American realist painter Vincent Desiderio, whose painting “Sleep” became the major running inspiration for the piece. Desiderio was invited out to the event, where he said, “…it was a feat of magic, I was speechless.”
The piece starts out in a super cut of Kanye sound bites before we are transported into a room where the only light source is provided by a VHS camera, revealing the remnants of a long night of partying and God knows what else, with some of the most famous musicians, politicians, entertainers, celebrities, and even a former president, who West once announced to the world, “didn’t care about Black people.” Oh, and they’re all naked, draped in the finest Persian silk. Or perhaps it was French.
It’s 10 minutes of uncomfortable, awkward black comedy, as images of Rihanna sleeping next to Chris Brown are juxtaposed against Bill Cosby sleeping with his Jello pudding pop fingers lightly grazing Caitlyn Jenner’s elbow. After a few minutes of music and celebrity introductions, the music is cut abruptly and we’re left with the sounds of everyone sleeping. Kim sleeps angelically between Kanye and Ray J, and Kanye rests in between Kim and a breast-exposed Taylor Swift. It’s so much chaos in such a peaceful state of existence for all of them, which makes the 10-minutes feel like 3 and a half.
From “Father, I Stretch My Hands,” “Real Friends,” “Waves,” and “30 Hours,” to the Madlib produced, “No More Parties In LA,” “The Life of Pablo” is one of Kanye’s best works since “808s & Heartbreak.” A lot of music critics and fans were split in their opinions of “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” and his last effort, “Yeezus,” which I thought was by far, his most subpar despite 2 or 3 slappers.
The most interesting facet about TLOP is the idea that Kanye is attempting to do something no other artist has thought of at this point, and that’s making the album an ever changing, living album.
Thanks to the advent of music streaming services like Tidal and Apple Music, artists are no longer confined to their music existing on a hard disk, frozen in time. Now, what visionary artists like Kanye are doing is creating an entirely new framework on how music and art can coexist and create new meaningful expressions as the album ages.
Kanye’s already added a new song “Saint Pablo” to the TLOP album track list, and a remix to “Father I Stretch My Hands,” is rumored to be added soon.
The “Famous” premiere was met with a sold-out crowd, on short notice, despite LA traffic. It was said no one would drop everything they were doing to pay $25 to go and watch a music video. But, when you’re Lord Yeezus, the disciples follow, and it typically results in pop culture magic as social media has caught on fire, and as folks are now starting to see what everyone else saw on Friday.