The Constantly Evolving Life of Pablo

Good luck remembering what the original TLOP sounded like.

The Life of Pablo

There are two main interpretations of Kanye West's The Life of Pablo. You can either view it as a hurried, unfinished product or as a living, evolving expression of art. It's likely a mix of both.

At this stage in his career, Kanye West can afford to take as much time as he needs to finish his album. Yet, since it first docked in February, The Life of Pablo has been constantly shifting and evolving.

Everything about this album--the title tweaks, the up-to-the-minute Twitter updates leading up to the last-minute switch-ups in the buildup, and the subtle but bold post-release tweaks all point to one thing: The Life of Pablo was destined to be a living experiment.

It's fascinating that much of the conversation around TLOP has been about the changes and the confusing nature of the release rather than the music itself. A red herring, maybe? Wouldn't it be a very Kanye thing to do to dilute the discourse by giving us a wide range of interesting topics to mull over?

So, let's talk about the music on The Life of Pablo. Despite the updates, Pablo is still a frustrating and bizarre yet enjoyable listen. At times, Kanye's humanity grabs me ("Real Friends," "FML" and "Ultralight Beam"). At other times, his obnoxious lyrics make me cringe ("Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1," "Famous," "Facts").

Musically, it joins the ranks of Kanye's most experimental albums, alongside 808s & Heartbreak, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Yeezus.

The ideas are impressive, too. Who else would think to combine a Chance the Rapper verse, a Kirk Franklin spoken word performance, a choir and a 4 year-old preacher? Who would dare pair Rihanna with Nina Simone?

As far as Kanye West albums go, TLOP slides right in with the rest of his catalog. It has all your Kanyeisms: a stitched palette of seemingly disparate ideas, characters and sounds bound only by an unwavering desire to continually explore new depths.

The good news is that Kanye has figured out how to make us listen to music again. In an age of streaming and one hit wonders, Kanye is reviving the album experience. With the frequent updates and the music now readily available to all the major players, there's a legitimate incentive to revisit The Life of Pablo from time to time.

A Guide to The Life of Pablo Changes

Those that appreciate the non finito nature of art will appreciate the changes to The Life of Pablo. Most of the changes are mixing tune-ups. Kanye finessed the vocals on songs like “Famous” and “Waves.” Rihanna’s vocals are crispier on the former, and Kanye re-recorded his vocals for the latter. 

There are some minor lyrical tweaks on "Ultralight Beam" and "Famous". Unfortunately, that awful “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” opener and the beef-baiting Taylor Swift reference on "Famous" survived the edits.

Some of the tweaks are subtle and almost subjective. It's as if this album is constantly morphing in your ear.

Here’s what changed (so far):

Ultralight Beam

Chance the Rapper gets a new line (“No one can judge”) where a brief silence once sat. The line previously appeared on the SNL version.

Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1

Kanye’s vocals towards the end (“I wanna wake up with you in my...”) get assistance from backing vocals.

"Pt. 2"

Better mixing. You may also notice improved transition from Pt. 1 to Pt. 2.

Famous
Kanye changed a line, and it's not the one you're thinking about. “She be Puerto Rican day waving” becomes “She in school to be a real estate agent.” Also: Rihanna’s vocals get a post-surgical lift.

"Feedback"
This version has less reverb and feels smoother. A slight change to the beat around the 1:28 mark.

"Freestyle 4"

The only noticeable change here is: Kanye tacked on a new layer of instrumentation at the :45 mark.

"Waves"

Re-recorded vocals. Better mixing to smoothen out the snare. Kanye’s vocals flow more evenly with the beat.

"FML"

The Weeknd is joined by a backing vocal track.

"Wolves"

This is a drastically different version from the track that made the initial cut. Vic Mensa and Sia, who graced the original single, return on this version.

"Frank's Track"

Frank Ocean's bit has been pulled out of the original "Wolves" and isolated as a separate song.

"30 Hours"

A beat break now precedes the Victoria’s Secret reference.

"No More Parties in LA"

On the original, Kendrick Lamar’s vocals were buried under the Madlib instrumentation. Kendrick Lamar’s vocals stand out more on this version.

"Fade"

This still has a triumphant vibe of a closing track, but it now has an actual conclusion. Instead of the abrupt ending on the original, the sample faded longer and leaves us with “I can feel it.”

"Saint Pablo"
On June 15, 2016, Kanye West temporarily deleted and refreshed The Life of Pablo with a new song. Released on the eve of West's Saint Pablo tour announcement, the new track, also titled "Saint Pablo," turns focus to his previously announced personal debt.

More changes on the way?

According to a Def Jam press release, Kanye plans to update TLOP throughout the year. So check back for updates on the updates.