Kanye West – Saint Pablo

by Stephen

kanye-west-the-life-of-pablo

Two Kanye West posts in a single week? Let’s chalk it up to a blessing by the Most High. This week, The Life of Pablo has risen again with a new outro song in its place called “Saint Pablo”. And barring any recency bias, this newly released track is one of Kanye’s strongest off of his newest album.

I know I’m the most influential/That TIME cover was just confirmation/This generation’s closest thing to Einstein

Early on, prior to the release of The Life of Pablo, it all started with a notepad. On it, Kanye’s Twitter feed would show updates to the pad; new signatures, denoting collaborators and family celebrities, and a track listing that moved about to the whims of its creator . One version of this list showed the album actually ending with “Ultra Light Beam”, a gospel-influenced song with pentecostal chants, prayers and a chorus. But then we all know that it was ultimately moved to the very front, as an opener to The Life of Pablo. There, it set the stage quick in terms of overall feel and message, that this would be an album of self-revelation, exploring the dimensions of Kanye’s struggles with his faith, family and fame.  And now, with “Saint Pablo” in its rightful place, that thematic atmosphere comes full circle, providing a deeply introspective (and somewhat satisfying) conclusion to this haphazard album.

I wasn’t supposed to make it past 25.

In terms of the big picture, it’s fascinating to see Kanye’s continued disregard for the music industry’s norms. Instead of resigning The Life of Pablo’s fate to a state of finality, he instead chose flux, keeping it in a state of purgatory and allowing it to spring back to life at he pleases. He reflects that sentiment in the opening lines of “Saint Pablo” when he states, “Yeah, 9:08 L.A. time/Back in the lab and shit.” It’s a casual declaration for him but one that commands so much attention and fervor from his acolytes. And he’s done it before, most notably with “Ultra Light Beam”, “Famous” and “FML”, tweaking the vocals and the chorus, submitting and re-submitting the album up on various streaming sites for re-release as he pleases. 

And you’re lookin’ at the church in the night sky/Wonderin’ whether God’s gonna say hi/Oh, you’re lookin’ at the church in the night sky/And you wonder where is God in your nightlife

Heard within the context of an actual album, I mentioned that “Saint Pablo’s” placement in the track list lends a certain agency to its immediate sense of belonging. It fits in with the “gospel” narrative that is the thematic backbone of The Life of Pablo. Specifically speaking, there is a certain type of beseeching going on here, amidst all his bragging, where Kanye vocalizes his familial conflicts, doubts and inhibitions for all to hear. Lines like “My wife said, I can’t say no to nobody/And at this rate we gon’ both die broke”, “When I turned on the news and they was buryin’ me/One set of footsteps, you was carryin’ me and “Checkin’ Instagram comments to crowdsource my self esteem” show those moments of soul baring, something that’s not too out of the norm for this artist. And yet, here it comes off as quite genuine, set to a minimal tune with Sampha crying out “Father, father, father…” in the song’s hook. In those moments, “Saint Pablo” listens like a ending prayer in lyrical form, coalescing all the chaotic streams of consciousness in The Life of Pablo into one uncharacteristically neat outro.

“Saint Pablo” is available for streaming on Apple Music and Tidal and purchase on iTunes.