Kanye West has released the complete credits for latest album The Life Of Pablo online and they show what a ridiculously varied and strange box of tricks it really is.
The best hip-hop records have always felt like one figure coralling together a wealth of talent from a number of sources – from featured artists to the best beats and samples – and The Life Of Pablo is no different.
First of all, it’s important to point out that while Kanye’s erratic behaviour does remain a cause for concern, the latest album is a success – from the gospel-tinged introduction of ‘Ulta Light Beam’ to the industrial intensity of ‘Feedback’ and right through to 808 & Heartbreak reminiscent closing number ‘Fade’.
In some ways, TLOP is a continuation of Kanye’s’ attempts to bring ideas from outsider art into a mainstream hip-hop record, but while West was out on his own in 2013, this record has seen him bring a number of figures into the studio.
Here we offer a guide to some of the guests, samples and producers you need to know.
Whilst many artists will look to put their best wares in the the shop window (loading the opening tracks with the biggest names on the album), Kanye actually gives the spotlight to a number of under-the-radar acts for the gospel-style opener ‘Ultra Light Beam’.
Chance The Rapper has developed a huge cult following since his second mixtape Acid Rap in 2013, pleasing critics and fans alike with his intricate world play, off-beat delivery and unashamed nerdiness.
Despite the success of the mixtape (achieving over one million downloads on just one website), Chance is yet to release an album, with his placement front and centre on this huge mainstream release coming as something of a shock.
Accompanying him is Nico Segal, also known as Donnie Trumpet – a trumpeter who combines jazz, electronica and hip-hop into a beautiful hybrid of all three. Donnie Trumpet has released one studio album so far, titled Surf, which was available as a free download through iTunes – but again attracted huge critical acclaim.
As well as the bright new faces, TLOP is peppered with a number of established acts in understated roles. Kelly Price is a six-time Grammy nominated R&B singer who last released an album in 2014. The often aloof Andre 3000 of Outkast provides backing vocals on ’30 Hours’, whilst previously assumed-missing Frank Ocean shows up for vocal duties on ‘Wolves’.
Whereas previous Kanye tracks such as ‘Monster’ telegraphed the collaborations, The Life of Pablo keeps everyone on an even level – whether or not they happen to be Kendrick Lamar.
Huge hip-hop albums are no longer the stronghold of the exclusive club of producers they used to be.
Glasgow-born electro artist Hudson Mohawke is no stranger to working with West, with credits on tracks such as ‘Mercy’ and ‘Blood On The Leaves’. But his work features on a staggering four tracks on The Life of Pablo – putting his contribution second only to Kanye’s long-time collaborator Mike Dean.
Another leftfield choice is the iconic Madlib – a figure who is considered highly by those familiar with his work with MF DOOM, Talib Kweli and Freddie Gibbs – but is has often been overlooked by the biggest names in the industry.
As an artist who made his name producing songs for artists such as Ludacris, Jay-Z and Alicia Keys before ever stepping up to the mic himself, it’s no surprise that the samples used on the latest record are a truly eclectic assortment.
From the familiar reggae beats of Sister Nancy’s ‘Bam Bam’ on ‘Famous’, to the use of Goldfrapp album track ‘Human’ on ‘Freestyle 4’, it’s a scattergun approach to genre and sounds from start to finish.
Some of the stranger moments include rockers Rare Earth‘s ‘(I Know) I’m Losing You)’ – the most successful all-white act on Motown Records – and the use of ‘Hit’ by Section 25, a post-punk outfit from Blackpool, who were signed to Factory Records.
The moody ’30 Hours’ features ‘Answers Me’ by obscure composer Arthur Russell – whilst possible single ‘Real Friends’ samples ‘Friends’ by Whodini, an ’80s hip-hop track previously used by both Nas and MF DOOM in different decades.
Whilst there’s always the fear that looking ‘behind the curtain’ may spoil the experience, getting familiar with the samples and guests on The Life Of Pablo reveals something about the time, effort and consideration that went into making a hugely impressive record.
The Life of Pablo is currently available exclusively on Tidal