When Kanye West released his 7th studio album The Life of Pablo in February of 2016, reviews were mixed. After 5 or 6 classic albums (depends on how you feel about 2013’s YEEZUS), this release left critics, and fans, feeling let down. If only they knew that we were all just over 2 years away from Kanye donning a M.A.G.A. hat and calling slavery a “choice.” I personally think the high points of “Saint Pablo,” “No More Parties in L.A.,” & “Real Friends” make it an overall decent album. Cuts like “Feedback,” “Wolves,” “Famous,” “Father Stretch My Hands Pt.s 1 & 2,” and “Facts” are all classic Ye songs in my opinion as well. What I’m saying is, the perception of this album is off just a bit. Just because it wasn’t a perfect album like, say, Graduation or My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, doesn’t mean it wasn’t a great album. We just hold Kanye to a higher standard than almost any other artist. But, this article isn’t meant to serve as my defense for The Life of Pablo, though these first 130 words may beg to differ, and such an article may come later on down the line; this article is about taking a close, philosophical look at the song “Freestyle 4”.
“Freestyle 4” is one of the most perplexing things I’ve ever heard. On the surface layer, it’s a shitty song. Kanye really doesn’t seem to be saying much of any substance; though, he is certainly off a substance, or, more likely, a few substances during this song. But, if we peel back the layers, like an onion, like an ogre, it is revealed that this song actually proposes a deep existential question. Before we dive into the metaphysics though, let’s continue to set the stage that Mr. West pontificates his question upon.
Firstly, this title. “Freestyle 4,” what am I supposed to make of this? What did Freestyles 1,2, & 3 contain? Did they exist? Secondly, this beat. This beat is what carries the song during the mundane listen. It’s spooky. It’s grimy. It’s got weird electrical synths bouncing around. This beat is a 10/10 seven days a week, twice on Sunday. Next, the song opens with what I can safely assume is a not sober Kanye West declaring, “This that rap god shit n****/I rip every one of these mothafuckas down/Aye!” and then proceeding to spit a verse that wouldn’t even qualify as that “rap alter boy shit.” He then growls a couple times?
“Now, wait a minute Nick, it sounds like you don’t like this song. Why are you writing an article about it?”
Not true, I actually love this song. I show this song off to people who have no business ever hearing it. I showed my sister this song once, she was not amused. I almost showed my mom this song, then I was like “Nick, you might be too amped up about this song, you probably shouldn’t even drive a car right now, you’re not making rational decisions.” I get so excited because I need to hear their opinion on this existential question that I’ve been alluding to. Let’s get to that (finally). It happens around the end of the verse, when Kanye says, “What if we fucked at this Vogue party?/Would we be the life of the whole party?/Shut down the whole party/Would everybody start fuckin’?/Would everybody start fuckin’?/Would everybody start fuckin’?” This. This right here, is the single most important existential question I’ve ever heard proposed. It’s heavy stuff. Let’s think about it, what do we know about the elites in the fashion and/or Hollywood industry? There’s a lot of passion, and sexual energy floating around. So, let’s say that Kanye West and Kim Kardashian are at this Vogue party, and, all of the sudden, they start fucking, what happens next? Would that be the life of the whole party, maybe. Would that shut down and end the party, perhaps. But, would everyone start fucking? I think so. I really do. I think if Kanye and Kim started fucking at this hypothetical, but probably-based-on-true-events, Vogue party, that the rest of the party members would join. I think some animalistic, cult-like behavior would just take over all the guests present. How could it not? I mean, that’s Kim and Kanye breaking down all social barriers, the tribal, primal instincts would have to kick in. Next thing you know, we’ve got an orgy at the Vogue party.
Yes, everybody would start fuckin’.