Kanye West: Famous | Wanting To Be Free
A look into the influences that helped shape Kanye’s hit single “Famous” off of “The Life of Pablo.” With investigations into the music of Nina Simone, Sister Nancy, and more.
The Life of Pablo is the seventh solo album and eighth studio album by American rapper Kanye West. It was released on February 14, 2016, by GOOD Music and Def Jam Recordings. Recording sessions took place from 2013 to 2016, in Italy, Mexico, Canada and the United States. Record production on the album was handled by West alongside a variety of producers such as Mike Dean, Noah Goldstein, Metro Boomin, Rick Rubin, Hudson Mohawke, and more. He also enlisted a wide array of guest vocalists, including Ty Dolla Sign, Desiigner, Kid Cudi, The-Dream, Chance the Rapper, Rihanna, and Frank Ocean.
The Life of Pablo was preceded by several promotional singles as part of West’s GOOD Fridays giveaways, including the tracks “Real Friends” and “No More Parties in LA”. In the months before its release, the album’s title and track list went through several publicized changes, and West’s activity on social media became the source of several high-profile controversies. An early version of the album was premiered by West on February 11, 2016, at Madison Square Garden as part of his Yeezy Season 3 fashion show in collaboration with Adidas. After several additional recording sessions and alterations, the album was launched exclusively through the streaming service Tidal three days later.
Following the official streaming release of The Life of Pablo, West continued to make changes to the music, describing it as “a living breathing changing creative expression” and declaring the end of the album as a dominant release form. Def Jam confirmed his intention to continue working on the album over the subsequent months. A largely updated version of the album, which included alternate mixes and other changes, was made available on other streaming services and for digital purchase on his website on April 1, 2016; no official physical CD release is planned. The album was supported by the singles “Famous“, “Father Stretch My Hands“, and “Fade“.
The Life of Pablo received positive reviews from critics, with particular attention drawn to the fragmented, unfinished nature of its composition and release. Following Tidal’s disclosure of its streaming data and the album’s release to competing streaming services, The Life of Pablo debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, becoming West’s seventh consecutive number one album on the chart and the first album to reach the summit primarily through streaming, accompanied by 28,000 copies sold. It was named among the best albums of 2016 by several publications, and was nominated for Best Rap Album at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards, while both “Ultralight Beam” and “Famous” were nominated for Best Rap/Sung Performance and Best Rap Song.