The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.
There’s a thin line between genius and madness, yet, which side you stand on depends largely on who you’re talking to. And if you ask most rap fans, the madness that surrounds and defines Kanye West’s music, career, and overall lifestyle is a direct byproduct of his genius, which was captured throughout the process of liberating his seventh studio album, The Life of Pablo.
Released on February 14, 2016; the album was synonymous with spectacle, as Yeezy pulled out all of the stops to build anticipation around it including playing it at his own Yeezy Season 3 fashion show at Madison Square Garden. Initially titling the album SWISH, and then Waves before settling on The Life of Pablo, Kanye gave various updates throughout the recording process while alluding to various artists and cultural tastemakers being involved in helping with the creation and curation of the project. When all was said and done, the LP became the first album to debut atop the Billboard 200 solely through streaming and was yet another feather in the cap of Mr. West, who continued his tradition of cohesive, yet wildly entertaining projects.
Treating the album like a canvas, the final version boasted guest appearances by Chance the Rapper, Kid Cudi, Desiigner, Rihanna, The Weeknd, Ty Dolla Sign, Post Malone, Kendrick Lamar, Sia, Vic Mensa, Chris Brown and Young Thug, as well as productions by various A-listers including executive producers Rick Rubin and Noah Goldstein. Certified double-platinum, The Life of Pablo earned five Grammy award nominations, and was among the most critically acclaimed releases of 2016.
With five years having passed since its release, we unearthed nine interesting facts about The Life of Pablo that may catch you by surprise. Peep them below.
1. “30 Hours” Was Inspired By One of Kanye’s Ex-Girlfriends
Having displayed a penchant for weaving testimonials drawn from his personal life into his music, it’s no surprise that references to various past experiences are sprinkled throughout The Life of Pablo. Many of these recollections may be overt, but one that may have flown over listeners’ heads is “30 Hours,” Yeezy’s ode to his ex-girlfriend Sumeke Rainey, who he dated during his rise to fame. Tidbits of the inner-workings of their relationship, as well as its eventual end, can be heard on classic Kanye cuts like “Never Let Me Down” and “Touch the Sky,” but is rehashed on “30 Hours” with tell-tale references including the estimated 30 hours it takes to drive between Los Angeles, where Kanye was working at the time, and his and Rainey’s hometown of Chicago. While Rainey’s name isn’t mentioned, all of the embedded clues point to Ye’s former beau being a source of inspiration for this track.
2. The Origin of the Prayer on “Ultralight Beam” Revealed
Kanye West may be the headliner, however, the first voices you hear on The Life of Pablo belong to Samoria and Natalie Green, two South Carolina residents who gained attention after an Instagram clip of a then 4-year-old Natalie delivering an impassioned prayer went viral. “We don’t want no devils in the house, God,” she shouts, as Samoria ad-libs. “We want the Lord, and that’s it.” The video, which was recorded prior to a family road trip, popped up on Kanye’s radar, who then reached out to the Green family to ask permission to use the clip on his album, which they obliged. While a lawsuit, filed by Natalie Green’s biological parents against West, disputes the validity of that agreement, regardless of the outcome, Natalie’s contribution to The Life of Pablo is quintessential and her words and voice will forever be etched in our heads.
3. Chance The Rapper Was Supposed To Appear On More Songs
When Chance the Rapper began turning heads as a teenager in Chicago’s burgeoning rap scene, comparisons between him and Kanye were rampant, which created anticipation for the moment the two would cross paths musically. Fans’ prayers were answered in 2015 when Chance locked in the studio with Ye to record sessions that resulted in his appearance on “Ultralight Beam.” However, despite casual fans and the general public being familiar with Chance’s contributions to the Grammy-nominated cut, many are unaware of the extent of his involvement with the album, as he originally was slated to appear on numerous tracks, most notably “Famous” and “Waves,” the latter of which was co-written by Chance himself.
4. The Truth About Travis Scott’s Lost Vocals From “FML”
One track that was a product of multiple variations is “FML,” which initially was slated to feature Travis Scott in addition to The Weeknd. In the end, Travis’ vocals would be axed, but if you listen to The Life of Pablo demo “Fall Out Of Heaven,” the similarities between those leaks and the final version connect the dots to the various iterations of “FML.”
5. The Origin of “No More Parties In L.A.” Revealed
Hip hop is all about what’s fresh, but in terms of the mechanics behind the actual making of the music, many of our favorite songs went through an aging process that brought out their best qualities. This is the case with “No More Parties in L.A.,” one of the first tracks from the album to be unveiled as part of Ye’s revamped G.O.O.D. Friday series. Featuring Kendrick Lamar, the song is credited as a Madlib production, but what the liner notes don’t reveal is the fact that the beat for the track was a holdover from years earlier from Ye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy sessions. One of five beats Madlib left in Yeezy’s hands, the appeal of “No More Parties in L.A.” has as much to do with its gritty sound as his and K. Dot’s verses, making it an oldie but goodie sonically and literally.
6. “Famous” Was Recorded Following A Concert Overseas
“Niggas in Paris” is Kanye and JAY-Z’s ode to their lavish experiences during visits to the world-renowned destination, which Kanye gleaned inspiration from for “Famous.” Recorded in Paris following a Yeezy live performance at the Louvre, the song, with its frantic backdrop and artsy, yet unbridled accompanying clip, certainly mirrors the vibe of the city.
7. Here’s Yo Gotti’s Connection To “Saint Pablo”
Collaborating on a pair of songs, “Champions” and “Castro,” in 2016 set the stage for Kanye and Yo Gotti to solidify a kinship. One show of solidarity between the two was Yeezy’s attendance at the listening party for Gotti’s The Art of Hustle album at 1OAK in L.A. shortly after the release of The Life of Pablo. There, the rapper premiered “Saint Pablo,” an unreleased song that would be leaked online and ultimately added as a bonus track months later on June 15, coinciding with Ye’s announcement of the “Saint Pablo Tour.”
8. “Fade” Was Recorded In Rick Rubin’s Studio
Kanye West’s proficiency in blending genres has left him tagged as a musical genius and is evidenced by his studio sessions, which often includes several artists and producers with varying styles. One instance that’s a product of these sonic clashes is “Fade,” which features guest vocals by Post Malone and Ty Dolla $ign with additional production by DJDS, Charlie Handsome, Noah Goldstein, Benji B, MIKE DEAN, and Anthony Kilhoffer. And being that the song was created at Shangri-La, famed producer Rick Rubin’s studio in Malibu, California; its status as a universal dance-floor jam is undeniable.
9. Madonna Recorded Vocals To “Highlights”
With plentiful forays into pop under his belt, Kanye has always been willing to step outside the box and collaborate with numerous sirens in the genre, Madonna included. First joining forces in 2008 for her track “Beat Goes On,” and doubling back to work on her 2015 track, “Illuminati,” unbeknownst to many, the Material Girl repaid the favor with her appearance on an early demo of “Highlights” that surfaced shortly after Kanye’s release.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
Check out our gift guide that highlights some of our favorite Walmart finds in time for Black Friday.
“REVOLT Black News” correspondent Kennedy Rue counts down the top five moments from the 2023 Billboard Music Awards, including surprising wins, historic firsts, and dope performances. Sponsored by Amazon.
On Oct. 10, Walmart unveiled a brand new, state of the art creative studio on the campus of Central State University.
The Walmart HBCU Black & Unlimited Tour made its final stop at Mississippi Valley State University (MVSU) and left a lasting impact on students and alumni alike.
Below, our gift guide highlights some of our favorite Walmart finds for anyone in need of a home refresh.
After unveiling their state of the art creative studio on the campus of Central State University, Walmart brought the HBCU Black & Unlimited Tour to Virginia State University (VSU) on Oct. 13.
Walmart HBCU Black & Unlimited Tour brings attention and wisdom to North Carolina Central University
On Oct. 17, Walmart brought the third stop of the HBCU Black & Unlimited Tour to North Carolina Central University (NCCU).
Groovey Lew on hip hop style, Johnell Young's industry secrets, BGS salon's wig mastery and more | 'Black Girl Stuff'
Fashion King Groovey Lew on masterminding hip-hop’s most iconic looks. Actor Johnell Young reveals the secret to breaking into the entertainment industry. Celebrity hairstylist Dontay Savoy and got2B ambassador Tokyo Stylez are in the BGS Salon with the perfect wig install. Plus, comedian Lauren Knight performs.
On this all-new episode of “On In 5,” multitalented Nigerian artist Pheelz opens up about waiting for his opportunity to fully express himself through music, his inspirations and emotions, and the musical icons he grew up admiring. Watch!
Kareem Cook talks growing up in The Bronx, studying at Duke & networking | 'The Blackprint with Detavio Samuels'
On this all-new episode of “The Blackprint with Detavio Samuels,” the host and REVOLT CEO sits down with Kareem Cook. Throughout the introspective episode, Cook talks growing up in The Bronx, studying at Duke and being nervous to be in the South at the time, network vs. education, taking advantage of your opportunities, and connecting with Debbie Allen. Watch!
Tiffany Haddish on therapy, wild fan interactions & the upcoming 'Haunted Mansion' movie | 'The Jason Lee Show'
On this all-new episode of “The Jason Lee Show,” the one and only Tiffany Haddish sits for a must-watch conversation about wild interactions with fans, her new movie ‘Haunted Mansion,’ bringing her therapist on dates, and being present. Watch the hilarious interview here.
For this all-new episode of “On In 5,” singer-songwriter BNXN discusses his journey from IT to music, finding his voice and originality, linking up with Wizkid for their hits “Mood” and “Many Ways,” and what fans can expect from him this year — including a new album. Watch the full episode here!
This is the inspiring story of Karen Washington, a pioneering urban farmer who has been revolutionizing urban spaces by transforming them into vibrant community gardens and educational hubs. Sponsored by State Farm.
In October, Walmart unveiled a brand new, state of the art creative studio on the campus of Central State University. The HBCU located in Wilberforce, OH was the first stop on Walmart’s Black and Unlimited HBCU Tour.
“Every time I’m in trouble, it’s been Black men that have come to my aid,” Madam DA Fani Willis said at REVOLT WORLD while speaking on the stereotype that they are not dependable or worth dating.
Lauren London sparks conversation on how Black parents unintentionally give kids negative outlook on money
At the live taping of “Assets Over Liabilities” at REVOLT WORLD, Lauren London opened up about how witnessing the financial decisions adults made during her childhood fueled her outlook on money.
Black media leaders stress the space's importance because we're always antagonists in mainstream's storytelling
“I definitely feel those ‘heavier is the crown’ moments. But I also believe that Black entrepreneurs are uniquely positioned to be successful in the future,” Detavio Samuels said at AfroTech.
In this new episode of ‘Bet on Black,’ food and beverage take center stage as aspiring Black entrepreneurs from It’s Seasoned, Black Farmer Box, and Moors Brewing Co. present their business ideas to judges with mentorship from Melissa Butler. Watch here!
In an exclusive interview with REVOLT, Machel Montano dove into his musical journey, childhood stardom, and an exciting new chapter in business.