West began work on the album in late 2013 when it was still known as So Help Me God, and it was intended for a release in 2014 with Rick Rubin and Q-Tip helping with production. In 2015, he renamed it to SWISH, and at the start of 2016 he revived the GOOD Fridays initiative that he started with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy to promote the album, in which a new single is released every Friday. West premiered the album on February 11 (its announced release date) at Madison Square Garden as part of his Yeezy Season 3 clothing line presentation, but ended up delaying it slightly further to refine the track list one last time and to include the track "Waves" at the request of Chance the Rapper.
The Life of Pablo was initially released as an exclusive for the streaming service Tidal, which resulted in a huge Colbert Bump as it caused a large increase in subscribers to the service and 250 million streams in the first 10 days. Following the album's release on Tidal, West continued to make changes to the album, declaring it "a living breathing changing creative expression." 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. 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. However, it was illegally downloaded over 500,000 times within three days of being released.
- "Ultralight Beam" (5:11)
- "Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1" (2:12)
- "Pt. 2" (2:07)
- "Famous" (3:11)
- "Feedback" (2:23)
- "Low Lights" (2:08)
- "Highlights" (3:14)
- "Freestyle 4" (2:00)
- "I Love Kanye" (0:44)
- "Waves" (2:56)
- "FML" (3:49)
- "Real Friends" (4:04)
- "Wolves" (4:53)
- "Frank's Track"note (0:37)
- "Siiiiiiiiilver Surffffeeeeer Intermission" (0:55)
- "30 Hours" (5:14)
- "No More Parties in LA" (6:04)
- "Facts (Charlie Heat Version)" (3:15)
- "Fade" (3:08)
- "Saint Pablo"note (6:12)
The Tropes of Pablo:
- Album Filler: The extended outro of "30 Hours" which Kanye describes bluntly at one point as "an ad-lib track" can feel like this, considering it takes up around 3 of the track's 5 minutes.
- Badass Boast: From "Highlights"21 Grammys, superstar family
We the new Jacksons
- Broken Record:
I know it's corny bitches you wish you could unfollow
- In "Wolves":
I know it's corny niggas you wish you could unswallow
I need every bad bitch, every equinox
- In "Highlights":
I need to know right now if you a freak or not
- Careful with That Axe: In "Facts":Every time I talk they say I'm too aggressive
I was out here spazzin', NOW Y'ALL GET THE MESSAGE?!
- Corpsing: Kanye chuckles a little at the end of "I Love Kanye".
- Cross-Referenced Titles: "Low Lights" and "Highlights".
- A Day in the Limelight: "Frank's Track" only features vocals from Frank Ocean and no else
- Ensemble Cast: On par with MBDTF. The features on this album include Chris Brown, Rihanna, The Weeknd, Young Thug, Ty Dolla $ign, Frank Ocean, Desiigner, Andre 3000, Chance the Rapper, and Kendrick Lamar.
- Epic Rocking: Four tracks are over five minutes, with the longest ("Saint Pablo") being just over six.
- Fading into the Next Song:
- The two parts of "Father Stretch My Hands".
- "Highlights" into "Freestyle 4".
- The female singing at the end of "Real Friends" continues into "Wolves".
- Technically, "Wolves" into "Frank's Track", considering the latter is merely the former's outro anyway.
- Follow the Leader: In-Universe, from "I Love Kanye":See, I invented Kanye, there wasn't any Kanyes
And now I look and look around and there's so many Kanyes
- Fun with Acronyms: "FML" uses the titular acronym as shorthand for both "fuck my life" as well as "for my lady".
- Gainax Ending: "Pt. 2" ends by abruptly transitioning from "Panda" into a brief sample, which is then followed by a bunch of computerized female voices singing, which is followed by a sample from the first part of "Father Stretch My Hands". It's weird.
- Genre Roulette: This album is easily Kanye's most sonically diverse yet, ranging from gospel to upbeat radio-friendly hip hop to slower, more sentimental, and more experimental songs. Whether or not this is a good thing depends entirely on who you ask.
- Incredibly Lame Pun: Shown on "Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1" when Kanye indulges in some memorable Cringe Comedy.Now if I fuck this model
And she just bleached her asshole
If I get bleach on my T-shirt
Imma feel like an asshole.
- Letting the Air Out of the Band: How "Pt. 2" ends.
- Last Note Nightmare: "Freestyle 4" ends with the beat suddenly collapsing and devolving into an unsettling electronic noise repeated for the last 15 seconds.
- Miniscule Rocking: "I Love Kanye", "Frank's Track", and the intermission are all under a minute.
- Mondegreen: Many have misheard Rihanna's "Famous" lyric "I loved you better than your own kin did" as "I loved you better than your own candy".
- One-Word Title: "Famous", "Feedback", "Highlights", "Waves", "FML", "Wolves", "Facts", "Fade".
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: How "Wolves" is rapped, for the most part.
- Real Men Love Jesus: Kanye's Christian background is present on some parts of the album, namely "Ultralight Beam" and "Low Lights", to the point that he called TLOP a gospel album.
- Rearrange the Song:
- "Highlights" reuses the melodies from "Low Lights", which is essentially all they have in common aside from their titles.
- The version of "Facts" on the album (the "Charlie Heat Version"), has different production than the original Metro Boomin version Kanye uploaded to his Soundcloud at the start of 2016.
- Sampling: Present throughout from a number of different sources like Rare Earth, Nina Simone (which Kanye had already sampled on "Blood on the Leaves" from Yeezus), Pastor T.L Barrett, Goldfrapp, and even Jay-Z. It is a Kanye West album, after all.
- Self-Referential Humor: From "I Love Kanye", which has the opening line "I miss the old Kanye":What if Kanye made a song about Kanye
Called "I Miss the Old Kanye"?
Man, that'd be so Kanye!
- Spoken Word in Music:
- "Ultralight Beam" has two examples: the sample of the praying little girl that starts the album, and Kirk Cameron's prayer at the end of the song.
- "Low Lights" samples an acapella track that features a woman talking about how much she loves Jesus.
- The intermission, which features Max B and French Montana.
- Take That!:
For all the South Side niggas that know me best
- An infamous one on "Famous":
I feel like, me and Taylor might still have sex
Why? I made that bitch famous
I bet me and Ray J would be friends
- From "Highlights":
If we ain't love the same bitch
Yeah, he might have hit it first
Only problem is I'm rich
- "Facts" takes many a shot at Nike, denouncing his affiliation with him, while celebrating his success with Adidas (who make the Yeezy shoes). The song calls out Nike's usage of child labor as well as them signing a lifetime contract with LeBron James ("gave LeBron a billi' not to run away!"), and contains the tongue-in-cheek chorus "Yeezy, Yeezy, Yeezy just jumped over Jumpman".
- They Changed It, Now It Sucks!: In-Universe; "I Love Kanye" centers around the common complaint of people liking "the old Kanye" (the soul-sampling, pink polo and backpack-wearing Kanye) and hating "the new Kanye" (the irritable Kanye that keeps getting in the news).