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Toyomu reimagines Kanye West's 'Life of Pablo' in a creatively fun way

by Patrick ST. Michel

Special To The Japan Times

Toyomu — “Imagining ‘The Life Of Pablo'” (Self-released)

Up until the first week of April, U.S. rapper Kanye West’s latest full-length, “The Life of Pablo,” could only be heard on the streaming service Tidal — a platform unavailable in Japan. Kyoto electronic producer Toyomu decided that, instead of hitting the torrents, he’d just create his own version of the album.

Enter “Imagining ‘The Life of Pablo,’ ” a collection pieced together from the same samples and lyrics of West’s original, but one that sounds nothing like it, primarily because Toyomu himself didn’t hear any of it while creating his work. It gained attention from overseas, but a lot of that is due to anything with “Kanye” in the headline turning into a click bonanza.

Although plenty have focused on its genesis, few have written about how “Imagining” sounds — beyond labeling it “weird.” To be fair, Toyomu’s creation is certainly strange at points, especially when he uses the text-to-speech capabilities on his computer to recite West’s rhymes. Yet these more left-of-center interpretations also end up as highlights, whether Toyomu slows the tempo of “Real Friends” into vaporwave territory or uses 8-bit noises as a backdrop for his digital voices. One of the catchiest tracks is a loop of West saying “Yeezy.”

For the most part, “Imagining” highlights Toyomu’s skill as a beatmaker, with many of these songs flipping the same soul samples used on the real “Pablo” to different effect. They range from textbook boom-bap to spacier sounds that would be at home on the Brainfeeder label — it’s fun imagining what a human rapping over them would sound like.

Most of the attention for “Imagining” has come about because of West’s celebrity, but given how solid the production work here is, Toyomu deserves his moment in the spotlight, too.

Toyomu’s “Imagining ‘The Life of Pablo’ ” is available via toyomu.bandcamp.com/album/iii-imagining-the-life-of-pablo.