Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Release Date: November 22, 2010
Record Label: Def Jam
If you’re like most of America, you probably say “what was he thinking” after each Kanye West outburst, his new album is your chance to find out. All of West’s issues have been well documented over the past few years, so there is no need to get into them here. I mean, why should I do all the talking when his fifth studio album, My Dark Twisted Fantasy does it perfectly? Kanye West makes amends the only way he knows how – in the biggest, most cinematic and creative way possible.
Not only does West take risks the majority of pop stars would never attempt, he completely knocks them out of the park. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is exactly as advertised: it’s a journey through West’s deepest thoughts, showcasing all the facets to his persona (from his bravado to his insecurities) over a pristine collection of all his signature sounds.
Throughout the album, it seems that West is sampling his own source material. We hear his love for baroque instrumentation on tracks like opener “Dark Fantasy,” his penchant for soul on the incredible “Devil in a Dress,” or the electronic melancholy of 808s & Heartbreak on “Runaway.” Basically, West is taking his greatest hits, blowing them up, and then reconstructing them into the bigger grandiose vision he has for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
Lyrically, West is entirely self-aware and incredibly human throughout, deconstructing his faults all while maintaining his braggadocios mentality. First single, “Power,” is classic Kanye. Featuring a brilliant sample of King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man” and infectious hand claps, West goes from boasting (“Screams from the haters, got a nice ring to it/I guess every superhero need his theme music”) to perhaps self-reflection (“No one man should have all this power”). The sleazy beat on “Hell of a Life” takes us further into West’s dark psyche, while an angry West drops some of his best lines on the distorted “Gorgeous.” Even the chorus on the colossal “Monster” offers a double meaning. On the surface he is referencing to his skills, but underneath he is also making a comment on how the media views him (Gossip, gossip, n**** just stop it, everybody knows I’m a muthafuckin’ monster”).
Whether it’s pairing Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon up with hip-hop goliaths like Jay-Z and Rick Ross or going into a vocoder dizzy on the nine minute-plus “Runaway,” West is uncompromising with all his decisions. He goes on to unleash his greatest creation ever, the breath-taking horn-driven spectacle that is “All of the Lights.” It showcases an A-list of guests that only Kanye West could pull off, as the song features input from the likes of Rihanna, Elton John, Kid Cudi, Fergie, Alicia Keys, John Legend, The-Dream, Ryan Leslie, Charlie Wilson, Tony Williams, and Elly Jackson. Instead of being a bloated, indulgent song, it’s one of the fiercest and most personal moments in West’s entire discography. Telling the story of a good-for-nothing father who never follows through, West’s delivery is full of passion and urgency. Sure, the man will never be remembered as being one of the best MCs in the game (especially when compared to fellow album guests Raekwon and Pusha T), but his intensity and desire make up for it.
Kanye West just isn’t fighting haters, critics, and expectations this time, he’s also battling against himself during the course of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Take example of the excellent “Blame Game,” one of the gentler and bleaker moments of the album. West speeds up, stretches, and chops his vocals throughout the track, giving the sense of the multiple personalities and paranoia he tries to overcome.
Finally, we’ve seen West grow as a producer. From his early soul-sampling days to now, West is not afraid to introduce and incorporate different genres into his music. The credits will display an impressive collection of producers, as well as samples ranging everywhere from Smokey Robinson to Black Sabbath. His most interesting take may be the penultimate track, “Lost in the World.” Sampling from Bon Iver’s haunting “Woods,” West molds those lyrics with his own, as an auto-tuned medley of Vernon and West soar over pounding drums and a frantic backing choir. It ultimately leads into the final track, which features Gil Scott-Heron’s spoken-word piece, “Comment #1,” over the final minute of “Lost in the World.” And just like the beginning of the album, West lets someone else do the talking for him this time.
For an album that clocks in well over one hour, there is hardly any excessiveness. It’s definitely epic and ambitious, and only an artist with an ego like West’s could pull this off. Lil Wayne may be a Martian, but West has his own galaxy. He’s challenging the listener, himself, and the entire hip-hop genre with this album. It should go without saying that this is his masterpiece. On My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye West isn’t breaking the rules of popular music, he’s making new ones.