I don't know a lot of the details on how MBDTF was reviewed on release, as I wasn't paying too much attention at the time. But you have to figure that some of that is momentum built up from the previous releases. Sites and magazines that wouldn't cover him before came to terms with the artist Kanye is and gave him favorable reviews. Publications that previously may have just written him off as a gimmick saw that his music had lasting power and legitimate artistry. I feel like some of the misgivings they might have had about him before had been assuaged, permitting them to go into their reviews less cautiously, without fear of being seen as scoring it higher than it warranted. Does that make sense?
For a couple years in high school, I started listening to nothing but hip-hop, and College Dropout was definitely one of the albums that made me a huge fan of the genre. It's odd to think whether MBDTF would have the same effect on me, because it just didn't have as much appeal to me at 24 as CD had at 17. It's got a few great tracks, then it's got some mediocre ones. I think CD had the right mix of pop appeal, solid songwriting, and variety to fit my tastes. And it has staying power.
Ahhh, I see what you mean now. I suppose that could be the case, but I prefer to think that the critics just saw a stronger start-to-finish record in MBDTF. In the Slant Magazine review for The College Dropout
(which they gave 3.5 stars), the writer kicked off the review by saying, "Like every hip-hop album (even the great ones), Kanye West's The College Dropout
is marred by too many guest artists, too many interludes, and just too many songs period. (I challenge every hip-hop artist working today to record just one album with 12 tracks or less—no skits, no guests, no filler.)" They gave Late Registration
the same rating, but crowned MBDTF as the best album of 2010 and gave it a perfect 5-star rating. Pitchfork had similar reservations about Dropout
, but gave Twisted Fantasy the rare 10.0 and also named it the album of the year. I agree that their misgivings were assuaged, but that's because Kanye largely dropped the gimmicks: he got rid of the skits (well, nearly), he trimmed down the number of tracks and kept many of the guest spots shared between a core group of confidantes. And as a whole, the record felt a lot less scattershot or overlong, even though it still stretched to almost 70 minutes. For me, that record flies by in what feels like half the time that it takes me to listen to the other two.
I think your second paragraph is a tough question to ask, since you obviously have a big, important personal connection to TCD. I don't think there's a weak track on MBDTF (which ones don't you like, btw?), but there are a few that I skip on both College Dropout
and Late Registration
. It could just be a matter of perspective, of our differing musical roots and differences in what we look for in a hip hop album, but I have, over the past two years, gotten the feeling that the appreciation for MBDTF remains very heartfelt and widespread.