Title: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Artist: Kanye West
Label: Daf Jam / Roc-a-fella
Favourite tracks: Dark Fantasy / Gorgeous / POWER / All of the Lights / Monster / So Appalled / Devil in a New Dress / Runaway / Hell of a Life / Lost in the World / Who Will Survive in America
"Reality is catching up with me
Taking my inner child, I'm fighting for custody
With these responsibilities that they entrusted me
As I look down at my diamond encrusted piece
Thinking no one man should have all that power"
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is Kanye West’s most accomplished album to date. Even if you don’t agree that it is his best work (it has a lot of tough competition), it is undeniably the most important album in his discography.
After the events of the 2009 VMA ceremony, in which West caused an extremely controversial scene, his public image had been left damaged seemingly irreparably. At the professional recommendation of his friend Mos Def, he made the decision to leave the country, living in Rome for a few months in order to regroup and reflect on himself. After some time, he flew to Hawaii to work on his next record, which would eventually become My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. It would prove to act as both an apology for his actions and recognition of his short-comings, while also demonstrating to all the people he had angered that no matter what their opinions of him were, he was still one of the most talented artists in the industry to date.
It is indisputable how well made this record is. From the first few seconds of the album, with Nicki Minaj’s introduction of Dark Fantasy, there is immediately a sense that Kanye is attempting something much more ambitious and grandiose than anything he has previously released. The whole album feels extremely cinematic and vibrant, with features from both old artists (King Crimson, Smokey Robinson , Black Sabbath, Gil Scott Heron etc.), and contemporary artists (Bon Iver, Nicki Minaj , Pusha T , Kid Cudi , Rick Ross etc.), using hip-hop to fuse styles across decades, creating a timeless sound that is both more impressive and mature than anything Kanye West had previously released.
Kanye has reported that an estimated 5000 man-hours were put into literally every song on this album, which is definitely something that shows. You can absolutely hear the care placed into every single track here, particularly with the production, which is stronger than in any of his previous works. Songs such as POWER and All of the Lights are layered so meticulously between instrumentation, vocals and samples to make some of the best produced songs of the decade. Other tracks such as Gorgeous and Monster show off some of the best lyrics in West’s entire discography, as well as a roster of guest features which he uses to elevate the tracks as a whole. This album has so many amazing features that it actually feels like a collaboration album between Kanye and all these different artists that he has so much respect for. Almost everyone here has a stand-out moment on the album, which really reflects on Kanye’s ability to work artists to their creative threshhold in order to achieve the most they can. Nicki Minaj’s verse in Monster, for instance, is one of the most memorable moments on the album, being brought to life by West’s incredibly particular production.
“Pink wig, thick ass, give 'em whiplash
I think big, get cash, make 'em blink fast
Now look at what you just saw, this is what you live for
Aaaah, I'm a motherfucking monster!”
Runaway is a beautiful nine minute song written as recognition of West’s flaws and an apology for his actions during the 2009 VMA awards, which was fittingly debuted at the very same event exactly one year later. The final section of the song has West mask his voice in a heavy layer or distortion, which not only acts as a metaphor for his public image in the media, but also demonstrates explicitly his attitude to the commercial success of his music. Some of the songs on this album stretch to almost the ten minute mark; Kanye was in no way interested in pandering to making “radio friendly” songs and albums. He had a vision that he wanted to achieve, and this final stretch of runaway is a middle-finger to the culture behind making 3-minute songs to reassure sales and commercial success.
Its hard to talk about specific moments of greatness in My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, because the entire album is full of some of the best production and verses of the last 10 years, in hip-hop history, and in all of music history. However, if there is one moment that is my single favourite moment in Kanye West’s entire discography, it's the final stretch of this album. The transition between Lost in the World and Who Will Survive in America is one of the most breath-taking moments I can think of from literally any album. The production is unsurprisingly incredible, between the samples of Bon Iver’s Woods, the Gil-Scott Heron motif from Comment #1, and Lilly Collins’ Think (About it), it is one of the most cinematic sounding moments on the album.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is a demonstration of Kanye West’s immense focus and vision. He even made a half hour short film titled Runaway, further demonstrating just how dedicated he was to executing this vision that he had. The movie in of itself is beautifully shot and showcases a selection of some amazing moments from the album. If you feel like checking it out, the link is here.
This is one of the best albums of the 21st Century, and less than a decade since its release has rightfully earned its status as a modern classic.