Kanye West. What can you really say about the guy that hasn’t already been said? He’s one of the most prolific, egotistical, innovative, influential and well known artists currently working. He has quite literally done it all and in his short yet very accomplished career, he still hasn’t failed to surprise us. His long anticipated fifth studio album, ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ has finally hit store shelves. While the majority of the tracks have already been released or leaked, we now have the full album. Does Yeezy continue to impress with ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’, or is this fifth studio album the first chink in this larger than life rapper’s chain?
As stated above, most of the tracks have already been released so those who keep up on their music, should already be familiar with the vast majority of the album. Subsequently, if you’ve heard most of the album already, you know that this is Kanye’s strongest album yet, and quite possibly, one of the best rap albums of 2010.
Rolling Stones writer Rob Sheffield points out, in the song Runaway, when Yeezy raps about “jerk-offs that’ll never take work off”, he’s referring to himself. Kanye is going big with this album, he’s breaking all the rules and showing us that he truly is the a force to be reckoned with. It’s a wildly ambitious and dangerously daring album but it’s some damn impressive work. I mean what other album features both Elton John and Chris Rock?
Kicking off the album is Dark Fantasy, a track produced by RZA and No I.D., which should be enough to make it worth a listen. After the haunting and beautiful intro we hear Ye’s voice, which is surprising. No autotune, no effects, nothing. Last album, 808’s and Heartbreaks, Yeezy’s voice was tricked out hardcore with a variety of effects. Now he kicks off ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ with simplicity. His voice and a mic, that’s it. It takes the listener by surprise but it’s nice to hear.
Dropping lines like “The plan was to drink it till the pain over/But what’s worse, the pain or the hangover?” Yeezy is clearly looking for relief, he hammers his message home in the next track Gorgeous when he says “This week has been a bad massage, I need a happy ending.”
West is hurting, in Power he talks about suicide, in Runaway he acknowledges his faults and apologizes for them as he says “you’ve been putting up with my sh*t for way too long” and in All Of The Lights, he talks about a man who has driven away his family. West is looking for redemption here, it’s a theme seen throughout the entire album and Dark Fantasy is a fantastic track to kick things off.
Next up is Gorgeous. Perhaps one of the best tracks on the album, with help from Kid Cudi and Raekwon, Yeezy puts together a catchy and addictive song with some top notch lyrics. The best part of the song is the poke at South Park. For those who remember, last year, South Park aired an episode revolving around Kanye West, making fun of him. Now it’s Yeezy’s turn to strike back as he talks about choking a South Park writer with a fish stick. If you’ve seen the episode, you’ll get it. Yeezy doesn’t stop there, he also throws another television show reference out, this time it’s to 30 Rock.
There are some other clever lyrics from Kanye as he raps, “I treat the cash the way the government treats AIDS, I won’t be satisfied til all my n-ggas get it, get it?” and when Raekwon comes in, he takes the track to a whole new level. He blesses the track with lines like “keep it real or keep it moving, keep grinding/keep shining, to every young man, this is a plan/learn from others like your brothers Rae and Kanye.”
Cudi’s hook is unbelievably catchy, and it almost feels as if it’s his song at points due to the laid back tone it carries. The appealing guitar riff makes it even easier on the ears and overall, this is a superb track.
Following Gorgeous is Power, arguably the most well known song on the album since it was the first single released, it’s one hell of a track. While the Jay-Z remix is arguably better, this version is still one of the strongest songs on the album. Sampling 21st Century Schizoid Man by King Crimson, Kanye delivers a lyrical masterpiece. He tells off the haters and explains to use where he has been, mentally and physically over the past year.
The lyrics are powerful as we listen to Kanye go through an emotional tale, telling us how he longs for a ‘beautiful death’, with allusions to suicide that are all to creepy. The rapper sings “Now this would be a beautiful death – I’m jumping out the window, I’m letting everything go.” Dwele lends Yeezy a hand and the two come together to make one of Yeezy’s best songs in recent memory.
Power is a smart, catchy and quotable song, more importantly though, it represents Yeezy’s return to what he does best. It’s arguably the best song on the album and the remix featuring Jay-Z is even better. Kanye has a winner with this one.
The All Of The Lights interlude is short but offers some nice violin music. When we come to All Of The Lights, what we have is a track that is nothing short of epic. Featuring 11 different artists (Rihanna, Alicia Keys, Elton John, Fergie, John Legend, The-Dream, Tony Williams, Kid Cudi, Charlie Wilson, Ryan Leslie, and La Roux’s Elly Jackson), this is definitely one of Yeezy’s most ambitious songs. We get a piano solo from Elton John, some tremendous work from Rihanna, a surprising verse from Fergie and much much more. The production on this song is truly fantastic.
Monster, one of the GOOD Friday songs, follows All Of The Lights. Featuring the likes of Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj, Bon Iver and Rick Ross, one should expect great things from this song. Minaj is great here as she rips through her verse with such unpredictability, she easily steals the song. No one else really does much though. Ross and Bon Iver are useless, and Ye has done much better.
Aside from Minaj, Jay-Z is the only other one who gives us something good. He spits one particularly memorable verse where he says “Everybody wanna know what my Achilles heel is/Love – I dont get enough of it/All I get is these vampires and blood suckers/All I get is these rappers I made millionaires, milling about, spilling their feelings in the air.” Makes you wonder who he’s taking aim at. Monster isn’t a bad track, but it didn’t do much for me.
The slow burning track So Appalled comes after Monster and it was also released as a GOOD Friday track, so for those of you keeping up with GOOD Fridays, you’ll be right at home when you hear this epic seven minute song. West drafts Jay-Z, Swizz Beatz, RZA, Pusha T and Cyhi Da Prync for help and despite the length, it’s a very enjoyable track.
Jay-Z has a particularly strong verse as he asks us would you rather be paid or overrated? He spews lines like “How should I begin this?/ I’m just so offended/ How am I even mentioned by these f—in’ beginners?/ I’m so appalled/ I might buy the mall/ Just to show n—as how much more I have in store.” The song also features the famous MC Hammer diss where Jay raps, “I lost thirty mill so I spent another 30 cuz unlike hammer 30 mill can’t hurt me.”
I love how the song gave adequate time to each rapper, the 7 minute runtime isn’t a problem at all and by the time it’s over, there will be a number of lines that will be repeating in your head. It’s also quite relevant to Ye’s life as it echoes the line “Life can be sometimes ridiculous.”
The next song, Devil In A New Dress, is the only one I really don’t like. The falsetto backing vocals are kind of annoying and it’s way too slow for me. Yeezy drops a few good lines (“I ordered the jerk/She said ‘you are what you eat/” or “Hood phenomenon, the LeBron of rhyme/Hard to be humble when you’re stuntin’ on a Jumbotron”), but those falsetto vocals really got to me. I just can’t get into this song, no matter how many times I’ve listened to it, it feels so repetitive. The song has a very old school vibe to it and it seems as if it would fit in more on an album like ‘Late Registration’, one of West’s more soulful albums. Devil In A New Dress is probably my least favorite track on the album.
When we get to Runaway, the next track, we know we’re listening to greatness. Stemming from the Taylor Swift incident, this nine minute track is Kanye at his best. It’s an anthem and Kanye puts it all out there in this song. Pusha-T accompanies West and the two craft one hell of a track. Featuring a three minute vocal solo, the song has Kanye talking about his mistakes, realizing his wrongs and asking us to forgive him. He asks us to have a toast for the douchebags and the assholes, clearly referring to himself and his actions during the Taylor Swift incident. Ye is essentially telling us that he knows he fucked up and he realizes he was wrong. Pusha-T delivers a great verse and with the interesting vocal solo, haunting orchestral strings and stirring lyrics, this turns out to be one of West’s most interesting songs in a while.
With Hell Of A Life, Yeezy mimics Black Sabbath’s song, Ironman. It has a very funky riff to it and Ye spouts some pretty witty lyrics as he asks us “Have you lost your mind? Tell me where you think we crossed the line”. Hell Of A Life doesn’t really sound like a Kanye song but I did enjoy it. It’s sinister and loud and a nice change of pace for Mr. West.
John Legend hops on the next track, Blame Game, to treat us to his soulful voice and we get a very soft and gentle song, it’s quite different from anything else on the album but it’s very well done. As an added bonus, Chris Rock gives us a very funny outro which comes out of left field but is nonetheless welcome. The track is melancholic and graceful and a nice break from some of the more menacing tracks like Monster and Hell Of A Life.
Lost In The World, which uses pieces from Bon Iver’s song Woods, is another one of the new songs that has quickly become one of my favorite Kanye songs. What starts off slow with a Bon Iver opening, builds up to a symphony of autotuned voices with a stirring beat provided by tribal drums and compelling background vocals propelling it. As he examines the polarities of love, West raps, “You’re my devil you’re my angel / you’re my heaven, you’re my hell / You’re my now, you’re my forever / You’re my freedom, you’re my jail / You’re my lies, you’re my truth / You’re my questions, you’re my proof / You’re my stress and you’re my masseuse”.
As it builds up, the song pulls you in. You’ll no doubt find yourself singing along to this one. Some strange and questionable voice effects muddle up the ending a bit but it’s all good because as we come to Who Will Survive In America (which is technically part of Lost In The World) everything is back to normal. Backed by a strong drum beat we are asked the simple question of ‘who will survive in America?’. There’s no singing here, just talking as it samples Gil Scott-Heron’s Comment #1, it’s compelling stuff and a smart way to end the album.
We were asked back in the first track, Dark Fantasy, “Can we get much higher?”, I think the answer is yes. Kanye has given us his best album yet and despite how popular he already is, I think he’s only going to keep growing.
‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ combines elements from all of Kanye’s previous albums and culminates in Mr. West’s most compelling and complete album to date. This is more than just another hip-hop album, this is not only the album of the year, but it’s one of the most important hip-hop albums of the decade, it’s a landmark and Mr. West should be damn proud of himself.
Be sure to check out our other review on the album, done by Vince.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was released on November 22th, 2010