Emotionally unstable? No problem. Legacy in question? No fucking problem. In a rocky relationship and lost the cornerstone in your family to a lifestyle that’s possibly your fault? Not an issue. That’s what music is for.
On November 22, 2010 Kanye West presented us with a literal musical masterpiece and arguably his best work in “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” What we received was an unexpected display of musical superiority, intellect and cohesiveness that many fail to ever achieve. After the release of the groundbreaking and highly emotional “808’s and Heartbreak” the fans and musical counterparts of West had no idea what to expect as a follow up. Like, what could this nigga do next? After the critically acclaimed “POWER” leaked via Internet, my excitement for the upcoming album hit a zenith. I knew that the expectations were high, and if I can depend on anyone to deliver, it’s Kanye West. The hype built as we consistently received solid music every Friday with the GOOD FRIDAYS incentive in addition to Kanye dropping cryptic hints as the release date approached. What happened next was monumental in the career of West and the lives of the fans. “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” is not only one of the greatest and most diverse hip-hop albums of all time, but also Kanye’s best work and one of the best albums in the history of MUSIC. For West to give us this quality of music after the Taylor Swift incident, the backlash for 808’s, the breakup with Amber Rose and still never fully acknowledging or accepting the death of Donda West speaks a SURPLUS of West’s character. This album is better than “Late Registration” simply because West was at a low point in his career. During the “LR” period, West was on a high. Money, creative recognition, being able to provide for everyone, winning a few Grammys and having a bad ass fiancée didn’t speak of struggle. This situation? Completely different. A proverbial “Return of Jordan” after his initial retirement, a “game winning shot” of an album, is what we received in the relase of MBDTF. MBDTF was Bruce Wayne climbing out of that prison in the ground and saving Gotham after being broken. The Phoenix rising from the ashes, scoring on 4th and 1 in the Super Bowl to win it all!
The album is a melting pot of all of West’s prior work. The soul of “College Dropout” the bravado and demeanor of “Late Registration” the epic and magnitude of “Graduation” in addition to the darkness and deep emotion of 808’s. From the opening track, Nicki Minaj introduced us into the art that MBDTF is. Next a soulful and gritty “Gorgeous” where Cudi croons and Ye speaks of social and political issues while Raekwon polishes the track off with a fluid verse over filtered guitar riffs and deep keys. Following that, “POWER” sonically takes us into a packed stadium of soldiers preparing for war as General West addresses us. As a matter of fact, I want my friends and family to do the power clap on my way out. Directly behind that is a mellow instrumental that leads into “All of the Lights” a biopic and a mirror of the life of West, which happens to display some of the most creative and diverse vocal layering known to man. This consistent increase in tempo and emotion leads into the rythymic “Monster” where Kanye and Jay Z both hold their own, but newcomer Nicki Minaj delivers a bone-crushing verse that solidified her place in hip-hop royalty. West set the stage for her and she used that exposure to shine.
A melancholic, sinister “So Appalled” follows where maximalism, arrogance and debauchery are in full swing. The emotion begins to bubble as Pusha T and Jay Z both deliver verses that made us all scrunch our faces. This part of the masterpiece is one of the most emotional sequences that I’ve ever heard on an album. The soulful “Devil in a New Dress” follows as we get a record remnant of “Late Registration” that seems to crash directly into “808’s” as Kanye speaks of lust and Rozay gift wraps a verse that’s velvet for the ears . Emotion inclines as the sharp half notes of “Runaway” pierce the ears. A gritty, grimy drum section layered on top of Ye’s MPC screaming plays as he looks in the mirror and addresses the flaws of himself and every other emotionally unintelligent person that can relate.
The feelings continue to rise as Ye croons his heart out over a series of staccatos in filtered, distorted auto-tune. The emotion explodes on “Hell of A Life” where Ye falls into a deep, twisted world of filth and debauchery over a fitting Black Sabbath sample where boundaries between right and wrong seem to be blurred. Drug use, human sexuality and vulnerability pour out as the drums burst from the seams of the record and the arpeggiator carries us through the song. A dénouement in “Blame Game” brings us back down to reality. The details of Ye’s past relationship issues spill onto the record like a can of red paint. A mess only cleansed by John Legend’s soulful voice. We finally reach a soothing point through the crooning of Justin Vernon on “Lost in the World” where Ye’ advises us to run from the life and the lights. A track that touches the mind, heart and soul with drums that would make anyone move. “Who will survive in America?” A simple question asked repeatedly by the late, great Gil Scott Heron on the closing track to the album. A small interlude meant to make us analyze how celebrities are treated for making mistakes under the microscope. Then, silence. A period where you sit back and reflect on the musical perfection that you just heard.
It’s been 4 years and I still listen to this album weekly. Kanye West is a hero of mine, so when I speak about him people tend to call me biased. Honestly, I can’t name too many albums better this decade than MBDTF and if I can name albums better than the aforementioned, Kanye had something to do with them. I hope people recognize the greatness of this man before his departure. In their time, geniuses often look insane and even prophets had flaws. In a ten year span, he’s delivered a practically perfect album catalog and singlehandedly shaped a culture.
Who else has done that?
Until next time.
– Malcolm the King