Artist: Kanye WestAlbum: My Dark Beautiful Twisted FantasyRating: 9.5 out of 10Lets recap. Kanye got here by spitting through the wire but due to a few grand missteps dragged his career through the fire and set it ablaze. But he would return. Kanye made the music community take notice with his defiant return to the VMA stage. Kanye had the core Hip Hop audience eagerly waiting for every G.O.O.D. Music Friday Single, creating a new release template for other artists to follow. Kanye dropped arguably the most talked about long form video since Michael Jacksons Bad or Thriller. Kanye somehow managed to give passengers of a Delta flight to NY an onboard performance. Kanye made the media that once vilified him embrace and extend a platform to him. All of that was an effort to reestablish his career and create a frenzy for the release of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Mission accomplished because he is the biggest entity in music right now even during the Time of Gaga and his new album is his most ambitious, a definitive milestone in all of music, and possibly a true masterpiece.
Kanye triumphantly stays true to his albums title My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy lyrically, tonally, and conceptually. A tale of domestic abuse that leads to the destruction of Kanyes relationship with his fictional daughter is the subject matter of All of the Lights. Blame Game deals with a verbally abusive but magnetic relationship. Runaway is about Kanye revealing his missteps with women while Pusha-T delivered a verse that may be the most truthful and blunt statement of what a women needs to consider when in a relationship where there are plenty of whores in a ballin n_ggas matrix. Power calls for a beautiful death. Jumping out the window. Lettin everything go. Parts of those songs lyrics (especially All of the Lights) and others are reminiscent of Hemingways style where much is being said, but only a few words are actually used.
Diminished octaves and dissonant tones are found throughout the entire album and specifically on Gorgeous, Power, Dark Fantasy Monster and So Appalled, providing a gritty bed for the majority of the album. Drum sounds and patterns on tracks like Hell of a Life echo way back to songs such as the Jungle Brothers The Promo, on which Q-Tip made his debut, and to the time when Da Beatminerz were laying the boom bap foundations for Black Moon and Smif-N-Wesson. Lets not forget that Runaway is framed upon Pete Rocks haunting drum track intro from The Basement found on 1992’s Mecca and the Soul Brother.
Amidst all of that the album is populated with well placed features from Jay-Z, Nikki Minaj, Rihanna, John Legend, Fergi, Rick Ross, Bon Iver, Pusha-T, Prynce Cy Hi, the RZA, Alicia Keys, ect. There are magnificently executed orchestrations and melodies that add tonal brightness. Its all a complex and grand juxtaposition thats elaborately dark and compelling. It demands a bit more for the listener to consider without ever lending itself to being remotely depressing. It should also be mentioned that Elton John is also seamlessly featured on the album and it still undeniably remains true Hip-Hop.
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All of that is surprising when the diverse audience that Kanye has looking at him right now is considered. A few weeks ago the entire focus of this album was the video for Runaway. The video was admittedly totally European influenced and produced. Knowing that it was highly artistic Kanye purposely debuted it in the art loving city of Paris, France. Runaway contains visuals foreign to Hip-Hop so with that in mind the audience might expect the sound of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy to mirror it. The album is indeed to the left, but as described above it is done so with a fundamental respect for a golden age of Hip-Hop and solid lyrics. So in essence by going to the left Kanye has actually brought Hip-Hop back to its center while elevating it to a place where others will hopefully be encouraged to visit. This is significant because Hip-Hop has often been elevated and brought to a larger audience, but at times it was done in a fashion that did not appeal to core Hip-Hop listeners. Kanyes work will reach a new audience and expose them to something that a Hip Hop purist should champion.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is an overwhelming success on multiple levels but there was something that could easily be overlooked. That is the oddly both overt and transparent theme of revolution that this album and Kanyes career embody. The last track Who Will Survive in America brought that theme to the forefront. The track features an except form Amiri Barakas actual Who Will Survive in America, which is a call for revolution against the ills of people of color living in America. Upon the first listen it may be hard to understand why the track is the final sentence and period of this well constructed paragraph of an album. But it all makes sense. Kanye can be considered a musical and social revolutionary. The majority of Kanyes revolutionary actions have probably been unintentional and results of his childlike creativity, purity and honesty, but nonetheless some are undoubtedly flavored with a hint of Jack Johnsons Unforgivable Blackness.
Kanye has no problem revolting. It can be against something significant. It can be against something insignificant. It does not matter what it is because since a car accident brought him close to death before the release of his first CD he does not have the fear to protest against anything that he feels is unjust against him or others. We all know how he got on stage in protest of the reigning country pop princess winning a VMA. He said George Bush doesnt care about Black people on national TV. True or false, those words and the passionate speech that preceded it were what many were thinking but did not have the platform or courage to say. Kanyes seven words rang around the WORLD, making West so relevant that he became the ONLY person to meet Oprah and tell her he was going to be on her show and make that happen. Former President George W. Bush had to acknowledge Kanyes statement in his book Decision Points and during interviews on NBC with Matt Lauer and on Oprah. If those words are not to be considered the quintessential verbal protest or revolt against what was happening in New Orleans it would be hard to say what would have been. Kanyes statement may have possibly had more of an impact than every prolific and beloved Public Enemy song rolled into one. (And they this guy is down with the Illuminati? Stupid! But what the hell do I know?) On top of all of that, do we really need to go into what it means that Kanye is very happy that there is a picture floating around on the net where he is totally exposed?
All of that is coupled with lyrics such as the second verse from Dark Fantasy:
Hey, teacher, teacher
Tell me how do you respawn the students?
And refresh the page and restart the memory?
Respark the soul and rebuild the energy?
We stopped the ignorance, we killed the enemies
This line from Gorgeous:
cause the same people that tried to black ball me forgot about 2 things, my black balls
This excerpt from Power:
The system broken, the schools closed, the prisons open
We aint got nothin to lose, maf-cka, we rollin
Huh? Maf-cka, we rollin
With some light-skinned girls and some Kelly Rowlands
In this white mans world, we the ones chosen
It is ALL related and when taken into consideration brings a new subtext to the album. Kanye has revolted and speaks of it in multiple ways but is only requesting that listeners revolt in very subtle non controversial ways. This album is a unique experience with many songs clocking in at over 5 minutes like albums from the 70s. That is a request for listeners to revolt against what some accept as Hip-Hop and possibly look for more from other artists. His elaborate and creative multi cover packaging is a request that listeners revolt against their desire to just download the album and actually buy the CD.
Kanye is something we have never seen before so of course he will be misunderstood, but it seems he is the most creative during torment so it makes for an unfortunate equation. Kanye is able to recognize and profess his genius but he also needs to claim his revolutionary B-Boy stance. That is NOT a call for activism it is just a suggestion that he truly internalize elements of the lyrics that he spit on Power and Monster and stop melting down on Twitter and get ahead of certain situations without apologizing. Right or wrong, he verbally revolted for his beliefs and in those two songs he admits to being an asshole BUT he makes music so asshole = ROCKSTAR. Did he not tell us he was a ROCKSTAR on Lloyd Bankss Start it up and ROCKSTARS are STARS because they make life interesting. Yeezy remember that you said my presence is a present so kiss my ass so keep making that heat and the world at large will ante up the fee required for baring witness. My Dark Beautiful Dark Fantasy is a testament to that. BRAVO!