Some of the greatest artists of the 20th century have been plagued by personal demons – whether money, drugs, women, depression or paranoia (to name a few). But their greatest testimony is that amidst all the troubles, the art which they create overshadows them all due to its sheer magnitude which inevitably defines their legacy.
Kanye West, a man beleaguered by many controversial incidents, still stands as an artist whose musical legacy will stand the test of time, no matter how many times he ends up on the wrong side of press publicity.
Taking a more voyeuristic turn from the previously named G.O.O.D Ass Job, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is the fifth album which invites the listening world to the joyous, aggressive, maniacal and humorous resides of Kanye West’s mind – a place which may very well provide the masterpiece to further compound his status as legend.
Whilst some fans may be horrified to find the first voice to be heard on the album is Nicki Minaj’s British alter ego, the album opens with the beautiful choral led ‘Dark Fantasy’. Kanye then takes the reins, delivering smooth verses on life as number one. Anticipation for the album grew due to a number of high profiled (Taylor Swift related) incidents as well as the ahead-of-its-time/lacklusture reception which the 808’s & Heartbreaks album received.
But nothing created more anticipation than after hearing the first single, ‘Power’. Its spiritual claps/chanting create a spine tingling opening, leading up to the heavy mix of bass, drums and electric guitar strokes. Within those 4 minutes and 32 seconds, Yeezy delivers one of the performances of the year – like a wounded animal, the “abomination of Obama’s nation” lashes out at all the negativity and hate which has been thrown his way, whilst indeed recognising his own flaws.
My Beautiful … is made up of truly epic experiences – each track being allowed room for lyrics and productions to breathe.‘All of The Lights’ rapid drum patterns are given extra layers with trumpets and the signature wailings of Rihanna adding a sovereign feel to the track. This encourages the guest features to really give it their all, – which at times overshadow the Chicago native’s own rhymes.
‘Monster’ has a ‘beat the clock’ feel to it, with Rick Ross, Kanye, Jay-Z and Nicki Minaj ‘competing’ to claim the top verse. ‘So Appalled’ is a darkly affair, where it’s mellow, somewhat haunting score provides the canvas for the sombre offerings of ‘ye and friends Jay Z, Cyhi the Prince, Pusha T, Swizz Beatz and Wu Tang legend RZA.
MBDTF is fully immersed in the dark pleasures of fame; embracing the lusting of a bad chick on ‘Devil In A New Dress’ and the frantic, excessive (arguably drug influenced) lifestyle documented on ‘Hell Of A Life’ depicts the monstrous side to the fame. The masterfully crafted ‘Runaway’ (with Pusha T) and ‘Blame Game’ (featuring John Legend) both unravel these turmoils in bittersweet odes, both beautiful and etched in pain.
As Gil Scott Heron’s thunderous cries wrap up the album on ‘Who Will Survive In America’, what can be said after such a listening experience is that the emotional baggage which Kanye West has been carrying around for the last two years now rained upon the listener, presenting his sadness frustrations and dark joys in an enchanting and poetic manner.
Drawing the listener into his emotional scars like a car crash or a fire draws a crowd, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is a tale of what happens behind the camera – the seedy, flashy, depressive, voyeuristic nature of the fame.
Comparing the enthusiastic, ready-to-change-the-world Kanye we were introduced to on College Dropout and the Kanye here, the emotional damage has definitely taken its course over the years. But what has remained the same is the genius of the man in question and his ability to paint a vivid picture of today’s culture and society, no matter how frightening it may look.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is a classic in its own right – just as College Dropout is – comparisons between the two can only be made in terms of its subject matter rather than which is better. Kanye’s fifth album is the amalgamation of six years of tantrums, tears, liasions, lyrical growth and musical expansion, resulting in his a beautiful nightmare which will be remembered for years to come.