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Album Review: Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Album Review: Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Def Jam: 2010

It’s no surprise that Kanye West abandoned his college- and career-based theme for naming his albums – it’s just not who he is anymore.

He’s had enough of trying to please others. And he’s had it with conforming to institutional – or the music industry’s – rules.

In most cases, when that happens and an artist goes off the deep end (or further off the deep end), fans find themselves stuck with disjointed, distracting, incoherent, overly-experimental albums. (See Common’s Electric Circus as an example.)

But instead (and surprisingly), with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Ye’s gone the opposite direction – he’s taken his hurt, happiness, anger, empathy and every emotion in-between and molded it into his magnum opus.

By far his best album out of an already high-quality catalog, MBDTF isn’t the perfect album, but it’s damn close.

Like the opening act of a play, the album opens with “Dark Fantasy”, where West jumps atop a driving beat with choral and orchestra-based loops as he describes his ascent to stardom from his beginning musical days in Chicago.

Next, we find him sharing “Gorgeous”, a track with Raekwon and Kid Cudi, who seems to be singing some kind of melodic nonsense about needs versus wants or how they’re synonymous. On the guitar- heavy cut, West goes hard at haters, fri-enemies and the like, while Rae espouses about the rewards and struggles that accompany hard work with his voice altered by just a bit of fitting distortion.

With its deep, thick bass grooves and cheerleader-esque clapping samples, “Power” follows the building momentum and bravado of the first two tracks. And while it’s a heavily familiar song by this time, it nonetheless fits succinctly into the albums already established rhythm.

After a brief interlude meant to calm the mood, “All of the Lights” (featuring Rihanna and host of others from Elton John to Fergie) swoops in with one of the most impressive beats on the album. Trumpets abound, pianos are seductively looped and at least three different drum sets are interwoven above, around and through Ye’s carefully crafted yet anxiously energized lyrics where he touches on a variety of topics ranging from grieving for The Gloved One to infidelity. Cudi also comes in at the end for some more nonsensical pandering.

“Monster” features a strong collab between Nicki Minaj – who has the standout verse – Rick Ross, who offers just an intro and Jay-Z, whose verse seems to be Twilight-inspired. Compared to other tracks on the album this one’s production is definitely calmer, bordering on repetitive.

“So Appalled” is just another posse cut comprised of verses by Jay-Z, Pusha T, Cyhi da Prynce, Swizz Beatz and The RZA over slow, string samples and an almost upbeat drum beat.

Next is the soft, soul-sampled “Devil in a New Dress,” where we find West whining and adlibbing about love and lust, followed by an out-of-place Rick Ross verse about ice on his wrist, fast cars, haters G4s and, of course, dope. (My guess is West got a two-for-one price on Ross’ verses after hearing this one.)

One of the most emotional tracks on MBDTF, “Runaway” has Kanye penning an open letter to his former and future lovers as well as a few other folks he’s not fans of, namely “the douchebags.” Staccato piano keys begin and end the track, bookending a 4-step beat, some synths and a subdued yet on-point verse from Pusha T of The Clipse.

“Hell of a Life”, one of the stronger tracks off the album just behind “All of the Lights”, is Ye’s promise to that special someone – maybe a princess, maybe a porn star – to leave the drugs alone over some stylized organs and quick, simple drums.

John Legend assists on “Blame Game”, a track about exactly what it sounds like. On this one, Legend comes out swinging and name-calling, while West does the same, tossing allegations back and forth in an attempt to gain the upper hand over a beat that’s soft pianos and the intermittent rattle of a rapid drum line. In the end, hearts are broken. Sadly, this otherwise heartfelt song that many could relate to, is ruined by a disgusting ode to female genitalia by comedian Chris Rock that’s barely funny the first time and never is subsequently.

Rounding out the album is the heavily rhythmic “Lost in the World”. This one is classic Kanye in its truest form. Fit for a party, your car or iPod, Yeezy keeps his promises to entertain and lyrics on an upbeat note.

Full of stand-alone tracks ready to be blended into your latest mix or as a straight-up play through in its entirety, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy delivers whatever you’re hungry for – fast jams, slow jams, conscious lyrics, fun raps – and much more over stellar production.

★★★★½
4.5 out of 5

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21 Comments

  1. ~Stone~
    Oct 04, 2012 @ 18:09:00

    his magnum opus??? Uhhh “College Dropout” lolol I like the review, but would not give it such praise.

  2. Maurice Jones
    Dec 17, 2010 @ 10:27:51

    It’s funny because i’d gave the same rating but i liked everything that you didn’t (except chris rock of course that was shit): rick ross’s verse is really good in devil in a new dress he stepped his game for the album and i think monster and so appaled are very strong cuts (real hip-hop)… loll and i thought that lost in the world and hell of a life were the low point

  3. Gedi Dabakaeri
    Dec 12, 2010 @ 00:55:11

    see Brandon’s reply, ditto for me.

  4. Art Washington
    Dec 11, 2010 @ 20:00:12

    Are you ALL drinking the kool aid? The album is well done and Kanye is great – but am I the only one (apparently yes) who thinks the album is way too emo for me to rock consistently. I mean there are a lot great indie rock album too, but that’s not my style. I guess Kanye can get the 4.5 or 5, but I’m just wondering who all these pastel colored vest wearing fans are? The album got metrosexual written all over it. I won’t criticize the talent, just the taste.

  5. airiel
    Dec 02, 2010 @ 22:24:48

    west NEVER has disappointed me, he has a right to be cocky. this album was 6/5 imo

  6. Brandon Rae
    Dec 02, 2010 @ 21:36:29

    After each listen, I tell myself I must be missing something. Listened to it for the tenth time again this evening on the way home from work. I don’t think I’m missing anything. I just don’t see what all of the praise is about. It’s a good album at worst, great album at best, but not even close to the top albums of the year. Just my opinion. Nice review, Steve.

  7. Andrewski
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 22:44:29

    Jeppe please point out the “golden quotables” for me, I must have missed them while listening to the album

  8. Lumutz
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 12:22:57

    cosign with Jeppe. This review makes the unqualified statement “this is not a perfect album”…well, what about this album is not perfect? The only real knock you gave to this album is the Rick Ross and Chris Rock features. Musically, each track has a painstaking attention to detail and builds (or doesn’t) perfectly. There is no album out right now that is more original or more skillfully crafted than this. This is without a doubt a 5/5 album

  9. Jeppe
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 11:20:55

    I pretty much agree with the rating, even though I’d probably give it the last 0.5 too.
    – But how can you write such a superficial song-by-song review of an album with SO much content? This is a piece of genious, and all you really write about is how the drums sound and how these-and-these guest musicians doesn’t fit in. Lyrically, West is extremely impressive, and all songs have a bunch of golden quotes to choose from, but not one is shown.

  10. Andrewski
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 14:34:11

    Good review. The album is not perfect but it’s very good. Definitely not better then College Dropout imo. That album still gets a lot of plays from me and the lyrics on this album were a little disappointing compared to CD

  11. JustPlans
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 09:53:37

    To me Big Boi’s album was a wee bit better than this (even without Nicki) both are excelent tho

  12. Andrew Martin
    Nov 29, 2010 @ 16:32:05

    Yeah, this is my album of the year, too, with Big Boi in a close second.

  13. Bishop Dudley
    Nov 29, 2010 @ 16:20:36

    Possible album of the year material here, I agree with the review completely

  14. David Reyneke
    Nov 29, 2010 @ 05:50:12

    This is definitely my favorite piece of music in a long while…

  15. afan
    Nov 29, 2010 @ 05:21:18

    I agree with the review…. but i still think he’s first 3 ‘hip hop’ albums are better.

    and if where talking about album of the year.

    hip hop wise i still think

    – Nas and Damian Marley – Distant Relatives
    – Rick Ross – Teflon Don
    – The Roots – How I Got Over
    – Capone n Noreaga – War Report 2

    are all better……..

    but in saying all that i really liked the album.

    but one thing i can say for sure is that the Jay-Z and Kanye West – Watch The Thrown album will destroy this album.

    especially after hearing this years “Exhibit C”

    Kanye West n Jay-Z – Thats My Bitch ft. La Roux

    now thats Hip Hop………

    peace

    afan

  16. Ali Elabbady
    Nov 28, 2010 @ 20:44:05

    I’m pretty much in full accordance with this review.

    Easily one of the best Kanye albums.

  17. Paul Christiansen
    Nov 28, 2010 @ 20:37:11

    I wanted this album to fail. From his asshat persona to what i consider wildly over-rated performances on past outings, it’s been easy to be a Yeezy hater. But, this review is right on – a fantastic album (in the running for album of the year) that i’ll be enjoying for a long time.

  18. i am salty
    Nov 28, 2010 @ 12:31:36

    Great review. Although, if you factor in all the ‘G.O.O.D. Friday’ releases (which should have been on the album) then I would give it a 5.

  19. JustPlans
    Nov 28, 2010 @ 08:16:28

    ‘YE really showed the haters and threw the industry rules outta window! album of the decade hands down def deserves a 5/5

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