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.
4.5 out of 5