Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Album Review: Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
The idea that hip-hop albums are autobiographical is nothing new. Virtually every up-and-coming and established hip-hop artist alike touts their albums as reflections of their lives. Biggie let us into the darkness of growing up in the projects on the groundbreaking Life After Death. Big L was the first gangster rapper to gush about his flamboyancy on The Big Picture and Kid Cudi took us right into his “fucked-up” head on Man on the Moon: The End Of Day. On his latest release, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye West one-ups all of them…in typical Kanye style. ‘Ye’s latest batch of songs outshines the musical autobiography that most excellent hip-hop artists conjure with their flow, and moves us into a larger, more cinematic territory. Granted, Kanye’s ambitious short film Runaway did help to add colour to the pictures, but the sketches were laid down well beforehand thanks to the G.O.O.D. Friday song releases.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy opens with narration from Kanye’s now frequent collaborator Nicki Minaj, as well as some tastefully auto tuned crooning from Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon. Before the beat has even dropped Kanye has proven that he knows exactly what today’s modern listeners want. They don’t want their music pigeonholed. They want music that mixes genres together to create something fresh, and Kanye isn’t one to discriminate.
If you’ve turned on a television in the last couple months chances are you’ve heard Kanye West’s theme music. “Power” was featured in The Social Network’s trailor. In fact, it replaced Radiohead’s “Creep”. Chock that up as another victory for Kanye West. Sorry Mr. Yorke. Things get a tad dramatic on “All of the Lights” which is proceeded by a short, related interlude that could easily have been plucked out of a movie score. A fast-paced drum and horn combo, as well as Rihanna’s beautiful voice quickly replace the strings from the interlude and Kanye does the chorus big on this one. Titanic big. Everyone from Elton John to Kid Cudi to John Legend to Alicia Keys and many more lend their voices to create a classic wall-of-sound feel on “All of the Lights”.
Midway through the album comes “Monster”, a vicious attack song featuring hip-hops A list rappers trading verses for five straight minutes. The blunt chorus “everybody knows I’m a motherfucking monster” illustrates where Kanye stands at this point in his career. The man dominates the headlines, insults U.S. Presidents and steals spotlights regularly. West clearly titled this one after himself. He’s a monster who has no time to be hiding under beds. He’d rather be eating the rap-game and public media alive.
Remember when Jay-Z declared himself as “rap’s Grateful Dead” on “Encore”? That title now belongs to Mr. West. At nine minutes in length, “Runaway” maybe the longest hip-hop track in recent memory. In fact, the Grateful Dead rarely produced studio songs of that length. With an extended introduction and a seriously extended outro, “Runaway” sums up Kanye’s ambition in one song. This is an artist who is not afraid to take risks. Scratch that. This song was never a risk, it was always a sure thing.
The final “wow” moment of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy comes thanks to a impressively re-imagined Bon Iver song “Lost In The World”. Once again, ‘Ye makes you re-think what hip-hop should sound like. “Lost In The World’s” hip-hop-meets-indie-rock beat is nothing like you’ve ever heard and Justin Vernon’s auto tune skills trump T-Pain’s.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is a groundbreaking, genre-bending hip-hop album from one of the most loved, hated, controversial, inspiring, and outspoken artists of the decade. Kanye West sets the bar high on this masterpiece, so the only question that really remains is, what will his next musical fantasy be?