Few albums come out that make me say, “Damn, this is perfect.” Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is one of those albums. Sure, he’s the guy we all love to hate, whose persona is permeated with a blatant air of arrogance and a shroud of constant controversy, but it’s hard not to admire someone who can take all of that and create a surreal, honest and beautiful album like My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
West started working on the album during his hiatus from the spotlight — after the Taylor Swift debacle and getting a piece of Barack Obama’s disapproving mind. Through his break and recovery from self-inflicted injury — or perhaps even despair — West conjured up an album more memorable in both production and artistry than any of his other efforts to date.
However, he was not entirely alone. During recording, West collaborated with a plethora of artists, most notably Wu-Tang Clan’s Raekwon, Pusha T of Clipse, Jay-Z and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon. With the help of his diverse collaborators, West crafted an impressive range of musical sounds that take more of a cue from his brilliant debut (The College Dropout) than from the more recent 808s & Heartbreak (although the close to “Runaway” would beg to differ). Out was the heavy Auto-Tune drone and in were delicately placed samples and percussive beats, evident in the album’s penultimate track, “Lost in the World,” in which Justin Vernon croons his melody to “The Woods” met by electronic percussion.
West’s perfected flow is also apparent. He can’t sing for shit but his rhymes are like knives — so sharp and precise you could cut yourself if you don’t watch your fingers. Lyrically, his sincerity comes off best on “Runaway,” a gorgeous track charged with dark insecurity and remorse — two hard-to-attribute-to-West traits until you hear the track. Well, you may still think he’s a douchebag, but at least he admits it, right?
Throughout the album, West’s eccentric lyrics delve into deep and strange crevices. Suicide becomes unsettlingly beautiful in “Power” while failed anal sex becomes the theme in “Hell of a Life.”
If psychotic could ever be a good thing, it most definitely is on this album. It’s kind of crazy but totally coherent, relatable and totally epic, like a schizophrenic agreeing with himselves. While not a single part of the album falls short, it grows and diminishes in a give-and-take sort of way creating a musical rollercoaster, not unlike the rollercoaster West found himself on in his personal life. It’s difficult to describe any of the tracks as anything other than beautiful, even the ominous “Monster,” in which West proclaims himself a monster and affirms that his “presence is a present.” Nicki Minaj also graces us with her presence on the track and kills it with her self-assured badassery.
In My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy lines are blurred when it comes to sex, love, egotism, humility, religion and the media. Even musical genres entwine — it’s not just hip-hop, it’s pop and rap with a little bit of indie rock thrown in for good measure. It is breathtakingly visceral while still psychological and personal. On the surface, it is an album pleasing in every auditory way, but as West’s words flow through the beats and melodies it becomes easier to see it for what it is; it is dark, it is twisted, but more than anything, it’s beautiful. Not to fuel his douchebaggery, but this album is Kanye West’s masterpiece in every shape and form.