Kanye West – ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’

17 Nov

One of five album covers available for MBDTF

In a year that saw his media popularity decline significantly following Taylorgate (as if he wasn’t struggling enough before that), it was important for Kanye West to focus primarily on his next musical project and produce an album that would make the world forget about his mistakes outside of the recording studio.

In the summer, Kanye begun a weekly series of free downloads known as ‘G.O.O.D. Fridays’ (referring to his G.O.O.D Music record label) that increased the anticipation of a project that was already eagerly awaited upon following the left-field offering of his previous album ‘808s & Heartbreaks.’ The release of West’s short film Runaway also contained songs from MBDTF on its soundtrack, giving fans a sneak preview of the project.

Although ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ will not be officially released until November 22nd, I have obtained a preview copy of the album, and below is a track-by-track review of the album:

Track 1: DARK FANTASY
The album begins with a spoken-word introduction from Nicki Minaj,  making a peculiar attempt at an English accent. It is not long though before Minaj is sent away and the track really starts. The choir-like backing vocals and chorus that separate Kanye’s boom-bap verses send a tingle down the spine. A fantastic start to the album.

Track 2: GORGEOUS (featuring KiD CuDi and Raekwon)
KiD CuDi, one of Kanye’s early signees to his G.O.O.D. Music label, leads the track with a chorus typical of CuDi’s solo work, which is certainly a good thing.  Kanye’s lyrics are as chest-pumping as ever, and of course controversial:

I treat money the way the government treats AIDs,
I won’t stop until n*ggas get it, get it?”

Wu-Tang clan member and hip-hop legend Raekwon makes an appearance at the end of the track, and doesn’t disappoint with a typically gritty verse.

Track 3: POWER (featuring Dwele)
The album’s first single is rare for a Kanye West track in that it was not produced by Kanye himself: the man behind the boards is S1, who had initially created the beat for rapper Rhymefest, a friend of Kanye. It does not, however, feel alien on this album. The 808 drum beat and tribal chant-sampling sound like they came crafted from the hands of West himself. ‘Power’ is a fine example of the sound Kanye West said he aimed to create in recent years, in that it is music of “stadium status.” It is certainly of the epic variety, and would lift the roof off any concert arena, let alone a club. Soul singer Dwele closes the song with a brief sung solo. A great single.

Track 4&5:  ALL OF THE LIGHTS (featuring Rihanna, KiD CuDi, Fergie, Elton John, John Legend, Alicia Keys, The-Dream, Tony Williams, Ryan Leslie, Charlie Wilson and Elly Jackson)
On paper, this track was set to be an absolute epic. In practice, it doesn’t fail to disappoint. Track 4 is a minute-long piano introduction to the song, which has pop sensation Rihanna on the chorus over an anthemic beat of horns and drums that are an aural sensation.  Most of the line-up featuring on the track are hidden within backing vocals, but Fergie has a brief rap verse and a piano solo at the finish is from none other than Elton John. If this isn’t a worldwide hit, I will eat my hat. Stunning.

Track 6: MONSTER (featuring Rick Ross, Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj and Bon Iver)
One of the most well-received ‘G.O.O.D. Friday’ offerings, ‘Monster’ is an example of modern boom-bap rap at its finest. After a brief Rick Ross introductory verse (if it can be called that, such is its short length), Kanye and mentor Jay-Z recite verses with anger and aggression over equally-dark production. The biggest surprise on this track, though, is the show-stealing verse from Nicki Minaj.

“So let me get this straight, wait, I’m the rookie?
When my features and my shows are 10 times your pay?
50k for a verse, no album out
And my money’s so tall that my Barbie’s gotta climb it,
Hotter than a Middle Eastern climate…”

Minaj’s quirky vocal antics on her rap verses have divided opinion in the hip-hop community, but they were tailor-made for a track such as this. For someone whose debut album isn’t even out yet, it could quite possibly be a career-defining verse. Bon Iver closes the track is in a manner not too disimilar to Dwele on ‘Power.’

Track 7: SO APPALLED (featuring Swizz Beatz, Jay-Z, Pusha T, CyHi da Prynce and The RZA)
The boom-bap, rap relay theme continues with another ‘G.O.O.D. Friday’ offering in ‘So Appalled.’ The explicit hook is chanted by two classic hypemen in Swizz Beatz and The RZA (at the beginning and the end of the track respectively). The production is equally as dark as ‘Monster’ though with the addition of strings there is more of a personal inclination to close your eyes, spread your arms wide and nod your head. West’s G.O.O.D. Music signees Pusha T and CyHi da Prynce do not sound like fish out of water in the company of Jay-Z, which gives great hope to their debut projects under West’s label. Jay-Z’s verse is notable for inadvertently prompting fury andeven a diss video from MC Hammer:

“…and Hammer went broke so you know I’m more focused,
I lost 30-mill so I spent another 30,
Cos unlike Hammer 30 million won’t hurt me”

Track 8: DEVIL IN A NEW DRESS (featuring Rick Ross)
The mood of the album changes direction with a soul-sample that would not sound out of place on any of Kanye West’s early works. The instrumental is so good any rapper would sound effortless on it, although the sample is so overwhelming that even after several listens I struggle to recite many of the lyrics from either West or Rick Ross.

Track 9: RUNAWAY (featuring Pusha T)
Clocking in at over 9 minutes, ‘Runaway’ is a song remnant of West’s experimental ‘808s & Heartbreaks’ in that the beat is a simple slow piano loop and the chorus is sung by West himself.  The verses are much slower in pace that anything on the previous tracks, but it suits the track. The main difference between the album version of this track and the radio edit is most notably an additional 3 minutes at the end of the track, which consists of Kanye humming through an inaudible vocoder, which for some inexplicable reason sounds remarkably listenable.

Track 10: HELL OF A LIFE
This is very much a no-nonsense rap track, as West works over a guitar-sampling beat that sounds reminiscent of ‘Takeover,’ the Jay-Z track that introduced Kanye West to the world as a serious beat-maker. This shows that Kanye can stand confident as a rapper without necessarily having to rope in help from elsewhere, a la tracks 6 and 7.

Track 11: BLAME GAME (featuring John Legend)
The album’s pace slows down again, as John Legend enters with a blissfully soulful hook and opening verse.  The presence of such tracks on the album show that West wishes to continue the romantic themes prevalent in ‘808s & Heartbreaks,’ but this time leaving the singing to talented vocal artists as opposed to himself. He himself admitted to XXL magazine that “the style of 808s & Heartbreak is better served by Drake and KiD CuDi than it is by me.” It doesn’t stop West, however, crooning briefly at the end of the song. What follows the song is 2 minutes of the piano within the beat continued, as Chris Rock proclaims delight at his girlfriend, and credits Kanye for his good fortune. Strange, but not out of place.

Track 12: LOST IN THE WORLD (featuring Bon Iver)
The album’s closing track is of the anthemic style seen in the album opener and ‘All of the Lights.’ Bon Iver takes charge of the sung vocals, as West’s production includes typically-thumping drums, in a style not too unlike ‘Love Lockdown.‘ The song closes with a spoken word poem from The Last Poets, as they ask “Who will survive in America?”

 

In conclusion, Kanye West has created a masterpiece. There is not a single bad track on the album, and the beats are all worthy of any artists’ presence. West has brought everything that was good about the controversial ‘808s & Heartbreak’ and then combined them with everything that worked from his projects before that, with rap posse tracks that will be recited in street corners across the world. He has managed to incorporate the emotions and themes of love without losing any credibility amongst the sterner hip-hop fans, which is in itself a remarkable achievement. The brief applause that can be heard at the end of the album is accompanied by my own clapping.

If you are not particularly a hip-hop fan, give the likes of ‘Blame Game’ and ‘All of the Lights’ a listen and work your way in slowly from there. As for those familiar with the work of Kanye West and the peers of his genre, give the whole thing a go. I urge you to give the album a listen. It is certainly in the top 1 of rap albums this year. 5 out of 5, no question.

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4 Responses to “Kanye West – ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’”

  1. Anni November 17, 2010 at 01:22 #

    Very good Joe, I’m impressed! You’ve encouraged me to actually give it a listen. Also, why is All Of The Lights track 4 & 5? Did he do a radio version then extended?

    • coolrunnings123 November 17, 2010 at 01:26 #

      Track 4 is merely an interlude that shares the same name as the track that follows it. I think the idea is to build up towards the track. If I am not mistaken, it is Elton John on the piano so perhaps the purpose is to give that some attention.

  2. Wesley Prickett November 29, 2010 at 15:39 #

    like this alot Joe, definitely going to give this a listen!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. My Top 5 Rap Albums of 2010 (and a Poll for yours!) « Not Your Average Joe - January 6, 2011

    […] creation of his masterpiece. The album drew such a favourable reaction from myself that I wrote a track-by-track review of the album on this very site, which I implore you to visit. With Kanye’s collaborative […]

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