Review Summary: Yeezy taught you well...Yeezy taught you well.
I don’t care what you think about Kanye West, I really
don’t. That’s right, I’m addressing you, the reader, because when something like My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
accumulates critical hype to the degree it has, its reviewers come across as repetitive trend-followers. Unless they’re naysayers. And the way Pitchfork and company have given Kanye the ever-coveted kiss of eternal indie approval, you’ll be hard pressed to find a negative reaction to Fantasy
. So here’s the deal: I’m going to prove that Yeezy’s fifth full-length is an important release in the world of hip-hop without introducing my own opinion of its content. Granted, I have an opinion, and two weeks ago I would’ve been perfectly content with sharing it, but a sudden onslaught of hyperbolic praise is reason enough to make me proceed cautiously. Plenty of reviewers want you to purchase Fantasy
, and if I have to drain my argument of sentiment to avoid appearing like an advertiser, so be it. All I have to say is this: Kanye West has something to say.
Yeezy makes this very clear from the get-go, courtesy of a spoken-word intro in which the up-and-coming Nicki Minaj orders West’s audience to shut up and listen. Then, after a thirty-second choral tease, Kanye drops the first beat of his dark fantasy. Before long, he’s spitting ego-laced one liners [as usual], but this isn’t the ‘Ye of old; what separates Fantasy
from West’s previous endeavors is circumstance. This is the work of an exile, an outcast whose relevance wholly depends on his next move. Well, here it is, and it’s not apologetic in the least. What it is, though, is a self-aware projection of the artist himself, twisted traits and all. No holds barred. From the possessive album title to the explicitly deprecating cover art to the referential lyrics, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
is Kanye’s self-titled, in a sense.
And Kanye, according to Kanye, isn’t just a disser of presidents or an interrupter of pop stars. This Kanye’s a cubist nightmare; he’s a naked, hairy, 40-swigging monstrosity; and he has his head impaled upon a bloody sword. He doesn’t care what you think of him, either. Yeah, he’s a scumbag. Yeah, he’s the abomination of Obama’s nation. He knows it, too; more importantly, he feeds off of it. Without a certain one-two punch of personal loss, 808s & Heartbreaks
’ melancholy wouldn’t have surfaced. Likewise, without the 2009 VMA’s, without the SNL/South Park jabbing, without public backlash, without negative energy, Fantasy
wouldn’t be the ugly affair Kanye set out to make with startling vivacity and acceptance.
In a genre of music bogged down by modern superficiality, the monster offers up a portrait of genuine, passionate honesty. For this and this alone, Fantasy
presents a strong case for entry into the list of significant hip-hop records. But Kanye’s ambition for 2010 extends far beyond an important studio release: whether or not you respect him, you cannot deny that he is far and away the year’s most prolific artist. No other musician has utilized Twitter as a stream-of-consciousness link to his or her fanbase, leaked free B-sides on a weekly basis, directed a 35-minute symbolic art film, or tinkered with the SNL stage. Mr. West has, all in the course of four months. With a potentially game-changing record to boot, not to mention his outrageous work ethic, Yeezy reemerges as an essential artist for this still-young decade.
I haven’t even mentioned the record’s sound yet, and why should I? Kanye doesn’t want me to tell you about the three-minute autotune solo in “Runaway,” about how he samples King Crimson, Aphex Twin, Bon Iver, and Black Sabbath throughout the album’s seventy-minute runtime, or about the strings, the horns, the choirs, the guitar solos – rare instrumentation for a rap record. He wants you to experience his beautiful dark twisted fantasy on your own time, with few if any preconceived notions, and you should listen to him; he’s earned your time, after all, the crazy workaholic that he is. Maybe you’ll end up connecting with him on a demented level…because ultimately, only a handful of people understand the duality of mankind like Kanye West. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
is a dissertation on his flawed character and yours, too. Ye’s already graduated. Now it’s his turn to enlighten, to illustrate, to lecture. He’s giving a toast. Raise your glass, and perhaps you can echo the repeated sample that closes out “Blame Game,” a vocal sample that is – pardon my opinion – one of the creepiest things I’ve ever heard, so seductive…so robotic…so twisted