Review Summary: Hip Hop can officially lay claim to its own "Dark Side Of The Moon".
During the 1970's, block parties became extensively popular in New York as DJs would play popular music hits of the time. These kind hosts would begin to practice the art of isolating the percussion breaks of select rhythms in a hit song to further entertain their guests. It wouldn't be too many years later before the practice would actually influence the creation of a genre we now know as Hip Hop. Kanye West, while arrogant and incredibly consumed in his own ego, will certainly go down in history as one of the most talented musicians to ever live. Not only has My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy changed Hip Hop forever, but it truly is a testament to how valuable the concept of experimentation truly is in music. Prior to West's entry into the rap game, musical production usually didn't exceed a certain amount of samples within the instrumental. One reason was due to the sheer nature of rap music; emcees needed to maintain a steady flow in order to sound competent while flowing over the production. This is a practice that has maintained itself throughout the 80's, 90's and early 2000's. Thanks to the experimental methods of artists like Kanye West, we now see that not only can you incorporate interludes between verses, but you can mix in some tribal African chant samples and manipulate the chorus whenever you'd like (Lost In The World). You can add a guitar solo in the middle of a six minute song prior to the next rap verse (Devil In A New Dress) or layer some pianos down for a nine minute song (Runaway). These are just one of the many reasons that this album gets the high ratings it deserves. It truly is taking a genre and progressing it in a way that was questionable prior to the highly successful experimentation taking place. Yeezy took some great risks on this album, but the results are truly remarkable.
The album opens up with a true Hip Hop ballad. Nicki Minaj delivers her best British accent in introducing the plot of the album to give the music an almost story telling effect to it. What at first glance would seem like a typical RnB hook then merges in with the song perfectly for Yeezy to enter into his world of misogynous and socially conscious lyrics (those two descriptive words usually don't accompany each other in the same sentence). This has always been a difficult concept for me to understand; Kanye somehow manages to blur the line between caring about humanity and maintaining a hatred of them all at the same time (seems legit). It could be that Ye's personal perspectives on life come off as so twisted and hypocritical that there's no possible way that they could be legitimate. There were actually several points on the album where I thought he was just joking around about a social or political issue only to have the succeeding verse be contradictory to the prior. Am I looking too deeply into this or could playing the role of a schizophrenic individual actually be the goal of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy? Perhaps Kanye is trying to show us the perspective of a paranoid person in this album, a man driven mad by the pleasures of philosophy and incredible sexual pleasure (that's probably too much of a stretch). However, the theme would seem to play quite well with the song "Power" and his sampling of King Crimson's "21st Century Schizoid Man". It's the strength of songs like this and the aggression of tracks like "All Of The Lights" that truly demonstrate the genius this album has to offer. I personally don't have an issue with the inclusion of eleven artists on one song, but I'd question your methods if you said you could get the song to clock in at about five minutes. The song is certainly odd given its chosen samples here but I've really got nothing to complain about. The song never gets boring and maybe that timeless replay value has something to do with the true originality of the work. As I've stated before, MBDTF is truly a Hip Hop opera for tracks just like this. I got a little nervous as I heard John Legend come in on the final hook to end the song, but I was blown away once again by the creativity factor of a Hip Hop instrumental completely going left field once again. There's something about the horns on that song that make me want to rage through Walmart and run everyone over with the shopping cart like a boss (I have no idea why).
I do have my complaints with this album although I can't really argue too much on how certain tracks should have been carried out. Does anyone else realize how epic a Nas or Mos Def feature would have been on the final cut of "So Appalled"? Instead, the listener is told to sit back down as The RZA begins to screech the hook angrily over his own production to end the song. If anything, why couldn't he contribute a verse to wrap up the song? A Wu-Tang emcee finishing off an already extraordinary song really would have slammed the bell hard on "the epitome of epic" scale. All things considered, the song is still quite epic and still garners considerable replay value on my iPod with the rest of the album, but one more verse from a really respected rapper would have cemented the deal in terms of perfection regarding that particular track. In all honesty, I wasn't really too fond of Rick Ross just standing still on the track "Monster". It almost felt like he was just there to make the other fat guys in the room feel like they're skinnier than they actually are. "As you run through my jungle all you hear is rumble". I sometimes feel that people are just using Rick Ross to add some aggression to the track although this thinking portrays the idea that he's not essential in the final result of how things end up. It's like Ross almost becomes a tasteless sugar that won't matter in the final taste of the cake anyway so why include it? Does this mean that future Hip Hop artists influenced by West are going to get guys like Waka Flocka Flame to open up the introduction for their nine minute rap songs? I certainly hope not. While MBDTF has its faults, it's likely going to change the way talented emcees approach their rap repertoire in a similar fashion that Illmatic or 36 Chambers did. Has Kanye opened the door for progressive and alternative Hip Hop to eventually rise into mainstream popularity in a way that Pink Floyd and King Crimson did for the rock genre? I'll leave that for you to decide. Some may not like Kanye West, but you can't deny that he's actually made an album worth bragging about to represent this generation and many more to follow.