I had heard some songs on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy before I actually sat down and listened to the album. Being my twelve year old self, I had heard songs like "All Of The Lights" at school dances. I hadn't thought anything of them, because I really wasn't paying attention to them carefully. But, because of the rave reviews coming from--well, EVERYONE, I knew I was obligated to listen to this album. I expected another mediocre rapper spitting rhymes about himself, sex, drugs, and the rapper lifestyle; an undeservedly popular man with guest appearances from other mediocre artists to deliver to catchy, forgettable hooks.
I was right about rapping about himself, sex, drugs, and the rapper lifestyle, and the guest appearances, but the hooks are by no means forgettable, and Kanye West is by no means mediocre. He is, in fact, an excellent artist.
The production on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is absolutely amazing, with a wonderful, clean sound without being overproduced and emotionless. In fact, the emotions are bursting with reality and honesty here. Kanye's lyrics are nothing short of brilliant ("Too many Urkels on your team/That's why your Winslow/wins low"); Kanye is at his best here. His lines are still narcissistic and misogynistic, but some of it is just great. The swearing can sometimes be a bit much ("So Appalled"), though, I might add.
The guests can range from rather terrible (Nicki Minaj) to great (Elton John, Justin Vernon [of Bon Iver]), but no matter who it is, it adds a nice touch to the song/melody. One of the best guest appearances is Nicki Minaj on the opening verse on Dark Fantasy. It's nothing short of brilliant. Her deliver is ferocious, and her accent is wonderful.
"You might think you’ve piqued the scene, you haven’t, the real one’s far too mean
The watered down one, the one you know was made up centuries ago
They made it sound wack and corny, yes, it’s awful, blasted, boring
Twisted fiction, sick addiction, well gather ‘round children, zip it, listen"
Also, Rihanna is great on the hook of one of the highlights (no pun intended) of the album, "All of the Lights." Kid Cudi and Rick Ross are featured in many songs, and they are always at the top of their game.
One of my favorite tracks is the epic, sprawling, ambitious piece of art, "Runaway." It begins with a single piano note, repeated multiple times. Kanye raps about "Toasting the d**che bags, the a*sholes, the scumbags, everyone of them that I know." Usually, I wouldn't take a track with lyrics like that serious, but the melody is counterintuitively beautiful. The nine minute track's last three minutes is Kanye's warped, garbled voice murmuring (mostly) incomprehensible phrases over the beat and piano. The track is the epic centerpiece of the album.
Another brilliant track is "All of the Lights." Usually, horns and hip-hop do not work well together at all, but Kanye pulls it off easily. The interlude is a good build-up to the track, and the hook is infectious. As always, the lyricism is perfect. The symphonic song is one of the best on the album.
POWER, the lead single off the album, is also a definite highlight. The vocal riff carries the song throughout a sample of the progressive rock '60s classic "21st Century Schizoid Man" by King Crimson. I think this was an iffy choice for a sample, but Kanye West pulls it off well enough. Like it's name, this song has a power about it and the production, of course, is beautiful in every way.
Although this is technically a "hip-hop" album, it really isn't. There is much, much more to it. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is basically a melting pot of tons of genres. Gorgeous has funk-rock elements in it, Power, of course has the progressive rock sample built around the tune, and the strings and horns give some songs a classical tinge.
Kanye West has created an undoubted masterpiece with this album. It is like no other hip-hop album ever released, and was, ridiculously, omitted from the Grammy Album Of The Year Award. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is, indeed, dark and twisted, but it is also quite beautiful. It is quite possibly the best album of the decade so far, and an instant classic. If you haven't heard of it--what, have you been living under a rock for the past two years??