Review Summary: "One Hell Of A Life"
The term “hater” is thrown around in the hip-hop community so often that the word itself has become a bit of a relic. A big reason why is because though some people may not care about being hated by the public, they don’t thrive off of it. Some can brush it off but not many are truly able to use it to their advantage the way Kanye West does. Whether you love him or despise him, there is no one who truly fuels off of being detested like Kanye. In 2009 the general publics dislike for him reached an all-time high with the VMA’s incident where he snatched Taylor Swifts award from her on-stage, one of his most infamous moments, along with a couple of Jesus Christ comparisons. On top of this he was coming off of the worst release of his career with 808’s and Heartbreak. It is crazy to think that by 2010 Kanye West’s career was at a bit of a crossroad. His only option was to drop a bombshell on the music community. He did just that with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, an uncharacteristically artistic hip-hop album with stellar production.
Kanye’s first three albums were also produced very well but just not in the same way as Dark Twisted Fantasy. College Dropout, Late Registration and Graduation are a bit rawer hip hop albums as Kanye focused more on the lyrics and the rapping than he did on the beat and music. He worked more to produce a beat that fit well with his rapping but to never out shine it. 808’s and Heartbreak is when he changed tune a little bit, or should I say auto tune as he put a little more into producing, but still had not quite mastered it yet. He truly found his stride in production on Dark Twisted Fantasy with fantastic piano and numerous other instrumental riffs incorporated into the rhythm of many of the songs, most notably on “Devil In A New Dress”, “Runaway” and “Blame Game,” which adds a very introspective and dare I say classical quality to these tracks. There are still some of his signature hip-hop songs as well, particularly at the beginning of the album where he seems to be picking up from where he left off with Graduation more so than 808’s and Heartbreak (No complaints here). “Dark Fantasy,” the albums opener starts off the record with a catchy beat and a gospel-sounding chorus with swagger-filled rapping from West. “Power” is the most prototypical hip-hop song on the album with an extremely catchy up-tempo beat along with Kanye basically embracing how he is viewed by the public: “Thinkin' no one man should have all that power//The clock's tickin', I just count the hours/Stop trippin', I'm trippin' off the powder/'Til then, *** that, the world's ours.”
The albums most popular song, “All of the Lights,” is the type of song Kanye was trying to create two years earlier but managed to succeed this time around as it has a glorious intro which builds up into an extremely powerful song with a strong guest appearance from Rihanna, and a beautiful trumpet section. This song is the first glimpse in to the wildly great production to come on the album. Unfortunately the album is a bit over produced in some parts as the listener can sometimes find themselves completely forgetting about Kanye on the album as they are listening to an instrumental for prolonged periods of time, most notably on “Runaway,” which is certainly likable but a bit drawn out, along with a few other portions of the album that attempt to showcase Kanye’s production skills. One of the better tracks comes halfway through the album with “So Appalled,” a slower song with a number of guest appearances, the best coming from his pal Jay-Z. What makes this song stand out is that it has a bit more of a reflective sound, with slightly more meaningful lyrics: “N***** be writing bull*** like they gotta work/N***** is going through real ***, man they outta work/That's why another ***damn dance track gotta hurt/That's why I rather spit something that gotta purp'.” Another treat comes towards the end of the album where West exploits an extremely underrated skill of his which is sampling another song into his own track. In this case he uses Bon Iver’s “The Woods” sampled on “Lost in the World,” the albums darkest song which covers the topics of loss and isolation. West builds upon the chorus with heavier beats and a touch of well-crafted auto tune. The album as a whole gets much darker as it progresses towards the end.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was a statement album that helped pull Kanye out of a very brief slump and back into the world of hypnotizing light shows. It is by far one of the most instrumentally rich hip-hop albums to ever be released, and by far Kanye’s most emotional and brutally honest album. I would go far enough to say it is his finest work. He went from being an asshole to…well a highly-respected asshole, which is a title he undoubtedly thrives under. Running over 70 minutes, the album is a bit of a challenge to get through but it is most certainly worth it. You will not hear many hip-hop albums, if any for that matter, with such a theatrical feel with some very uplifting and some very somber moments. It is a bipolar emotional rollercoaster filled with thrilling experiences. Kanye West reinvented himself a bit at this stage of his career, but it was certainly for the best.