Review Summary: Chapter 5: Magnum Opus
Kanye should’ve disappeared from the public eye for good. He should’ve been publicly shunned for what he did. That one moment should’ve ruined his reputation as a respectable artist right then and there, and for a while, it looked like it did. He ran from music and enveloped himself into the fashion world after the infamous 2009 VMA’s incident. However, what we didn’t know, was that he had gathered some of the biggest names in music to help him create the album that would be his comeback.
Sonically, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is easily Kanye’s greatest achievement to date. The album takes a maximalist approach with its style; there's almost always something going on in the production whether it's at the forefront or a subtle touch that makes the track just a bit more perfect. However, West doesn't go overboard with it. Each musical idea is given just enough time to truly feel fleshed out without dragging on too long. Also, as a collage of all the previous styles, he not only perfectly replicated all the previous styles he’s played with, but improved them. The Graduation-esque electronic tracks pack a bigger punch that some tracks of the album lacked, the soul-tinged sound of College Dropout sounds grander than ever, and “Runaway” takes the autotuned-charged emotion from 808s and Heartbreaks and takes it to places nobody thought possible.
It’s almost impossible for one man (or woman) to hold up rap albums, and this one is obviously no exception.. Everyone here brings their A-game: Rick Ross and Jay-Z both contribute greatly in “Devil In A New Dress” and “So Appalled” (respectively), Nicki Minaj spits the best verse of her career in “Monster”, and Rihanna, John Legend, Pusha T, and even indie darling Bon Iver delivers spectacular hooks on their respective tracks. However, Kanye is not a man to be overshadowed, as he gives us his best lyrics since The College Dropout. While he does show off his MC skills in “Power” and “Monster”, two tracks where the production style allows for a flashy rapping style, he does his best when he’s simply musing about what he cares most about
: love, fame, and himself.
Albums about fame are nothing new. Rap albums about love, while not as common, are also far from revolutionary. However, the way Fantasy tackles the subjects puts an interesting spin on them that make them feel fresher than ever. Tracks like “Power” and “Gorgeous”, instead of simply bragging about how famous he is, has Kanye questioning what fame means and how it’s affected him emotionally and mentally. He sees that as he gets bigger, so does his problems. His life is spiraling out of control like a fiery ball of drugs, sex, excess, and porn star wives. But what West is trying to express with idea is expertly expressed in these 5 bars from "POWER":
“Reality is catching up with me/ Taking my inner child, I’m fighting for custody/ With these responsibilities that they entrusted me/As I look down at my diamond encrusted piece/ Thinking no one man should have all that power”
However, everything changes once you reach the 9-minute epic:“Runaway”. In this track, West tells of his troubles with love and his infamous ego, and it’s absolutely stunning hearing a rap song, a genre infamous for its unacceptance of emotional weakness, have its arguably biggest star admit to all his mistakes and faults, leaving himself vulnerable in a way that feels absolutely genuine. In addition, the final three minutes of this track is an awe-inspiringly beautiful showcase of lush strings and autotune coming together to truly make something wonderful. This track also signifies a change in mood within Fantasy. The second half of this album revolves around West’s failed relationships, and lyrically, it surpasses the 1st half, which is quite the feat to accomplish. The tracks don’t simply tell about how much this girl is the worst thing ever, or how it’s all West’s fault. It’s depicted like an actual breakup: nothing is all black and white and things can get ugly. Its tracks like these that break the molds that hip-hop has been put into, and shows actual human emotions instead being simple power fantasies where one side is always 100% right.
Many say that after an artist is long gone, that while their antics will fade from memories, the music will last forever. However Mr. West doesn’t want that to happen. His life is his music, and it’s nearly impossible for you to fully understand it unless you understand him as a character. He is an egotistical, rude, arrogant man, and he wants you to know it. But one thing that captures Kanye West is this one word: passionate, and this is his passion project.