Kanye West | My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Roc-A-Fella)

Frankly, if West feeds off of his ego to create masterpieces like his latest album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, we should be heaping even more praise in his direction.

 
 
 
The hatred towards Kanye West has always confused me. Obviously, he’s unbelievably egotistical, arrogant and self-centered, but what MC isn’t? Though West often takes it to another level—I did feel bad for Justice and Taylor Swift—considering the personality traits common to hip-hop artists and musicians in general, is arrogance really that bad? Frankly, if West feeds off of his ego to create masterpieces like his latest album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, we should be heaping even more praise in his direction.
 
There are some things you can count on from a Kanye record, even on 2008’s relatively weak effort, 808s and Heartbreaks: great production, great guests and mediocre lyrics. And while the first and second are still true, the lyrical jump that’s made here is impressive. While Kanye used to waste time on sub par rhymes stemming mostly from bad jokes, he’s now stepped up his introspection. As a result, the jokes are sparse and resonate better. The change is clearly evident on the album’s opener, “Dark Fantasy.” Kanye has never been completely worthless on the mic, but here he is consistently solid and even outstanding at times. He continues to show off his improved skill with a rambling emptying of his heart on “Blame Game,” and on my favorite track, the astonishing “POWER.” He is legitimizing himself as a hip-hop artist and not just a producer who happens to rhyme.
 
Of course, West is heavily assisted, as always. One of the most exciting things about a new Kanye record is seeing how the guests step their game up, and how he tailors the songs to fit their styles. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy doesn’t feature as many guests as some of his past efforts, but those that are included don’t disappoint. Most notably, the album features Nicki Minaj going crazy on “Monster,” Pusha T surprising on “Runaway” and Jay-Z’s best verse in a long time on “So Appalled.” In terms of singers, Kid CuDi, John Legend and especially Rihanna all offer up great efforts. Rihanna fits with Kanye’s beats perfectly and makes “All Of The Lights” something special.
 
However, the two guests who I feel are the most important to the record are members of the Wu-Tang Clan, Raekwon The Chef and RZA. The Wu-Tang influence is unmistakable, showing up very obviously on “Gorgeous” (featuring Raekwon) and in the slick piano loop on “Runaway.” However, the biggest Wu-Tang contribution isn’t quite as obvious. What Kanye does here that is so impressive is something he’s flirted with in the past but never quite succeeded at; instead of fitting his style into his influences, he learns from the RZA and fits his influences into his style. This is something that RZA has consistently talked about—Wu-Tang listen to Motown, hip-hop, gospel; it all shows up in their music often. But no matter the influence, you can always tell a RZA beat when you hear one. This skill is a game changer for Kanye. It takes his ear for epic music and his unbelievably diverse influences and creates something brand new.
 
“Gold Digger” and “Touch The Sky” are excellent beats, but when I listen to Late Registration they stand out as not carrying a common theme. When I hear how everything ties together on this release, though, it finally becomes clear what his previous albums were missing. Late Registration lacked a consistent, overarching sound needed to make it more than a collection of great singles. In fact, I think that’s why Kayne’s early efforts featured so many skits; they were an effort to tie unrelated songs together. With this new consistency in lyrics and production, he takes his music to new levels. “POWER” is the best example. It’s a masterpiece highlighted by one of Kanye’s best verses, just one of many on this album.
 
Kanye, despite his bravado, is insecure. He talks about how great he is but doesn’t always believe it, and is constantly trying to prove it to us. But this is the source of the drive that’s pushed him to become one of the best hip-hop artists out there. He continually experiments and takes chances because he wants to be the newest and the freshest, and sometimes it doesn’t quite work. But he’s continually changing, taking notes on his failures, in this case by dropping the AutoTune, scaling the skits back and continuing to build something epic. In the end, My Dark and Twisted Fantasy is simply that: a culmination of West’s brilliance and a hip-hop masterpiece.
A+ | Brett Berliner
 
 

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