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REVIEW: Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Here it is folks, the long awaited new release from Kanye West…

And I like it. And it’s good. Normally those two things have a direct correlation to one another but even if I didn’t like the album I’d still have to think it’s good. I always catch flack for listing 808s and Heartbreak as my second favorite Kanye album (a placement no one ever agrees with) and while I’ll always stand up for the record, I know in my heart of hearts it’s not a likable record. For the most part it sounds like a radical and behavior shift in musical styles which coincided with the downward spiral of a performers personal life.

People have every reason in the world to see 808s as a misstep…but I always thought there was something there, a new way of putting things together that would’ve been great in different circumstances, evolution a little bit too early. Fuck, I’ll just say it (given my position as the biggest 808s apologist on the planet) 808s and Heartbreak might just be the rap equivalent of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses (for those of you who don’t know, this document basically that sparked the Protestant Reformation.) Say what you will about that album, you cannot say that splits that have always existed in rap music production haven’t gotten wider since it’s release.

We’ve got the Kanye West progressives, the Cali Swag District Minimalists, Songs with Drake, etc, but I digress. The point I’m trying to get to is that the spark of genius which lies in 808s composition has fully burst into a great big flaming ball of brilliance on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

Production wise, there isn’t a single misstep. It’s all bombastic, boastful, Satanic and borders on melancholy at points but trades that at the last minute for nonchalance. Feature wise, it’s a hodgepodge: Kid Cudi, Raekwon, Jay-Z, John Legend, Justin Vernon, Nicki Minaj, Pusha T, Swizz Beats, RZA, Rick Ross, John Legend, Beyonce, Charlie Wilson, Elly Jackson, Elton John, Fergie, Rihanna, The-Dream (and most of the people are just on the posse track “All of the lights”) …and motherfucking Chris Rock, who easily has the most inspired feature, delivering a hilarious outro on “Blame Game.”

Worst feature goes to Fergie who delivers some horribly scratchy noise on “All of the lights” which I’m pretty sure is supposed to be singing even though it sounds like nails on a chalkboard. Still, it works, but I might just being overly cruel to Fergie. Jay-Z might have earned that title for himself with the “terrible old man raps” (as a friend of mine put it) he delivers, on both “So Appalled’ and the a now 9 minute rendition of “Runaway” featuring lots of samples and loops. You’re either going to love this version or hate it, there’s no in-between.

I would say the only real trouble I have with the features, in general, is that everyone appearing on the album almost does so as a caricature of themselves. Something about everyone’s performance really does sound as if it’s being shot through the lens of the titular “dark twisted fantasy” which I guess means the album is doing what it was intended to do, show us the world, or at least a slice of it, through the eyes of Kanye West.

Conceptually, upon first listen there’s something very obvious and easy about the album. At first it reads like a tale of post-apocalyptic celebrity and the affect this downfall has on their personal life…but that’d be too contrived and doesn’t lend to a truly satisfactory reading of the album. Instead of stretching out the fall concept to represent the chunk of a career, instead it almost seems like Kanye’s compressed the oldest Hollywood story of all time into one night into the life of the album’s protagonist. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is the album that’s also an art school movie.

Ain’t much more to say than that.

My favorite track:

All of the Lights (ft. John Legend, Tony Williams, Rihanna, Fergie, Charlie Wilson, Ryan Leslie, Kid Cudi, Elly Jackson, Elton John, Alicia Keys & The-Dream)

I’d upload more but the full versions ain’t on youtube. Go cop this disc, it drops November 22nd.

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