Throwback Thursday- My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
November 22 marked the nine year anniversary of ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’. After listening to this album the other day, I’ve come to the conclusion that it sounds better now than it did then.
Don’t get it confused, ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ was one of my favorite albums of that year. I thought it was genius. But after a decade, I have a newfound appreciation for this project.
Listening to the album for the first time in a few years felt like becoming reacquainted with an old friend. I began to remember everything I liked about the album, and learned a few things I didn’t know.
Can We Get Much Higher?
Following a period of public(can you say Taylor Swift?) and legal controversy, West retreated to a self-imposed exile in Hawaii in 2009. In hindsight, it was probably for the best. While we liked the music, some of us needed a break from his arrogance and sometimes erratic behavior.
In Hawaii he worked on the album in a communal recording environment involving numerous contributing musicians and producers. The recording sessions featured guest appearances from: Bon Iver, Jay-Z, Pusha T, Rick Ross, Kid Cudi, Nicki Minaj, John Legend, and Raekwon, among others.
November 22, 2010
The album is released and debuts at #1 selling $518,000 units in the first week. ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ was also met with widespread critical acclaim.
But even the less enthusiastic reviews were good. AllMusic’s Andy Kellman found his rapping inconsistent on what was nonetheless “a deeply fascinating accomplishment” in West’s catalogue: “As fatiguing as it is invigorating, as cold-blooded as it is heart-rending, as haphazardly splattered as it is meticulously sculpted, [the album] is an extraordinarily complex 70-minute set of songs … As the ego and ambition swells, so does the appeal, the repulsiveness, and – most importantly – the ingenuity”.
But enough with the critics. Let’s examine a few tracks from Kanye’s Magnum Opus:
Nicki Minaj stars as the narrator on the first track- which serves as the opener. The song introduces several themes on the album and includes numerous pop culture references. Justin Vernon and Teyanna Taylor contribute to the song’s hook and provide background vocals.
Despite not being released as a single, the hype generated by the release of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy caused the song to enter the Billboard Hot 100 at position 60. It was the opening song of West’s 2011 setlist at the Coachella Music Festival, and was performed at the ‘Vevo Presents GOOD Music’ musical venue. “Dark Fantasy” was utilized during the opening sequence of West’s short film Runaway, during an extended scene with West driving down an atmospheric forest.
This song was produced by No I.D and Mike Dean and featured verses from Raekwon and a hook by Kid Cudi. The intricate production and West’s delivery and lyricism helped to propel this song into the Billboard Top 100. This track wasn’t released as a single, but was too good to ignore.
Power is one of my favorite tracks from this project. It’s been described by critics as a return to form for West and praised for the production and West’ s lyrical merit and scope:
Fuck SNL and the whole cast
Tell ’em Yeezy said they can kiss my whole ass
More specifically, they can kiss my asshole
I’m an asshole? You niggas got jokes
You short-minded niggas thoughts is Napoleon
My furs is Mongolian, my ice brought the goldies in
Now I embody every characteristic of the egotistic
He knows, he so, fuckin’ gifted
I just needed time alone, with my own thoughts
Got treasures in my mind but couldn’t open up my own vault
My childlike creativity, purity and honesty
Is honestly being crowded by these grown thoughts
Reality is catchin’ up with me
Takin’ my inner child, I’m fighting for custody
With these responsibilities that they entrusted me
As I look down at my diamond encrusted piece 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, fuck that, the world’s ours
All Of The Lights
The fourth track was produced by West and features additional vocals from several other recording artists, including John Legend, The-Dream, Elly Jackson, Alicia Keys, Fergie, Kid Cudi, Elton John, Drake, and Rihanna. The last is the only credited feature on the single, though on the music video, she and Cudi both appeared with a credited feature.
I can remember when the Hype Williams directed video was released. Warnings were issued stating the video may be harmful to people with photosensitive epilepsy. The flashing lights and quick editing had a few advocacy groups in an uproar.
The interlude to this song is what initially drew me in. The piano and cello are almost hypnotizing. I could honestly be happy with a full length instrumental.
This song is marked by tribal drumbeats and features from Rick Ross, Jay-Z and Nicki Minaj. The chorus of this song has two separate meanings; West bragging about his lyrical skills while commenting on the media’s reception of him:
gossip gossip nigga just stop it everybody knows Im a muthafucking monster Imma need to see yo fuckin hands at the concert Imma need to see yo fuckin hands at the concert profit profit nigga I got it everybody knows Im a muthafuckin monster Imma need to see yo fuckin hands at the concert Imma need to see yo fuckin hands…
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy had 7 more tracks. Most people will remember Runaway, but Hell of A Life, Blame Game, So Appalled and Devil In a New Dress were also stand out songs. The album’s final two tracks are Lost In The Word and Who Will Survive In America.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was one of the best albums of 2010. While I may not care for West as a person, his artistry during that period was undeniable. This project is about love, lust, excessive consumption, fame, and spirituality.
Kanye is one of the few who can simultaneously talk about everything and nothing and make it work. If West ever created a masterpiece, this would be it. And ten years later, this album is still worth listening to.