Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

written by: November 22, 2010
Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy album artwork Release Date: November 22, 2010


Hip-hop has been around far too long to have a Brian Wilson in 2010, let alone a Pet Sounds.

Thousands of rappers have made albums so self-involved they seem to almost inhabit a world onto themselves. Quite a few rappers are educated to a fairly high degree or possess the practical knowledge to operate well outside the rap game.

Most of all, a ton of rappers could be identified as misogynist nymphomaniacs with little regard for women beyond holes with breasts.

Given all this information, why does Kanye West seem like the transcendent, singular example of all the unique elements of rap? And why, after Late Registration, College Dropout, 808s and Heartbreaks and (less so) Graduation, does My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy feel like the best example of how beautiful West can make rap sound?

After releasing two less than perfect records and scaring off the monolith legend of his jaw wired shut and his go-getter past, West did what any man in the middle of mid-life crisis would do. He moved to Hawaii, sequestering himself in a studio with invited guests such as Raekwon, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj and even fucking Bon Iver. In his own self-contained world, West could have easily created 808s & Heartbreaks 2: I’m Still Whining. However,  Fantasy is certifiably dark.

Above the darkness and his desire to seem awash in women, money and fame, West skillfully elevated the sum of his parts into a stratosphere rap rarely comes close to — great art.

Of course, it’s more like great art through a fun house mirror. West realizes how he is viewed (“LOOK AT CHA” from “Runaway”) and instead of throwing a hissy fit or building a Jay-Z-esque wall of “I got a Bentley, so suck it,” he plays along.

Fantasy is about a character created by the media and the public. It’s about a “Monster.” His perspective is so warped that it never seems arrogant for him to say, “I think I fell in love with a porn star” or to force an ingénue to come crawling back to Chris Rock with a whole new set of in-bed moves cooing “Yeezy reupholstered my p*ssy.”

No one man should have all this power, but that’s exactly what West seems has. With the notable exception of Minaj going absolutely apeshit on “Monster,” West commands other rappers and his handpicked beats like Brian Wilson did his studio. After all, West knows the sound in his head is the right one.

Fantasy is a singular vision, a nymphomaniac rave that puts most everything, rap or not, released this year in humbling perspective. It’s dark like Kid Cudi or Drake want to be, yet bouncy and pop smart enough to know where the hooks go. While West’s verse is creating a character in the way his conceptual imagination of a “College Dropout” never did, beats like “Devil in a New Dress” or “POWER” are rumbling under him.They quietly compress the great parts of every West record before them into a twisted masterpiece with the dark scuzziness of 808s, the stringy Jon Brion-isms of Late Registration and the confidence in the product of College Dropout.

West already knows “Who Will Survive in America,” and it’s him

It’s never that easy though. West may be an anti-hero, but the beauty of an anti-hero is that little sliver of the listeners refracted in the champagne toast at the end of ebullient bonus track “See Me Now.” That’s what makes West important, and what makes Fantasy remarkable and Pet Sounds-esque. The listener cannot understand everything about what’s going on. One can appreciate it, sure, and laud it for its numerous accomplishments, but the transcendent moments (the thoughtful exeunt of “Runaway,” the caterwaul closing to “God Only Knows”) allow the listener to see themselves in the reflection.

No one will write another Pet Sounds, but My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, closes on that stratospheric pinnacle of great art that so few creators reach. West created a moment where the listener realizes they are lost in the world of the piece, and once one finds their way out of the maze, it’s no small wonder that they don’t  turn and dive right back in.

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy Tracklist

  1. “Dark Fantasy”
  2. “Gorgeous” (featuring Kid Cudi & Raekwon)
  3. “Power”
  4. “All of the Lights” (Interlude)
  5. “All of the Lights”
  6. “Monster” (featuring Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj & Bon Iver)
  7. “So Apalled” (featuring Jay-Z, Pusha T, Prynce Cy Hi, Swizz Beatz & the RZA)
  8. “Devil in a New Dress”
  9. “Runaway” (featuring Pusha T)
  10. “Hell of a Life”
  11. “Blame Game” (featuring John Legend & Pusha T)
  12. “Lost in the World”
  13. “Who Will Survive In America”