My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy - 10 Years Later.
Through a whirlwind of releases between a five year span, Kanye West has laid out sounds that influenced most of the hip-hop music we've heard over the past decade. Whether it is the moody electronica of 808s & Heartbreak or the aggressive and industrial sounds of Yeezus, a lot of artists replicated the nuances in their music. However the album that was released in between, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, has a legacy all its own. It is from the approach toward its themes and the construct of the sound middling between bombastic grit and grime percussion and synths played to amplify the piano centric instrumentals.
Leading up to the release, critics were dropping reviews from the copy they received earlier and it was near unanimous the amount of praise it received. Pitchfork gave it the rare 10/10 upon release. They weren’t the only publications delivering praise. However, not everyone loved the album upon release. The critic known as TheNeedleDrop (Anthony Fantano) or sometimes known as Melon, gave the album a disheartening 6/10...
And he wasn’t alone. Though I wasn’t so dissuaded as I was conflicted. It was after listening to “Runaway,” that it didn’t seem to click what direction was next. I wasn’t ready for 808s & Heartbreak, so it was certain I wasn’t too ready for this.
I was never privy to evolution and expected a kind of consistency with the jazz and neo-soul samples in the instrumentals like his previous albums. Or maybe I was having some PTSD of my parents taking away my piano after I mastered the craft that is “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” Or maybe it was because, at first, the second half of the album didn’t leave an impactful memory in the long term.
I mean at a time, I wasn’t as privy to the darker instrumentations and how the ambivalent overtures of tracks like “Blame Game,” and “Lost In The World,” atmospheric and anthem like tracks weren’t always a go to as my taste predominantly faltered toward pop and stoner rap. But as the years progressed, the simple dissection of Kanye West's themes and lyricism is how I eventually turned back around and became in awe.
The themes, specifically the downward spirals behind the rose tinted glasses success gives, throughout the album culminated from his character at the time. Going through multiple heartbreaks and the infamous MTV VMA moment with Taylor Swift left different impressions. 808s & Heartbreak was just the stepping stone as it was more lukewarm, in reviews, as opposed to his other albums. But these whirlwinds of allusions about the losses that comes from success and the negatives. Like on “Lost in The World,” or “Dark Fantasy,” the latter of which plays on the bad stuff that could come with fame. Kanye West even proclaims that he drowns his sorrows in his Diablo (Lamborghini).
It's when Kanye delved into these personal solo tracks that he let out a lot. This is with opposition in the bombastic and atmospheric feature heavy tracks. But those tracks have a virtuoso all its own.
The transcendent gothic overture of his influence illuminates Kanye’s aggressively poignant lyricism, while matching with some of the best rappers at the time. “So Appalled,” grimy and grim percussion instrumental from Kanye, No I.D., and Mike Dean, is the cornerstone of one of the better posse cuts of the decade. After the lyrical domination from Kanye West in the first verse, Jay-Z, Pusha-T, and Cy Hi The Prince, bring enough to match with the collective of rappers. Swizz Beats and RZA’s appearance only heightens the strength of the talent behind the track.
It also brought about memorable moments like Nicki Minaj’s verse on “Monster,” or the chorus line at the end of “All Of The Lights,” which has a multitude of artists performing a choir. It’s ambitious use of synths in a lowly and progressive trance-like way amplifies the horn orchestration. It's just mind blowing every time.
But there is a lot that can be broken apart as we reminisce on the trip Kanye West took us through My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. But at the end of the day, culture is one thing and enjoying the masterpiece laid out before us is another. Frankly, I now love to see evolution in the landscape and artists like Kanye West are ones to thank for that.