It’s difficult to find an album with a bigger sound than Kanye West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”. Nevertheless, I find it disappointing that such grandiosity could only be achieved with a small army of producers and the sheer star power of other artists. For someone with such an egocentric persona, Kanye shares the spotlight generously with the likes of Jay-Z, Rick Ross, and Rihanna. This record is undeniably a great triumph in lyricism, rapping, and production. It is a true model of success, but to say that such success belongs to Kanye alone would be untrue. This record would not have been an instant classic without the contributions of many others.
Kanye is undoubtedly a skilled producer and rapper. Had he kept the features on “MBDTF” to a minimum it would still have been a great success. Take “Yeezus” for example. A minimalist album with Kanye at center stage. “Yeezus” may be reactionary to the maximalist ideals of “MBDTF”, but I also like to consider it as what the previous release would have been without leaning on other talent. On the other hand, Kanye’s voice is not the most pleasant voice to listen to for an entire full length record. He does well to include so many features on “MBDTF”, giving us a break from the nasal oppression. He is to be thanked for keeping his singing at a minimum on this album, a lesson he no doubt learned after the volume of criticism of “808’s and Heartbreak”.
The featured artists do a great job of contributing to the album for the most part. Each Pusha T and Kid Cudi verse adds dynamic to the rap vocals, and the clean vocals are refreshing apart from Bon Iver. Although, Justin Vernon simply does not belong on this album. He is out of place among other things, like Chris Rock’s skit in “Blame Game”, which is simply just boring and a waste of time. The sampling work, however, is brilliant. Kanye’s integration of progressive rock band, King Crimson, into “Power” was unexpected and seamless. The only homage the album could do without is the “Iron Man”-like progression in “Hell of a Life”.
“My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” is all about Kanye’s views of wealth, fame, and his façade. He handles the concepts well with smart, humorous, and accurate lyrics. The portrayal of his excessive persona is humbling and in good taste, but falls short of the impossible job of excusing his bravado. Relevant and interesting his philosophy may be, Kanye’s audacity inevitably ruins the possibility of anyone taking his ideas seriously. Rap may be accessible to a great many people, and it is easy to get behind “MBDTF’s” swaggering beats, but it is not the medium for deep thought. Kanye gave it his best to make this record about the consequences of fame and wealth, but he just comes across as another rapper flaunting his extravagant lifestyle. We get it Kanye, we know you have money, cars, women, and fame, are you running out of ideas?
Album Review by Zach Norton, January 2017
“My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”: