Having given up the glory of the good life, Kanye West has seemingly resigned himself to a dark and soulful existence via his new album, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”. Delving even further into the themes behind “808s and Heartbreak,” West explores his dark psyche. Luckily for his fans, this leads to his greatest creation yet.
The album starts off slow, with “Dark Fantasy” introducing it. The song begins with international hip-hop Nicki Minaj daring the listener, asking him if he can handle what is to come after a lifetime of listening to a bland sound.
This sets the tone for most of the song, as West raps his way through his acceptance of fame and wealth, but also the problems accompanying international stardom. In the second verse, he asks the listener; “The plan was to drink until the pain over/But what’s worse, the pain or the hangover?”
This is then complimented by the chorus, “can we get much higher?,” a haunting question pondering just how much more successful West can get.
The album continues on a slow but bittersweet note with “Gorgeous,” a call from the bad side of the tracks. The song itself is reminiscent of “Two Words,” utilizing a similar heavy Motown blues beat, barely broken through by the lyrics. The vocals sound slightly Auto Tuned, adding a scratchy turntable sound that greatly contributes to the track.
“Gorgeous” hits several highs, particularly the use of Kid Cudi in the chorus, but climaxes when Raekwon joins in the last verse, bringing a rhyme scheme and comfortable flow that bests West’s. While West’s flow is lacking, he wins the trophy for lyrics, suggesting he might choke a South Park writer with his “fish stick.”
LISTEN: Gorgeous — Kanye West feat. Kid Cudi and Raekwon
A complete turnaround arrives with “Power,” a loud and proud call to arms. The spiritual successor to “Stronger,” from the third studio album “Graduation,” Kanye shows his new-found strength, and completely leaves behind any thought of humility, and does what he does best; makes arrogance cool again.
This audio egotism is well complimented by the use of “21st Century Schizoid Man,” the powerful background beat that drives the song forward.
Throughout “Power,” he shows his firm belief in a saying about sticks and stones, telling critics that their screams “got a nice ring to it,” particularly the cast of “SNL,” whom he gives an explicit invitation to make themselves comfortable with his posterior.
LISTEN: “Power” — Kanye West (Clean Version)
West even goes as far as to mention President Obama’s snipe at him, calling himself “the abomination of Obama’s nation,” but brushes it off, deeming it simply as nothing more than “a pretty bad way to start the conversation”.
Nothing too impressive comes from the heavily Drake-influenced “All Of The Lights,” serving only as a breather between “Power” and “Monster,” two of the stronger songs on the album.
“Monster” begins with a dark and creepy Bon Iver, a lesser known indie artist, and a daring but rewarding choice by West, introduction, laying the scene for a horror story worthy of a campfire. A bear in the form of rap megastar Rick Ross bursts through the bushes, with Kanye riding on his back, declaring to the world that while he may be a beast of the night, he’s darn proud of it.
The two are quickly joined by Jay-Z and Nicki Minaj, who contribute greatly to the song. While Jay-Z keeps Kanye’s momentum going, Minaj stops them cold. Despite a voice that seems to falter occasionally, usually when she switches between her “alter egos,” Minaj gives a strong performance, proving her position as the new mistress of rap.
This is followed by the less than memorable “So Appalled”. While incredibly strong during the verses, including a clever “Dark Knight” reference by Jay-Z, the song takes a quality break during the strangely repetitive chorus.
LISTEN: Runaway – Kanye West (Clean Version)
The real gem of “Dark Twisted Fantasy” is “Runaway.” The song opens with a haunting and simple piano piece, quickly joined by the now-famous 808 drums. West is not far behind, and works magic, using a double layer of his own voice for the chorus. West dominates the beginning, and even comes out on top after Pusha-T enters, bringing out strains of Common. Pusha-T’s verse is almost too short, but quickly overwhelmed by Kanye. The lyrics are the real strength, adding real weight. West somberly proposes a toast for all those who take themselves too seriously, inviting all those “who’ll never take work off” to join him for a drink. He urges the listener to “run away as fast as you can,” admitting defeat and choosing to stay with his own demons.
“My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” is a true tour de force, lending weight to West’s words. The weak portions are effortlessly conquered by the excellent, with several outstanding songs marking West’s return to stardom, despite his reluctance to do so. The album itself is a must-buy for any fans, and highly recommended to those who have not yet had the pleasure of hearing his work.
A version of this article appeared in the December 22, 2010 print editon on page 13.