Artist: Kanye West
Label: Def Jam
Formats: CD, CD + DVD deluxe ed., MP3
Release date: November 22, 2010
Can we get much higher?
This is the question posed to listeners seconds into Kanye West’s newest album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Six years after spitting rhymes literally “Through the Wire,” West’s public life and art has tipped on a tightrope, vehemently swayed by ego-tripping tantrums, blunt word vomit and familial tragedy. His latest fall off the high wire: last year’s necessary interruption during the gradually boring MTV Video Music Awards. The media blackballed him so he became a recluse in Hawaii, where he recollected his psyche the best way he knew how: through his music.
After months of speculation, “the mothef***er we love to hate” reemerged weeks before the BET Awards with the mountainous single “Power.” The night of the event a Lucifer-red suited Kanye, sporting the bust of Horus around his neck, spit his heart to an eager audience. “I don’t need your pussy/I’m on my own dick.” Boastful. Obnoxious. Big. Kanye.
It seemed “Yeezy” was on the road back to his throne as hip-hop‘s pop’s most beloved anti-hero. He tapped into the social mecca of Twitter, pulling fans’ allegiance immediately after his first tweet. He captivated our attention with the release of the future-forward ‘moving portrait’ for “Power.” But his most provocative stunt to date would come with the release of his second single.
After his avant-garde performance at the 2010 VMAs, West released the 40-minute short film “Runaway.” Telecast on BET, VH1 & MTV simultaneously, West’s tale of a doomed love affair shifted the current musical landscape. Visually stunning. Shot in Prague, Ye’s vision of hip hop—what he sees in his dreams and nightmares—came to life. What was even bigger than the eye candy was what we heard. Grimy synths and drums so big they got drums. Only a peek into the album previously known as A Good As Job. Following is the complete version of Runaway (© 2010 Roc-A-Fella Records):
In a matter of months, West had gone from exiled bully to revered genius. Again, could he get much higher?
They say your attitude determines your latitude
I’m high as a motherfucker – fly as a motherfucker
MBDTF is West’s tour de force. Nothing this year feels, moves, sounds, screams, creeps, bumps, screeches, rocks, hips, hops, pops, or explodes like this 13-track journey to being Kanye West. A year spent on this project has produced one of the most innovative albums of his career. And being that he’s one of the most forward-thinking minds in music today, that’s f***ing ridiculous.
For those still upset that Ye traded his backpack for a Gucci satchel, let it go. As an artist—embodying production, lyrics and musicality—West is at his peak. Everything encompasses you audibly, where no one listen of the album is like the previous. “Dark Fantasy” grinds with a swagger so hood, so gutter, yet refined. And “Gorgeous,” featuring Kid Cudi, glides on an eerie guitar riff as West claims he wants his folks to get cash like the government “want niggas to get AIDS.” A prime example of the tongue-in-cheek consciousness West always keeps packed tight.
The previously released tracks; singles “Power” and “Runaway;” and the few G.O.O.D. Friday tracks remain intact, surprisingly not losing their appeal despite the fact that fans have had the songs for months. “Devil In a New Dress” is extended with a Rick Ross feature, actually longer than his forgettable “Monster” appearance.
The album soars the highest on two tracks. First, the illustrious “All of the Lights” which boasts features from Rihanna, Fergie, Alicia Keys, Kid Cudi and even Elton John. The interlude sings serenely as the calm before the storm. A perfect storm. “Lights” erupts with such force and drive you can feel it in your heart. Emotions are carried with every encore of Rihanna’s stirring chorus on top of rapidly reverberating drums. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to getting teary-eyed listening to both tracks in their entirety.
Second, the tragically personal “Blame Game” featuring John Legend. A bitter break up song that makes “Heartless” look jovial, West pours out heart-ached regret. A love both partners knew was doomed comes to an abrupt and unfortunate end. The hitter though is heard at the end with a hilariously crude skit by Chris Rock as the other man, and an unidentified woman who only knows that “Yeezy taught me.”
Reviews across the board, USAToday, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, XXL, The Source—to name a few— have awarded West with nothing less than a perfect score. It’s without a doubt THE album of 2010. Breaking all conventions of what hip-hop can be, West has proven his staying power as one of the greatest entertainers of all time.
How high is that?
For the day I die. I’m gon Touch the Sky
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is available in stores and online. A deluxe edition with DVD and interchangeable covers is also available.
Reviewed by Lorin Williams