Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Album Review)

If you locked John Nash in a recording studio with an MPC drum machine, a symphony ensemble, and 5 milligrams of epinephrine, you would get Kanye’s latest and greatest offering- My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. 

One thing that Nash and West have in common is an almost crippling perspicacity.  Just as Nash would see the world in fragmented geometric equations, West has an ability to imagine and successfully construct such bold, far-reaching records that it almost defies logic.  And in many ways this album does unequivocally exclaim a resounding, “F%$K YOU” to convention and precept.  A daring triumph that encompasses several genres and over a half-century of inspiration, MBDTF is Mr. West’s Moby Dick; his masterpiece.

To describe the enormity of the sounds and melodies, I hesitate to use the word "epic" (our generation's most bastardized term) but there really is no better adjective.  Whether it's the incredible 2-minute breakdown in between verses on "Devil In a New Dress" or the violin-piano duet before "All of the Lights," every cut on this album is larger than life.  

Behind the boards, West swiftly departs from the soulful, throwback sounds of The College Dropout and instead utilizes more dark, refined electric accents; a unifying sound that allows him to address multiple themes.  This is West's, dare I say, genius.  His ability to connect ostensibly different sounds (the funky 70's guitar riff in "Gorgeous" vs. the gritty synth on "Hell of a Life") and produce a cohesive, thematic production.  These sounds paired together would look absurd on paper, but it absolutely works on wax.  

Lyrically, the album is almost as multi-faceted as the production.  For every "can I talk my shit again?" punchline (Lamborghinis, high fashion, Learjets), West delivers many more conscious, thoughtful bars that remind us that the New York Times does, indeed, deliver to Mt. Olympus.  "Lost In the World" samples the rap Godfather himself, Gil Scott Heron (see: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised) whose influential catalog has clearly inspired Kanye's socially critical rhymes in "Gorgeous":
Face it, Jerome get more time than Brandon / And at the airport, they check all through my bag and tell me it’s random... This the real world, homie, school finished / They done stole your dreams, you don’t know who did it / I treat the cash like the government treats AIDS, I won’t be satisfied till all my niggas get it, get it?
Other subjects range from marrying a porn star, quantifying his greatness, and of course acknowledging his mistakes- as there have been many over his last decade under the limelight.  Overall, reminding us that perhaps the biggest star and one most creative people on the planet is, at the end of the day, human-- a truth that we can all identify with.   

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