An album rooted in darkness, vengeful thoughts, and exquisite art. These are just some of the many things that can be said about what many consider to be Kanye West’s magnum opus, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. This album could not have come out at a better time considering all that Kanye was going through during the making and release of this album. In 2009, Mr. West was dubbed the world’s biggest douchebag after he spoiled Taylor Swift’s shining moment at the 2009 VMAs. From that moment on, Kanye fled the public light for a while and made his secret hideout in Paris and Hawaii, recruiting top of the line producers like Madlib, RZA, Mike Dean, No I.D., and more to produce the album. While making this album, Kanye also began to release new music every Friday in the weeks leading up to the project titled G.O.O.D. Fridays, turning out to be very popular among fans and only heightened the suspense leading up to its release date. Although not all producers who Kanye recruited made it onto the final project, this album still remains truly and utterly genius from start to finish due to its cohesiveness and its ability to maintain a sense of upper echelon ignorance. This upper echelon ignorance starts mainly with the cover arts drawn by George Condo. The original cover art, an image of Kanye having sex with an arm-less phoenix caused many stores to reject selling it. An action Kanye actually intended. Along with the beautiful images drawn by Condo, this album comes with a short film titled Runaway about Kanye finding and eventually falling in love with a phoenix. Contrary to what many believed Kanye would do due to his public image at the time, this album gives off nothing but a sense of raw, unapologetic bars.
A symphonic and head-bopping intro to say the least, “Dark Fantasy” kicks off the project with Nicki Minaj speaking as if the album was just about a fairy tale. Suddenly, listeners get caught up in the beautiful piano keys and vocals sung by Teyana Taylor until Kanye kicks the door down, rapping about growing up in Chicago and his struggles with the devil and the demons that visit him at night. “Gorgeous” proceeds this with vocals from Kid Cudi and a nice verse from Wu-Tang Clan member Raekwon. Two tracks in and one can already praise the amount of music provided in each track. Kanye, as well as the producers involved, really paid attention to the details of each and every sound applied to each track. All the little things that every contributor paid attention to made this project a symphony. A colorful and sonic light show rather than just a simple album.
The features on this album were spectacular when you have names like Pusha T, Rick Ross, CyHi The Prynce, Bon Iver, John Legend, and even legendary artists like Elton John, and the godfather of rap, Gil Scott-Heron. These artists help back Kanye on each track in a way that really pulls each track together. It’s obvious Kanye cannot have made a project as well put together as this alone and with the help of many these artists, the overall theme and feel of the album only gets better.
One of the hardest tracks on the album would definitely have to be “Monster.” A song that is as vicious as its title. While Kanye stays on his usual boastful and cocky attitude, Nicki Minaj goes ham on the beat and spits one of the best verses she has ever spit in her career. One of my favorite lines from the album is present in the first verse when he says:
“I’m living in the future so the present is my past/my presence is a present kiss my ass.”
This is only a further indication of how unapologetic and classy this album is. When Rick Ross comes through on the track “Devil In a New Dress,” a song with a fancy sample of Smokey Robinson’s, “Will you Love Me Tomorrow” showers the track in decadence. The most memorable track, “So Appalled” which samples Manfred Mann’s Earth Brand’s song “You Are-I Am” is ridiculous if you also consider the wordplay throughout the track with verses from Jay-Z like:
“Hammer went broke so you know I’m on focus/ I lost 30 mil so I spent another 30/ Cause unlike Hammer, 30 million can’t hurt me.”
Hov still shows his ability to be an assassin on the mic, and with RZA screaming out the hook on the last part of the track it further illustrates that he’s still as aggressive as he was back in 1993. “Blame Game” is a song that describes a relationship between Kanye and some girl, who many believe to be Amber Rose, gone wrong. This song gets its notoriety from The Best Birthday skit at the end between comedian Chris Rock and the girl Kanye is talking about in which the phrase “Yeezy taught me” originated. The phrase became one of the most trending topics on Twitter when the album was leaked and it shocked the world due to many assuming it was a straight shot at Amber.
The album wraps up on a mysteriously upbeat and ambiguous note with the song “Lost In the World.” Kanye speaks about the significance of the girl in his life over a poem that he actually wrote in an email to his current wife, Kim Kardashian. He speaks of her as the negative and the positive in his life calling her his devil, angel, and a variety of other contradictions. This is one of Kanye’s softer sides on the album and proves that although he can be anti-monogamous sometimes in his raps, monogamy is all that he really longs for.
“Who Will Survive In America” is over a poem written by Gil Scott-Heron speaking on the state of America at the time called “Comment #1.” This poem leaves us to believe that Kanye still believes the issues that Scott mentioned in this poem are still relevant in today’s society: Racism, hatred, and the current state of America being similar to blood and tears rather than milk and honey. Subtle claps at the end lead listeners to think this whole album was just some little show in some small auditorium.
The legacy this album left behind is clear because it caused more artists to become more creative and be more attentive to details down to the cover art of their projects. This project is one of the most influential LPs out today for rap and did more than just encourage classy lifestyles and opulent artwork in a genre where you’d least expect it. It set the precedent for future albums going forward by breaking the musical norms in rap at the time with high class fashion and a badass attitude.