Kanye West - Dark Twisted Fantasy

If you care about Kanye West, you’ve already heard almost every song from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, either through West’s G.O.O.D. Fridays series or as the soundtrack to his Runaway film. There are lots of tracks left over, which he’s saving for the deluxe album. So what does the completed, hour-plus album, as is, have to offer as a whole that the individual tracks we’ve already heard did not? Mostly a complete picture of where West’s head is at right now.

What makes Kanye West interesting and feel so relevant is that he’s got bravado mixed with a very current, generational need to be liked, as well as loved. He’s the kind of guy that answers the question, “What are your weaknesses?” with “I work too hard, I care too much, I try too hard.” He’s the kind of girl who shuts down her Livejournal because people are mean, only to start a new one a week later. His weaknesses are strengths, his real weakness is thinking we don’t already know that. He once rapped, “We’re all self-conscious, I’m just the first to admit it.” It kinda sums up what drives West. He doesn’t know he’s the best, he thinks he’s the best, and the difference between that drives his furious creative output. He possesses a mixture of perfectionism and egotism that leads him to agonize and second-guess himself until he produces something he is convinced nobody can beat.

He’s made a record that few can beat. MBDTF is West’s darkest, most glamorous, and most excessive album. From its too-long name down to its final, extended outtro, it is, and has, too much. Too long, too many people, too many sounds, tries too hard. For all that, it’s a mirror image of the man himself. It’s too good. That we’ve heard almost all of this material already doesn’t dilute the final product, since there’s still a lot of room to admire the richness of the production, and a lot of time to unpack what’s going on. Some of the best moments: The sparkle on the opener “Dark Fantasy,” the stalking beat behind “Monster,” the horns on “All Of The Lights,” the dark scratch and shrieking on “So Appalled,” the ugly echoed vocals on “Blame Game,” the broiling synth toward the end of “Runaway.” But what’s also striking, and what comes out mostly in his outtros, is that West is also an expert at slicing and cutting down, letting a lonely, thin bass, a splatter of kicks, or a single sigh between a few words stand out starkly, as on “Hell Of A Life.” All this doesn’t leave much room for goofiness. He quotes I’m Gonna Git You Sucka alongside Malcolm X on “POWER,” mimics Napoleon Dynamite on “Monster,” reminds you that “you got too many Urkles on your team / that’s why your Winslow” on opener “Dark Fantasy.” Maybe after a year of being a punchline, you become less interested in making them. But it’s easy to miss the West of “The New Workout Plan,” and “Gold Digger.” That guy may not be coming back. So his MBDTF characters do the mundane, though when West speaks for himself, he’s a superhero (along with all the self-torture baggage that superheroes come with). The other West that appears on “All Of The Lights” and “Devil In A New Dress,” with their broken relationships, missed signals, and cell phones that pocket dial — really round out the album and provide some nice counterweight. Take this verse from “Blame Game,” the second to last proper track:

On a bathroom wall I wrote: ’I’d rather argue with you than to be with someone else’
I took a piss and dismissed it
And went and found somebody else
Arguing, harvesting the feelings, I’d rather be by my fucking self
’Til about 2 a.m. and I call back and I hang up and start to blame myself
Somebody help

There are a lot on this album: a lot of producers, a lot of guests, and a lot of Kanye Wests. But this one is the most startling, the one who sounds like everyone else you know.

You’ll have to forget the Kanye West that allowed Chris Rock to finish this song off.

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is out 11/22 via Def Jam/Roc-A-Fella.

Comments (36)
  1. It’s weird to think that, back when it happened, the whole VMAs incident could produce something positive for both Taylor Swift and Kanye, but because of it she’ll have a huge selling album and through all the strife he’s suffered he will have his magnum opus.

    • Speaking of TSwift…
      Not that Kanye needs 1MM+ (beyond ego stroking purposes), but I am curious how many sales he’ll have first week given how many songs dropped via G.O.O.D. Friday.

      • I feel like the same people that steadily downloaded Good Friday tracks, are the same people who are downloading the leak and won’t buy the album as it is. Thus, I think his sales will be stellar no matter. Hard core fans will want physical

      • lots of Kanye fans (myself included) have been cross referencing the G.O.O.D. Friday tracks with the album track list and choosing to forgo those songs so the album is kept fresh. i don’t think G.O.O.D. Friday tracks wlll prevent too much album buying.

        also, the 2nd paragraph of this post sums up Kanye better than anything i’ve ever read. and i read too much about Kanye.

      • I think the people who have stuck with the G.O.O.D. Friday singles and are there every week downloading them will still be there to buy the album. But no way the sales comes close to TSwift. Her marketing for her album has been insane and her demo is the Target / Wal-mart crowd which scoop up the “It” CD of the year for stocking stuffers and to say that they bought at least one album this year. Also Kanye’s reputation is obviously very tarnished. Music lovers give him a chance bc we know what he’s capable of but he doesnt have the following of someone like Eminem who consistently turns out shit yet still get insane CD sales. Most people out there who think he’s an asshole arent gonna pick up the CD on a whim.

      • I think his biggest problem with album sales will be all those people that don’t understand that he really is a great musician. The fiasco with Taylor Swift is only going to hurt his mass appeal because people that saw that only seem him as a huge prick (which he may be). A lot of the people that bought his previous CD’s bought them for the chart topping hits (Gold Digger, Stronger, etc.) and those are the type of people that will most certainly back Taylor Swift and not buy his music for spite. Also this CD from what I’ve heard (only Power and the G.O.O.D. Friday) doesn’t have any really radio friendly hits. It may be his best and most impressive CD but it doesn’t have that huge extremely accessible song.

  2. I have to give it to Kanye, the man is talented but the comment he just made about Coldplay being more important than the Beatles and Chris Martin being equally as important as Joh Lennon was out of left field. Looking forward to this album nonetheless, there’s always interesting rhymes to be heard from this guy.

  3. This album was fantastic…already have my pre-order. As for the sales, I’m not sure….all of the singles he’s put out so far have kinda flopped comparatively. Maybe “All of the Lights” can reverse that.

  4. I also hope the rest of the G.O.O.D. Friday tracks get some kind of proper release. Definitely could be the Amnesiac to MBDTF’s Kid A.

  5. As someone who downloaded the leak, I can tell you that it won’t stop me from buying a copy. For the record, ALL of the songs have been remixed and redone and they sound absolutely AMAZING. Do NOT rely on the GOOD Friday releases to get the best experience of this album. Everything’s been redone.

  6. I love Kanye’s music. His personality we could all do without – in fact, I wish he’d let his music speak for itself more often. He’d be a lot bigger artist if he left the bravado for his records (as most hip hop artists do). But his music is undeniable – 3 amazing records so far (especially the first two), and one pretty good experiment.

    My quick take on MBDTF: Pretty amazing, but oftentimes way too indulgent. Some of the indulgences could use some trimming, particularly toward the end of the record. It kind of reminds me a bit of Oasis’ Be Here Now, where all the songs are pretty much awesome, but just go on for too damn long. The first half is near perfect, although I think “Gorgeous” could be tightened up by losing a minute (not losing Raekwon’s verse/the beat change, because of course that’s amazing, but maybe Kanye could’ve edited out one of his 3 verses). I love all the changes to the GOOD Friday songs, particularly “Devil in a New Dress.” They earn their lengthy times.

    Probably the most controversial part of the album will be the lengthening of “Runaway.” I actually like the vocoder singing and strings, but even that could’ve been chopped down by a minute, minute and a half…it would still be an extended outro, but wouldn’t seem as endless. I think with the extended outro, “Runaway” would’ve made a good penultimate track before “Lost in the World.” Just my opinion, but trac order is really important.

    I guess my main issues with the album come with the next two tracks. “Hell of a Life” just doesn’t do it for me. I love the beat, but I hate hip hop songs that completely lift a well known melody that I’ve already heard a thousand times. If I want to listen to “Iron Man” I’ll listen to Black Sabbath, thanks. And again…too damn long.

    “Blame Game” is awesome, but again, overindulgent at times. The outro with Chris Rock just goes on FOREVER and I don’t think it’s that funny (and I even like Chris Rock.) It would’ve been okay, if it had lasted a minute, and not 3 minutes, the length of an average song.

    “Lost in the World” is just awesome.

    I would’ve loved to see “The Joy” on here, and maybe another short and sweet track near the end to relieve the tension. Don’t get me wrong though, the album is all-around pretty much amazing. I’ve made a playlist and CD (for the car) of the GOOD Friday tracks that aren’t featured on the album, and I recommend it to anyone else, because that’s also been great listening. If GOOD Friday continues until Christmas, Kanye will have released enough material for 3 great albums in one year.

    • I do agree that the songs sprawl, but I think this one reminds me more of the White Album in its indulgence than Be Here Now. Be Here Now has terrible production, whereas this one does not; it might even be Kanye’s best so far. I actually think the excess works here and helps to advance the theme of the album, but that’s just my two cents.

  7. I’m pretty sure the “broiling synth” at the end of “Runaway” is just auto-tune pushed to its extreme. And in that case, it’s a pretty fucking cool idea. “DOA” was on Jay-Z’s last record, but Kanye documents it on this track. Awesome. And “Blame Game” is stunning, too. Overall, the sounds and production value make this so worth every second. It might not have big pop songs on it, but it’s extremely rich.

    “See Me Now” is the most feel-good thing he’s done since “The Good Life,” and it’s a shame that it’s being relegated to a bonus track, but in the big picture, it would be out of place here. Same for “Good Friday” and “The Joy.” Fantastic songs, but might have overstuffed an already stuffed album (and one with a pretty consistent atmosphere, too).

    • I’m not even sure it’s just auto-tune, I think there’s like 10 other things going on over the top of it. It’s pretty epic, I reckon Kanye’s the only artist who I’ve heard *that sound* from. It’s kind of something I’d imagine Crystal Castles doing, to be honest.

      Production on this album is nothing short of excellent. Definitely his magnum opus.

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  9. does anyone else think this record is kinda scary? i mean, what the fuck is going on inside this dude’s head that we DON’T get to see? to me, the most interesting thing about the record is the lyrical content. the beats are a little weaker than i had expected, but overall it sounds like it’s coming from a really dark place. looks like the title and cover art could not be more accurate.

  10. This is solid, but not magnificent. I’ve always liked Kanye to an extent, mostly for his production and ambition. On the other hand, I’ve always found his lyrics and flow to be lacking. I know a lot of hip hop is rapping about one’s self, and your greatness/haters etc., but at some point I’d like you to extend your general focus. My hands down favorite track here is Runaway. I love it. I love the simplicity of the arrangement. The minimalist piano backed up with a simple beat and droning synths, all topped off by a crazy auto tuned vocalized guitar solo and all that. But when you throw in “I sent this bitch a picture of my dick”, it’s just tacky and tasteless. There are better subjects.

    I don’t doubt the guy throws himself into his work whole heartedly, but I don’t think he understands that that doesn’t make it *good* work. Can’t Tell Me Nothing. Clean production, memorable chorus, but the first lyric is “I had a dream I could buy my way to heaven / When I awoke I spent that on a necklace” Straight up bad rap. Dude’s convinced he’s the hardest working, most committed artist in the biz. Truth of the matter is he just talks about it the most. He says he sunk 5000 man hours into Power. Sweet, St. Anger took years to make and it’s still a solid turd.

    This album is solid. There’s some stuff on it I don’t care for, namely the non-Runaway long tracks. But yeah, overall it’s good. Still, I’m in the minority on Kanye. Lots of people consider his stuff classic, and probably rightfully so. Yet he still goes on radio shows (recently) and gets pissed over how he’ll never get the classic or 5 star ratings. Dude’s chilled out a lot in the past couple of years but still has a waaays to go.

    • Well maybe he’ll be happy this time because Rollingstone actually gave it 5 stars. I really don’t see Rollingstone as a credible source these days (anything, and I mean anything, released by Bruce Springsteen or U2 gets an automatic 5 stars) but this might be the only rap CD I’ve ever seen get 5 stars from Rollingtone. When you say you don’t care for the long non-Runaway tracks do you mean the rest of the album? I’d say all of the songs on it are pretty long (excluding All of the Lights Interlude) especially when you’re considering rap songs.

  11. In particular, Monster and So Appalled go on a little long for my tastes. Same with Blame Game, but I just didn’t like that song to begin with.

  12. I criticized “Hell of a Life” earlier, but it’s grown on me quite a bit.

    This album definitely should’ve made room for “The Joy” and “Chain Heavy.” Cutting off the Chris Rock bit alone would’ve made room for them, and they are pretty much masterpieces of classic hip hop sound. “Chain Heavy” was originally supposed to go after “Power” and “The Joy” after “Devil in a New Dress.” Would’ve been great additions.

    • I admit Chain Heavy at least is fantastic, but I think the Chris Rock part works very well. I don’t know if they would fit in the album, but I hope they’re included as bonus tracks.

  13. hell of a life sounds like yeezy been listening to silent shout

  14. So Appalled is the only track not sitting right with me. By itself it’s great but it feels like it’s better suited for a mixtape and kinda kills the momentum of the the CD. Personally, I would’ve gone with Don’t Stop! after Monster.

  15. Still kills me that it’s missing Mama’s Boyfriend

  16. haters gonna hate, but seriously, this is one of the best of the year

  17. Check out my review!
    - Greg

  18. as for the Blame Game chris rock outro, i really think it should be like, a separate song, like a skit, lest say. it would add up a lot more humour to the album and it wouldnt ruin blame game ;)
    and also: more songs, you people!!! only 13 goddamn

  19. soooo, it’s REALLY GOOD? I didn’t see a final sum-up verdict/rating at the end of that long-winded scientific analysis.

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