Albums You Must Own Number 12 – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West
One of the recent modern masterpieces, ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ or MBDTF as we should probably call it, is highly regarded as Kanye West’s best album to date and some see it as the best he’ll ever produce.
The albums intro comes from Nicki Minaj (who was one of the hottest thing in hip-hop during the release) and she sets the backdrop to this crazy, high paced, dramatic story. In the track ‘Dark Fantasy’ we hear the reason Kanye West became famous – using vocal samples and elevating them to higher pitches making them more soulful. It is an open, airy piece which then gets its gangster beat and a slick rap scattered with double entendre’s. The bass-less hooks and the bassy best contrast to make one of the best produced tracks in the 2000-2010 decade
An electric guitar then attacks on the intro of ‘Gorgeous‘ with reggae samples used in the background. Kanye distorts his voice to make it more of a musical listening but his lyrics still keep it more than the music. It is slower than most tracks on the album but the regular reggae guitars keeps pace and everything together. The lyrics are suggestive and you can sense the darkness and exploitation of the celebrity world within the tone he uses.
The heaviest track, one everyone has heard before then follows on. Behind a sample of a female choir chanting “power”, Kanye raps over harsh drums which seem to push the sample out the way for the rapper. More electronic grit found in 808s and Heartbreak is used on ‘Power’ and it easily becomes a mash up of all four of his previous albums. The title is self-explanatory on the message that the song has and Kanye uses more of his energy and world renowned flow to make the song possibly the highest point of the album.
Then comes the interlude for ‘All Of The Lights’ which is the best written song that has ever come from the musical industry for a long time which gives the sense of how acclaimed the album was and will be. It’s a track on the power of celebrity which is the main album focus, however on the track Kanye West brings on Rihanna to concentrate the message of how powerful the celebrity world is on a performer. With references to Michael Jackson and several Tupac references, it focuses on the strain that narcotics and violence bring with the star life – death. The song is solely West and Rihanna even though several artists also feature. From the blazing, brassy horns to the wildly panned electronic drums, it is the centrepiece that never gives up and never loses energy
Immediately after wanting the lights on, ‘Monster’ starts off with “I shoot the lights out”. Another twisted message which leads us to believe that maybe West is fed up with everything BUT music as he even explains how he is the best in the business. Pads become more soulful as they are used over the darkness that is Monster. The highlight of the track aside from production and West is Nicki Minaj. She gave the hottest verse that nobody thought she was capable of and it was this verse which secured her future into hip-hop. The tone and aggression of all guest rappers are not to be forgotten either with everyone getting to their own crazy boiling point; like they’re escaping from the beast of the production everyone’s flow is at their best just to secure safety.
‘So Appalled’ is a military based track that uses more soul as an essence n the background. It feels like an outro to the mini-EP in the album which consists of ‘Lights’ and ‘Monster’. Whilst being soulful in the background, upfront it is very mysterious, black and interesting.
Then comes the instantly likeable ‘Devil In A New Dress’ which goes back to the ‘All Falls Down’ Kanye. Going back to his beginnings he uses soulful picks at higher pitches over live instruments for texture. It is a gem that only true Kanye fans can appreciate as he revisits the time which shone a light onto his career.
One white key is hit so many times you can get lost counting. Then another note is hit on the piano and another and another until we get to ‘Runaway’. The drum loop then takes over with hard kicks and basses. The track sends over many messages all about being involved with this celebrity world as he toasts to industry money leeches and critics. More great verses from this track add to the countless number on the whole album and then we get a perfect blend. A smoothie of electronic distortion, soulful pads and a glossy string set which some up all of the iconic sounds that belong to the rapper only. This blend is so light but heavy and senseless but emotional.
Then come the unequalised synths on ‘Hell Of A Life’, it picks up the tempo again with more no off time or slow lyrics and a regular beat to keep the music moving. Kanye uses more of his excellent songwriting and knowledge on computerised production to his aid to create a track which is better than most rappers best tracks.
‘Blame Game’ is another military sounding track but this time more striped down that ‘So Appalled’ and acts like a breather for the big finale. Speaking of abuse, it may be slower but it still holds all the lyrical impact, something that is consistent within the album. John Legend helps out using some soft vocals letting West take the lead. From the electronic ‘Hell Of A Life’, ‘Blame Game’ is based on his soulful roots only. A phone conversation at the end adds more drama to the story as it comes to its penultimate moment.
Auto-tuned voices open up the finale ‘Lost In The World’. Patient as they are, you are left waiting to explode when the final set of drums are getting ready to mesmerise you. The track sums up everything this album offers with a touch of all little production elements such as the gritty distortion to the gospel/soul vocals and concludes his production style very nicely. Then we get the lyrics, Kanye end the novel for you ears saying he is still lost and trying to build himself up. It’s a concoction that uses everything in the right proportions. ‘Who Will Survive In America’ is quickly followed using the sample heard in the final song and it offers one final message before the show closes.
The album ends on applause given by fellow artists and maybe critics, either way Kanye West surrounds himself and his listeners in praise just to prove he will never be fazed by the haters of his music.
Review by Bally Athwal