Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy [Review]

Kanye West returns with his fifth release in nearly seven years. The name was changed from Good Ass Job to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. I’m not sure if this had something to do with Roc-A-Fella records or if Kanye just felt it was time to finally let go of the school series. No matter what the album was going to be called, it has been the most hyped record for the last couples of months. This resulted from Kanye’s weekly drops of his G.O.O.D. Friday series. Since then, there has been Monster Mondays, Wu-Wednesdays, and probably several other free download schemes. However, nothing has come close to topping G.O.O.D. Friday. Kanye has collaborated with legendary icons such as Pete Rock, RZA, Q-Tip and several more. If that was only a preview of what Kanye had in store, then My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy should be ground breaking.

1. Dark Fantasy
Narrated by Nicki Minaj; Produced by RZA, Kanye West, & No I.D.
Kanye starts the album with a small skit that sounds like it came from a different century. The music comes thirty seconds in with a Mike Oldfield sample of “In High Places”. The chorus has a real choir-like tone and it sounds as if it’s going to be an interlude, but (I’d imagine) RZA drops a heavy beat with drums and keys that are reminiscent of the early Wu days. RZA was one of Kayne’s inspirations and this beat definitely shows it. This is a perfect way to start the album.

2. Gorgeous
Featuring Kid Cudi & Raekwon; Produced by Kanye West, No. I.D., & Mike Dean
The rhythm of this track builds with an electric guitar and Kid Cudi laying down the chorus. Kanye is not known for his lyrical abilities, but he drops heat on his second verse:

“Is Hip-Hop just a euphemism for a new religion, the soul music of the slave that the youth is missing, but this is more than just my road to redemption, Malcolm West had the whole nation standing at attention”

Kanye goes off for the next three verses before Rae gets his chance on the mic. I never thought I’d say this, but I think Kanye West just outshined Raekwon The Chef.

Featuring Dwele; Produced by Kanye West, Jeff Bhasker, Mike Dean, & S1
“Power” was the first song to be put on wax from the album. The track starts with a clap from Continent Number 6’s “Afromerica” and a lively King Crimson sample of “21st Century Schizoid Man”. The nicely-mixed beat immediately gives the song a powerful melody. On the opening bars, Kanye states:

“I’m livin’ in that 21st century, doin’ somethin’ mean to it, do it better than anybody you ever seen do it, screams from the haters, gotta nice ring to it, I guess every superhero need his theme music”.

Finally, soul singer Dwele drops some additional vocals to give the song more depth. This unquestionably is one of the best produced songs of the year.

4. All Of The Lights (Interlude)
Produced by Kanye West
Kanye displays that he’s musically gifted in more ways than one. Here, he lets his hands do the talking as he mixes in a violin with a lovely set of keys. Beautiful work Mr. West.

5. All Of The Lights
Featuring Rihanna, Alicia Keys, Charlie Wilson, Elly Jackson, Elton John, Fergie, John Legend, Kid Cudi, Ryan Leslie, The-Dream & Tony Williams; Produced by Kanye West & Jeff Bhasker
I would imagine this is the song you’ll be hearing on the radio for the next couple of months. The song is supposed to contain several guest appearances (Alicia Keys, Charlie Wilson, Elly Jackson, Elton John, Fergie, John Legend, Kid Cudi, Ryan Leslie, The-Dream,  & Tony Williams), but I only hear Rihanna on the hook. Kanye shows us how to make an Akai MPC drum machine thump with a set of hard hitting drums followed with ecstatic horns and heavy keys. The only thing I didn’t like was the unnecessary verse by Fergie.

6. Monster
Featuring Rick Ross, Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj, & Bon Iver; Produced by Kanye West, Mike Dean, & Plain Pat
Kanye is joined at the mic with Rick Ross, Jay-Z, and Nicki Minaj. Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon gets things going by singing about his dark twisted fantasy. Rick Ross steps up to the mic first, and drops a hot verse:

“Bitch, I’m a monster, no good blood sucker, fat motherfucker, now look who’s in trouble, as you run through my jungles all you hear is rumbles, Kanye West samples, here’s one for example.”

Kanye does a nice job with his verse:

“And my eyes more red than the devil is, and I’m about to take it to another level biz, don’t matter who you go and get, ain’t nobody cold as this, do the rap and the track, triple double – no assists, and my only focus is staying on some bogus shit, arguing with my older bitch acting like I owe her shit”.

Jay-Z waits his turn until absolutely murdering it:

“Sasquatch, Godzilla, King Kong, Lochness, goblin [goo], a zombie with no conscience,
Question – what does these things all have in common,
Everybody knows I’m a motherfuckin’ monster,
Conquer, stomp ya, stop ya silly nonsense,
[Naissance], none of you niggas know where the swamp is,
None of you niggas have seen the [cogence] that I’ve seen,
I still effin’ scream in my dreams,
Murder murder in black convertibles,
I ahh, kill the block, I murder the avenues,
I ahh, rape a pillage of village women and children,
Everybody wanna know what my Achilles heel is,
Love, I don’t get enough of it, all I get is these vampires and blood suckers,
All I see is these niggas I made millionaires,
[Million] about spilling their feelings in the air,
All I see is these fake fucks with no things, trying to draw blood through my ice cold fangs,
*Sniff* I smell a massacre, seems to be the only way to back you bastards up”

Nicki Minaj is the last to get on the mic and she does a decent job:

“So let me get this straight, wait I’m the rookie, but my features and shows ten times your pay, 50k for a verse, no album out, yea my money so tall that my Barbie gotta climb it”.

Lastly, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon expands the track with some more auto-tuned singing. I rate this as a standout, but I felt that Nicki’s 16 should have been better when you compare it to Kanye’s & Jay’s.

7. So Appalled
Featuring Jay-Z, Pusha T, Prynce CyHi, Swizz Beatz & RZA; Produced by Kanye West, No I.D., & Mike Dean
“So Appalled” was released on the G.O.O.D. Friday series. No I.D. & Mike Dean help Kanye co-produce the track. This beat was structured for an emcee slaughterhouse. It’s not hard to tell that Kanye West has seriously stepped up his emcee game. He’s flowing like he got his swagger back since we last heard him on 808’s & Heartbreak. Jay-Z gets on next and does what he does best – murder it. Jay is strictly ridiculous on this album. He’s rhyming like he still has something to prove:

“How should I begin this, I’m so offended, how am I even mentioned by all these fuckin’ beginners, I’m so appalled, I might buy the mall, just to show niggas how much more I have installed, I’m fresher than ya’ll, so I don’t have to pause, all of ya can suck my balls through my drawls”.

The Clipse’s Pusha T does a nice job with his verse speaking on the success he’s had as a rapper. Newcomer emcee Prynce CyHi surprisingly keeps up with the heavy hitters. I was hoping to hear RZA drop a verse, but he only handles the last (unnecessary) bridged chorus.

8. Devil In A New Dress
Featuring Rick Ross; Produced by Bink! & Mike Dean
I love the soulful sample by Smokey Robinson that Bink! & Mike Dean use throughout the song. This track was previously released a couple months ago on the G.O.O.D. Friday series. This time around, Kanye adds Rick Ross to the mix. I didn’t agree with this decision… until I actually heard it. Rick Ross’ laid back flow is the perfect fit. This may be my favorite song on the album.

9. Runaway
Featuring Pusha T; Produced by Kanye West, Emile, Jeff Bhasker, & Mike Dean
The track begins with a striking key that later alters into the beat. This song is about the woman. On Kanye’s verse, he speaks about all of the mistakes he’s had with women over the years. Pusha T takes a different approach about how there are plenty of fish in the sea:

“Hoes like vultures wanna fly in your Freddy loafers, you can’t blame them they never seen Versaci sofas, every bag, every blouse, every bracelet comes with a price tag, baby face it, you should leave if you can’t accept the basics, plenty hoes in a ballin nigga’s matrix, invisibly set, the rolex is faceless, I’m just young, rich and tasteless, P!”.

Before the track ends, Kanye adds auto-tuned sound effects for four more minutes. It doesn’t take anything away from the song but it’s really unnecessary.

10. Hell Of A Life
Produced by Kanye West, Mike Caren, No I.D., & Mike Dean
The track starts by sampling Mojo Men’s “She’s My Baby”. The drum machine really bangs out here. The bizarre auto-tuned chorus (that follows the vibes of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man”) really gives the song an up-tempo feel. This is probably one of the least lyrical songs on the album, but the production still makes it above average.

11. Blame Game
Featuring John Legend & Chris Rock; Produced by Kanye West, DJ Frank E, & Mike Dean
Kanye takes a sample from Aphex Twin’s “Avril 14th” and reenergizes it with more tuned keys. John Legend accompanies the beat by singing about the blame game on the chorus. Kanye gets more emotional and speaks on his downfalls with love. Lately, Kanye has been releasing a lot of music about his women problems, but this by far is my favorite track on the topic. Chris Rock finishes the track with some comedy about the teachings of Yeezy. After hearing this, I’m really looking forward to that Kanye West & John Legend collaboration.

12. Lost In The World
Featuring Bon Iver; Produced by Kanye West & Jeff Bhasker
The track starts with a Bon Iver auto-tuned sample. The techno-pop beat comes in after the sample. This is another track that is predominantly beat sided. At this point, I’m feeling that all the different sounds are getting played out. In my opinion, the track alone holds the album back from its full potential of ever being considered a classic.

13. Who Will Survive In America
Produced by Kanye West & Jeff Bhasker
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy wraps up with a revolutionary skit by Gil Scott-Heron about who will survive in America. The speech is appropriate for the theme and is the perfect way to end the album.

I’ll admit that I wasn’t expecting My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy to be this good. For one, we already heard five songs from the G.O.O.D. Friday series and the production lineup seemed to get cloudy right before the release. However, he saved some of his best gems for this record. Right now, Kanye is at the top of his production game. He has the ability to create so many different sounds whether he’s using a drum machine, piano, violin, electric guitar, keyboard or any other instrument he may come across. One of the main reasons why I won’t give this a“Classic Material” rating is because of the lyrical content. Not to say that Yeezy hasn’t improved since his earlier years, but his lyrics are still questionable from time to time.

When I compare My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy to his other releases, I’d rate this par with College Dropout and Late Registration. However, I’ll agree with P-Body and say this is his third best release. It doesn’t seem to have that Hip-Hop feeling that his first two albums had. When comparing the album to other 2010 releases, I’d definitely say it’s in the top 5 (possibly top 3 behind Distant Relatives and How I Got Over).

Finally, Kanye is not going to take a break anytime soon. He along with Jay-Z plan to release Watch The Throne hopefully in early 2011. After hearing Jay on “Monster” and “So Appalled”, I expect their collaboration LP to be epic.