Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
When I listen to this album, a great quote by one of my favorite writers, Eric Hoffer, comes to mind:
“We are told that talent creates its own opportunities. But it sometimes seems that intense desire creates not only its own opportunities, but its own talents.”
First, I want to say that all of the talk about the album being one of the greatest albums of all time….and all of that hyperbole needs to be calmed down….at least for now. I believe that you need a few listens (and breaks between) to make that assessment. There has to be a certain greatness, continued relevance, and replayability to be one of the greatest ever. So, let’s run down those intangibles I just named.
Greatness. I’m using this (in a lazy way) as a catch-all for the music and lyrics. The raps are improved – Kanye has definitely improved lyrically. He provides a little more bite than before, which is crucial considering his lack of depth in technical skill. He knows what he’s good at, and just improves around that. The guests are pretty good, and even add to the collage. What I like is that the album is almost completely internal, and seems to be actually wondering how and why he’s turned out to be the way he is, i.e. a bulbous jerk.
The music, as always, is where he continues to stand out. Quite honestly, he really isn’t being touched here. He has fully realized his potential in this area, and in my opinion, his hubris pertaining to his music is completely warranted. The samples are amazing….I really don’t have a explanation for this part. No one is doing what he’s doing – in terms of combining sounds, ingenuity, honesty, excellent songwriting, and using a massive ego to positive effect. It’s large, ambitious, dense, technically sound, everything.
Continued relevance. I feel like this album will stand up, but the question for people is will he top College Dropout. That album was a turning point for rap in so many ways, I’m not sure if anything he releases will top its importance. This release is technically better in every single way, and I think the energy is comparable to Dropout. The confidence is different – a certain self deprecation has been replaced by a full-on, perpetually self stroked hard on. He’s gone from literal dropout with enormous talent, to the Hip Hop Caligula with an MPC 2000XL. He has become the sign of our times, and sometimes the other way around – which seems to be where we are in 2010, heading into 2011. But let’s see how people feel about this album IN 2011.
Replayability. Again, it’s hard to say right now. This album is not necessarily a singles album, it’s meant to be played and enjoyed in a sitting….many of them. But will people dig that, or will they count that (i.e. their collective lack of patience) as a negative. I do have to say that after the initial listen – I had that very, very specific mixture of feelings, such as satisfaction, elation, and pride. You guys know that feeling when you listen to something special? I felt that, what it is.
Overall, it’s probably the best album of this year. Actually – it IS the best album, in any genre, this year. Kanye has shown himself as an giant asshole, (maybe) a chauvinist, and one of the great artists in the last 25-30 years, if not ever (using all of his personal and collaborative work together – which is now quite a nice collection). It’s a monumental album in every way, and is one of the best RAP albums in recent memory. In terms of a full fleshed idea and theme, having the talent to execute, and then doing it to 100% capacity – you’d be hard pressed to find a better RAP album. However, time will tell if it ranks with What’s Going On? or Songs in the Key of Life or The Stones Roses’ debut, and the like. Going back to the quote, Kanye WANTS to be the greatest. I don’t believe he will get there…..but the effort he’s put forth, and his output, command your utmost respect.
(Just had my second listen, as I’m finishing this…..the hyperbole may be true. It really is pretty fucking awesome.)