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Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (33 1/3) Paperback – June 19, 2014

3.5 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“In Graves' book, he not only breaks down each track on the record, but he also effectively lays out the context of the album's release, explaining why Kanye is deserving of an investigative book like this one (and hopefully soon, others), and what about Mr. West makes him the biggest and most off-putting rock star on the planet.” ―Dan Buyanovsky, Revolt TV

“Kanye West is the millennial generation incarnate, or at least that’s what Kirk Walker Graves would have us all think. Throughout the 150 or so pages of this book, Graves unpacks the enigma that is Kanye West’s personality and art. This book isn’t so much about the musical qualities of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy as it is about how Kanye’s ego and public persona can be used to explain modern 20-somethings. Graves finds meaning in West’s music that I never would have picked out on my own. His fandom is clear, but he never steps into hyperbole in his praise of the music. Though, at times, it feels like his discussion of this album can get a bit too academic, I appreciate the thought that he has put into his analysis of Kanye’s work. This book is some serious next-level music criticism―I never realized how much Kanye’s Gucci line meant to my life before this guy told me about it.” ―SLUG Magazine

“West may be divisive enough to not win over his detractors, but Graves' mix of fanboy marvel and critical detachment is persuasive enough to convince even detractors to give My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy a close listen. At the end of its 132 pages, Graves makes a convincing argument that this four-year-old deserves a spot in the 33 1/3 series. But perhaps more important, he does something that great criticism should do: he makes you want to listen to the album.” ―Sean McCarthy, PopMatters

“Kanye West's fifth album is only a few years old, but that didn't stop Kirk Walker Graves from writing a book proclaiming it an instant classic that perfectly captures the spirit of its era. Graves unpacks the cultural meaning and significance of West's famous ego and chaotic public persona, and examines the music both in the context of the rapper's brilliant body of work, and how it fits into the social media era.” ―"14 Books From 2014 Every Music Lover Needs To Read", Buzzfeed

“Listed on NYLON's 'Best Music Books to Read This Summer'” ―NYLON

About the Author

Kirk Walker Graves is a writer from Tennessee at work on his first novel. A graduate of Princeton University, he lives with his wife and son in Nashville.
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Product Details

  • Series: 33 1/3
  • Paperback: 152 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic (June 19, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1623565421
  • ISBN-13: 978-1623565428
  • Product Dimensions: 4.8 x 0.4 x 6.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #446,993 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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Generally every bad review of a 33 1/3 book starts out with a sentiment along the lines of "this is very different work than the other books in the 33 1/3 series" - a point which probably proves that readers shouldn't expect a singular thing from a 33 1/3 title, a claim I think few reasonable readers of the series would dispute. All that to say, this is a very different work than the other books in the 33 1/3 series. Kirk Walker Graves does an amazing job of pulling apart the motivations and inspirations on each track, drawing parallels to similar works in popular culture, and even (very capably) practicing some light pop psychology on the album's creator throughout; as well as his fans and critics. End to end, the album should please any Kanye fan (or 33 1/3 fan) capable of setting aside expectations or preconceived bias before reading. Which, I'm sure Walker would agree, is a big ask when talking about Kanye.
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Kirk Walter Graves is a great writer and paints a pretty picture out of Kanye's music, but sometimes he dips into fanboy-ism that isn't quite interesting. I also found that he didn't go deeply enough into the actual production of the album. However, his critical analysis of Kanye's career and what he represents is impressive. Ultimately, the downsides don't outweigh the positives. Definitely recommend
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Interesting thoughts, but hoping for more of a behind-the-scenes look at making the album, like others in the series.
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Amazing perspective! This was such an exciting read. The content shows thoughtful insight and draws incredible connections within the world of the album. With fascinating perspective, Graves writes with an effortlessly engaging style and top-notch literary merit. Wonderfully entertaining and insightful.
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I would read anything written by Kirk Walker Graves. He's a phenomenal talent.
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Our culture is already bored with meta-commentary about the potential effects of the digital revolution. It’s here, it’s everywhere, it’s the water flowing over the gills of the millennial and nourishing an isolated global community of social mavens, prepared to Google-as-a-verb the meaning of the word “maven” at a moment’s notice from a smartphone, tablet, netbook, and eyeglasses. It is no surprise, then, that possibly the most influential musician of the 21st century personifies and embraces the identity-crafting realm of the real-time and connected. It's important that any book about this musician understands the world we live in.

Kirk Walker Graves, author of the 33 1/3 entry for Kanye West’s album “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”, assumed the burden of dissecting the eponymous album for this very reason. Why focus an intellectual analysis on an album only four years old, nearly devoid of historical context? The author sends the message that MBDTF is the first album that wraps its tendrils directly into the psyche of a society that treats socializing as preparation for personal celebrity, desiring all things immediately not just due to impatience, but because soon now will be irrelevant. Much like the album and our pop culture, the importance of Graves’ analysis cannot be understated, or delayed.

Graves shows a level of enthusiasm for his work comparable to a toddler with a leaf blower in a realm of endless cotton candy. The book begins by giving one of the best explanations of Kanye, the artist and the human, that I have yet read. It helps the reader place him within the digital culture now pervading the world that I previously mentioned.
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It seems that many negative reviewers expected this book (and this series) to be more a glimpse "behind the music," and while this book has some of that, the focus of the book is much different and, ultimately, much more interesting than just what Kanye was snacking on while making MBDTF. Instead, the author takes a brief look at West's creative output up to MBDTF and then jumps into MBDTF analyzing each individual song with both the passion of a fan and the precision of a critic. After reading this book, I gained a much deeper respect for Kanye West's artistry and ambition. Even though the author is clearly a fan of Kanye, the author is still able to objectively look at Kanye's masterpiece and all of its moments of genius and blunders while offering insight into MBDTF's creation and sharing facts that make you really second guess anything negative that you've ever said about Kanye West's music. Graves' MBDTF was my first introduction into the 33 1/3 series, and if the other books in this series feature the same smart writing, unique insight, and passion for their subject as this book, then we have a reason to get excited about music writing. I hope that 33 1/3 continues to put out quality editions such as this.
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previously read in utero and donuts from the same series. both were excellent reads, the latter being highly emotional. they informed the reader of the genesis, process and aftermath of the album tracks and the album as a whole. that's what I thought this series was about: the work and the art. I wanted liner notes that border beauty. like what donuts was about. but maybe I have the wrong idea of what this book series is about.
it's obvious that the words from this book came from a genuinely good place: an excellent writer who is a kanye fan. and that's what this book is: a track by track pop-culture analysis from the perspective of a fan, rather than an unbiased explanation of the creation of the art and the impact it has on "pop culture."
since mbdtf fused into my life and became a soundtrack to heartaches and euphorias and stuff in between, I wanted to know more about this album on a technical level: what were the studio sessions like? what did Pete Rock, the RZA and Qtip contribute? what kind of cathartic experience did Kanye have when the piano keys, Pete Rock drum loop and Rick James "look at you!" sample came together, if any? etc.
these are pretty specific questions, but questions worth investigating. I think.
it's incredibly difficult to write anything about Kanye that most fans don't already know. and I thought this book would be different. it's not. overall, with the exception of a few minor errors and too many pop-culture associations, it's a good read for the kanye consumer. not so much for the true listeners of my beautiful dark twisted fantasy. I didn't really get anything out of it that hasn't already been printed on glossy, or matte finished covered magazines.
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