Let's get it out of the way up front: If you even tangentially follow the hip hop blogosphere or Twitterverse, you've heard almost all of the substantive tracks on this album (two of the 13 tracks are an interlude and outro). Fully five of the 11 songs were part of Kanye's G.O.O.D. Fridays scheme, another three leaked months ahead of the album's release, and "Dark Fantasy" was included in Kanye's recent short film. But does it matter? Maybe Kanye's done the impossible and crafted an album so good that we'll pay for it even when he gives it away for free.
After listening to the record you'll appreciate how succinctly the album's title summarizes its themes. The record is framed as a fairy tale and the first few lines ("The watered down one, the one you know/ Was made up centuries ago...Twisted fiction, sick addiction/ Gather around children, zip it, listen) almost allude to the gradual censorship of the Brothers Grimm's dark fairytales over the centuries. On My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye seeks to dismantle the facade of fame and fortune to reveal the twisted debauchery underneath.
Kanye's trademark arrogance is in full force on this album. But this time it's an unapologetic arrogance that's a product of being treated like a god on earth. On "Devil in a New Dress" he rhymes "It's hard to be humble when you're stuntin' on a jumbotron" and on "POWER" "I embody every characteristic of the egotisic, he knows he's so gifted." The occult is another central theme, not only in track titles like "Devil in a New Dress," "Monster" and "Hell of a Life" but in the bars on each record. Kanye offers "We headed to hell, for heaven's sake huh?/ Well I'mma levitate and make the devil wait, yeah."
Perhaps the most personal theme on the album is a feeling of dissatisfaction in the face of so much commercial and critical success. We hear it on "Runaway" ("I always find something wrong/ You've been putting up with me just way too long/I'm so gifted at finding what I don't like the most"). And while Kanye keeps up the pretense of ego (see above) it's clear that the endless criticism has forced chinks in his armor. There are unveiled jabs at both Saturday Night Live and South Park, and bars including "It's not funny anymore, try different jokes," and "I was lookin' at my resume, feelin' real fresh today/ But they rewrite history, I don't believe in yesterday."
In short, the album is brilliant. The rhymes are clever, the music is rich, the emotions are raw and the themes are dark. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy will be an interesting experiment in an age of dwindling album sales ostensibly due to piracy. If Kanye can move 800,000 units in his first week despite having given the album away, the power of good music will be proven and artists will have no one to blame but themselves.
on February 13, 2011
When mastering an album you do a totally different mix for digital (ie, CD, mp3) and vinyl. The reason for this is the different formats have different characteristics and matching your final mix to take advantage of them yields a superior listening experience. In this case, no effort was made to produce a different mix for vinyl - as far as I can tell this is the digital master pressed onto a record. Ironically, this has produced a release that sounds considerably WORSE than the CD. If your main concern is audio fidelity avoid this release. In fact, I can't even listen to it - after two plays it will never leave the package. My digital copy sounds superior (which is a massive disappointment because I was dying to hear 'All of the Lights' on warm, rich vinyl). I am incredibly disappointed considering this is one of the best albums I've heard in years and I'm frankly appalled that Kanye would sign off on this one after spending so much time crafting an amazing album.
As for the packaging, a lot of work went into the artwork, but no effort went into the materials. The cardboard is flimsy, the vinyl is not heavyweight and for some inexplicable reason the artwork is censored. It's just a painting and not even that suggestive - we better keep America's youth out of our many fine museums and art galleries as well lest they be exposed to anything thought provoking.
on March 31, 2012
It was difficult to keep track of all the hyperbole following the release of this album, with some deeming it the Kid A of the 2010's and others calling it a picasso like masterwork and lets not forget the perfect 10.0 it received from everyones favourite music site pitchfork media. Not being the worlds biggest Kanye fan i was dismisssive of all the hype, assuming the critics had so heavily backed Mr West's pretentiously titled album as an attempt to remain relevant with younger music fans. But that didn't account for the amount of love that was coming from the blogosphere and when my brother (less of a Kanye fan than me) said he'd listened to it and claimed it to be "suprisingy good", i knew i had to take the plunge.
My first spin didn't leave me speechless, but i couldn't deny the obvious quality of the album. The songs were exciting, unpredictable, heck effervescent even, I had a few gripes about some of the audacious orchestral arrangements and some of the lyrical conceit but on the whole i filed it under very good and promptly moved onto listening to nicolas jaar's Space Is Only Noise (the first great record of 2011). A year passed and i revisited a few albums i'd been impressed with but hadn't found the time to immediately listen to again and after playing Halcyon Digest by Deerhunter for the third time i was convinced it was the standout record of 2010. But it suddenly occured to me that i'd overlooked a little known egoist from chicago who's album i'd conveniently chose to avoid listening to since last year, claiming it's excellent production was the only reason i probably enjoyed it in retrospect and i was convinced i wouldn't be dazzled by it a second time round, i enventually played it again a fortnight ago just to make sure ...
Well i've now been officially humbled! it sounded better now than it did when i initially played it, so much so that i had to listen a third time to see just how great it was and the experience was almost magical. The entrancing quiet storm of Devil In A New Dress, the delightful piano motif in Runaway, the collective reverie of Lost In The World, it all sounded great now. No caveats, no disclaimers all the twists and turns featured on this album feel expertly crafted even the Chris Rock skit on blame game feels transcendant. I had to check the personnel kanye enlisted to see who was involved in the making of this daringly ambitious album. I wasn't suprised to see a treasure trove of big name producers behind this RZA, No I.D, Jeff bhasker, but the decision to bring in Bon Iver and Elton John was completely unexpected and wholly inspired.
The highlights were never ending with this beast! Nicki Minaj's schizoid verse on Monster, the gorgeous strings and piano interlude before All Of the Lights, the spoken word poetry of Gil Scott Herron on "Who Will Survive in America". The richness of the tones, the varition in moods make this a thrilling listen from start to finish. If you haven't already realised i'm unashamedly doing one hell of a U-turn on this guy i can't reccommend this album highly enough. I was so impressed by My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy i promptly revisited earlier works like The College Dropout and Late Registration to see if they were much better than i remembered too. They were in case you were wondering, but neither have a patch on this MBDTF. In my opinion it's the undisputed pinnacle of 21st century Hip Hop and it's unlikely to topped by anyone (Kanye included) anytime soon.
on February 12, 2012
This is a disclaimer: I don't flow hip-hop. In fact, I don't flow music with same veracity that I did in my youth. But regardless of that, I still know what I like and feel that there is talent among the artists. However, unlike a needle in a haystack, the art does sift its way to the top. Upon first hearing the single "Power", I felt like I was hearing not just a hip-hop musician, but a pop artist. With West's amalgamation of chant, rock and rap, he creates a brilliant tableau of music as a whole.
Most people look at hip-hop as a secondary art. This is sad for them; since there is a depth to the work here. What Kanye is doing is addressing two aspects of his psyche, the id which comes out in the impulses that makes him a target and the ego that strives or something much higher. This is found from the very beginning of the album as Niki Minaj sits us down for a story that is like an old Grimm fairytale that segues into a chorus of the heavenly choir. These somber moments are what gives My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy its emotional weight. Kanye is playing with a persona that even he himself hasn't cultivated. On "Monster", his eyes flash red as he is committing atrocities on everyone that comes into contact with him. This is not a reality, but part of that fantasy that has grown up around him. He uses that to make a point about the perception that the media prism refracts and he is just refracting back at them like a game of telephone.
The album's centerpiece, "Runaway", is what brings this collection into focus. The mix of styles, from hip-hop to R&B, to classical to pop, shows the ambition that West is going for. This isn't just some fly-by-night rapper just making music for a buck. Much like Radiohead he wants to push music forward, busting out whole walls with just a piano line. This track also focus on the vulnerability that most artists are afraid to express from a place of power. But this is what makes the song so accessible to anyone and everyone, without sacrificing the unique sound.
Now I am not going to say that there isn't any flaws in this work. Most masterpieces aren't perfect, which is why they are so human. The noodling at the end of "Blame Game" comes off as much similar to "Wild Honey Pie" or "Revolution #9" on The Beatles. But that is certainly not something to dock this endevour as a whole. Kayne West breaks his heart open like a walnut and allows us into all the nooks and crannies of his soul.
on January 31, 2011
I can say from experience buying vinyl over the years that not many Hip-hop artists go out of there way to put something together like Kanye did with this Vinyl release.I mean most of the time you just get a couple records thrown in sleeves and your lucky if it comes as a gatefold (especially with Def Jams releases). Yeah, its somewhat pricey although for all that included it's well worth the asking price.That is if you can still even find it without the inflated price. First off its limited edition (supposably). I've also heard rumors that its going to be remastered and repressed, but that's yet to be seen, and I think it would take away from those purchasing it thinking that it was limited in the first place. There is also no idea exactly how limited it is, but I think those that really want this on wax will still be able to find it for a while ? The outer red cardboard sleeve is beautifully done with the see through center and gold printed ink used throughout, which looks to be screen printed.It folds open nicely. I don't think this really needed to be pressed on 3LP's as I think it would have all originally fit nicely onto a double. The added artwork is frameable and yes its censored. I've noticed many giving negative reviews on amazon because of this, but this had to be Kanye's decision and seriously how many of us are actually going to frame these anyways? It was also shown on the items description pic to still be censored, and I think if it wasn't we would have been made aware before buying from one source or another.The vinyl sounds great on my heavy duty 1978 Pioneer PL-560 and much better than the MP3 download i previously purchased on amazon while it was available on the cheap. With the resurgence of vinyl sales its nice to see that there are still a handful artists willing to think outside of the box when it comes to release on the vinyl format. If you're a fan of what many said is the best release of 2010 and a collector of vinyl than I would recommend you pickup this release!
on November 25, 2010
Simply put, this is a sonic assault on your ears! Kanye's range and creativity with this album is second to none. The tracks vary from hardcore to R&B to rock to pop to how-in-the-heck-do-you-describe-this...he pretty much leaves no stone unturned. If you're a fan of the newer generation of hip hop, this probably isn't for you, but to the seasoned, mature, hip hop heads (like myself), it should come across as a masterpiece...
on November 22, 2010
A solid portion of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy earned its premiere on YouTube in the form of a half-hour music video for the single "Runaway." Opening the album with the same song as the video, titling it "Dark Fantasy," Kanye gives the first words to a female narrator, a fallen phoenix. With a choir of oohs and aahs in the background, she says "you might think you've peeped the scene. You haven't, the real one's far too mean. The watered down one, the one you know, was made up centuries ago. It made it sound all whack and corny. Yes, it's awful, blasted boring. Twisted fiction, sick addiction, well gather round children, zip it listen!" A grand piano chord quickly follows this short narrative and so begins Kanye's latest epic production.
Kanye is no stranger to grandiose compositions. Even his debut album, The College Dropout, had nearly an hour and twenty minutes of music with standout tracks like "Jesus Walks" paving the way for a new generation of artists. However, never before has Kanye blended so many genres of music together or taken so many musical chances on one record. Even a simple glimpse at the guest list is enough to make the heads of fans spin. Elton John, Chris Rock, Rihanna, Fergie, John Legend, Kid Cudi, Rick Ross and Jay-Z all on the same album? Bon Iver on a hip hop record? If there was ever any question as to how this could all work, a single listen to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is all the proof you'll need.
Although the entire album has an unquestionable flow that keeps every song fresh and intriguing, there are two tracks on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy that truly capture what Kanye West has built his career up to. The first is "All of the Lights." Complete with its own cello and piano interlude, "All of the Lights" throws an entire brass section into the mix and allows Rihanna as many if not more of the featured vocals in the song. Although strings and brass have all been used within the realm of hip hop before, the stylistic blend between classical, fanfare, and club worthy beats in less than a minute feels natural and effortless on "All of the Lights." The second feature track is, appropriately, the lead single "Runaway." Opening with a minimalist piano part similar to the end of Nine Inch Nails' "Closer," Kanye takes the listener on a six minute journey with some astute lyrics of self-reflection. As the beat abruptly ends and leaves the piano on its own once again, one may think the track has finished, but an additional 3 minutes of deep staccato strings behind a vocoder solo offer proof of Kanye's desire to push the boundaries of acceptable singles in today's pop culture.
Kanye West is not perfect. You know it, he knows it, and we all know the media exploits his imperfections to no end. Sure, he made a fool of himself on stage when he stole the spotlight from Taylor Swift at the VMAs. Yep, he sent a racy photo of himself to a woman that ended up on the internet. OK, his last album, 808s & Heartbreak, put a few nails in Auto-Tune's coffin, but like him or not, he's a visionary and a musical mastermind. With three phenomenal albums, The College Dropout, Late Registration, and Graduation, already under his belt, Kanye West enters his second decade of musical production with his best solo release yet. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy has once again upped the standards of rap that he himself set.
Similar Artists: Jay-Z, Dr. Dre
Track Suggestion: "All of the Lights"
on November 24, 2010
I purchased this cd when it first came out and everytime I listen to it I hear something different. It's really a feel good album and Kanye does a great job of capturing the soul and moment in every song, by making you feel the emotion behind everything he's saying. I strongly suggest this cd to everyone.
on November 22, 2010
I purchased this cd early today, having ignored Kanye's G.O.O.D friday program in an attempt, in this society of leaks and instant gratification, to genuinely approach a work with the possibility of surprise, and I was surely rewarded. This is a sonically shocking, beautiful album. I won't go on describing each song or my favorites- it's an album that benefits from an undisposed listener. It begins with a jarring British spoken word skit attempting to describe reality as removed from perception, and ends with a stoic, unmistakably American (oh, how I wish for italics here) voice telling of the American dream; these two bookend the ramblings of an egomaniacal genius, a work of harmonies and abused expectations, with John Legend's euphony swapped for West's strained warbling, Bon Iver's indie voice wrung through an autotuner, Jay Z giving one of the fiercest verses of his career, not to mention dozens of others that I'll leave for you to find. The beat from 'Lost in the World' bleeds into the spoken-word of 'Who Will Survive in America' and eventually fades as the album is ended in the same way as it began- that is, out of West's hands, with his life--his materialism, his religion, his dreams which are all of a shared stew--properly contextualized, and the new American (not to mention, the new musical) way, one beyond antiquated notions clearly inadequate for current travails, at least to the best of West's abilities, defined. A great album, and I say so without comparing it to others, for I don't listen to all too much music, that is aesthetically pleasing, emotionally resonant, and entirely relevant.
on October 5, 2012
Despite what other reviews have been saying about the LP version I Love it, without a doubt one of the better vinyl purchases I have made, and as I see it it's better to buy now rather than when its $200+. It has superb audio clarity, and not only is it a collectors item but one of the best Kanye albums of all time... of all time!.