A Detailed Study: Kanye West Builds a Twisty and Turny Sonic Roller Coaster with "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy"
Wed, 05 Jan 2011 16:41:30
Living in the light of the media for the last year has been tough for Kanye West.
He has been labeled "arrogant," "egotistical," and "insensitive," but living in the spotlight will capture the darker as well as the lighter sides of a true artist. One thing no one can deny however, is Kanye’s ability to push the musical envelope farther and farther through each new opus he creates.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is Kanye's fifth studio album and not only has he captured the trademark West sound that encompassed the last four albums, but he has ventured into new sonic territories with a little help from his friends. Clearly this new, ambitious effort will leave a lasting mark in musical history as he employs new techniques from a variety of genres. Kanye rolls out the classic styles that have defined him over the years with his string ensembles, high-pitched soul samples and electronic soundscapes that we came to know and love from College Dropout, Late Registration and Graduation.
Now with this latest effort, listeners will be astounded to hear the new sonic frontiers West is exploring. Those landscapes are carving out their own unique niche into a new genre all of its own. The record's first track “Dark Fantasy” kicks off with an intro from Nicki Minaj telling us to gather round and listen as we are serenaded with beautiful vocal harmonies and then schooled by Kanye’s reflections as his “Dark Fantasy” begins over a scorching beat from the Wu-Tang Clan’s maestro the RZA.
Kanye doesn’t disappoint on the follow up track “Gorgeous” as he spits very clever rhymes over a catchy guitar riff aimed at all the people that criticized and mocked him over the years. He spits, “We make 'em say ho cuz the game so pimpish, choke a South Park writer with a fish stick.” West busts a verbal cap in Cartman's fat ass and has no remorse about it…
On the next track “Power”, Kanye utilizes a sample of King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man” creating a head bobbing tribal anthem with hints of electronic funk mixed with an old school punk sound. He proclaims, “ They say I was the abomination of Obama’s nation” and speaks on being sidetracked creatively by the media’s negative attention towards his career. It doesn’t seem to have affected his creative style as he shapes the mood of this epic release into fresh forms while keeping a mesmerizing pace as the record progresses.
Despite Kanye's mastery of tracks and strong presence throughout the record, his Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy wouldn’t be the same without the efforts of some well-known artists. Kanye enlists the help of both veterans and newcomers to his new playground to help strengthen and redefine his new vision. On his fourth track "All of the Lights", over Elton John’s piano playing we hear the likes of Rihanna, Kid Cudi, John Legend, Alicia Keys, Fergie, The-Dream, Tony Williams, Charlie Wilson, Elly Jackson and Ryan Leslie (I don't think any other guests could even fit).
Kanye utilizes them perfectly here not focusing solely on one artist’s style, but using them collectively as a whole throughout the entire track to create a diverse sounding song that functions without ego. We get treated to earth scorching verses from Jay-Z and Nicki Minaj on the following track “Monster” and Jigga returns on “So Appalled” with Pusha-T to vent their frustrations about the double-edged sword of success and the problems that follow success in the industry. Rick Ross makes a memorable appearance on “Devil in a New Dress” with his gritty rock star flow; his return to the ring is undeniable as he reclaims his spot amongst hip hop's finest.
Pusha T appears on “Runaway” with Kanye over a dark but beautiful piano accompaniment. This track really captures the essence of Kanye’s personality we’ve all come to know and he spits of his failures and douchebaggery style with gifted, remorseful ease. The track ends with a beautiful string-laden outro and Kanye speaking poignantly through the auto-tuner to the world. “Hell Of A Life” is a grimy bass heavy track with keyboards and effects that expose Kanye’s materialistic fantasies of being with an adult film star and promotes giving in to the pleasure principle as often as you can. There's nothing wrong with that either…
“Blame Game” features Grammy award winning artist John Legend over a dramatic Aphex Twin piano sample. On this track, West captures the emotional rollercoaster one goes through in a tumultuous relationship. The rhymes are transformed using unique vocal effects that speed up and slow down to single out each individual voice and emotion.
The album finishes up with “Lost In The World” featuring Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon. The track begins softly then transforms into a frenzy of pounding drums and scathing verses. Kanye sums up the albums themes of being lost in the success with all the glamour, glitz and fortune and presents the final thoughts from Gil Scott-Heron who says that all he wants is a good home with a family and food to feed them. I have a feeling that under all the glitz, this is where Kanye wants to rest his head.
When all is said and done, very few artists make it through the years of turmoil and public ridicule to capture the diverse array of emotions with such clarity and beauty.
Kanye creates more than just a hip-hop album here, with roots deep in rock, R&B, pop, classical and soul; his innovative spirit continues to redefine music with an inspiring intensity and musical dexterity that continues to change our definition of the hip-hop artist.
Have you heard Kanye West's "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy?"