Kayne West makes dizzying return with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam)
Kanye West has made a career out of being pissed off. His first album, The College Dropout, was a defiant rebuke of people who told him producers can’t rap, and his last, 808s & Heartbreak, was a wounded, borderline hateful kiss-off to his ex-fiancée. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is marked throughout by West’s trademark ire; this time, though, the person he’s angriest with is himself.
No one but Yeezy could make remorse and self-reproach sound as celebratory as he does here. When he asks us, on the 808s flashback “Runaway”, to raise a toast to the “douchebags” and “jerk-offs” who never “take work off”, he’s both copping to his public sins (like the Taylor Swift incident) and reminding us that no one’s working harder these days to raise the stakes of pop music.
At once a synthesis and an elaboration of his previous albums, MBDTF is dizzying in scope, every bar twitching restlessly with a reference to some influence in West’s vast orbit, from the Turtles to King Crimson, Smokey Robinson to John Legend, and James Brown to Aphex Twin. It’s the rare album that operates and excels on several levels at once: mainstream listeners will find plenty of hummable tunes here, rap fans will encounter a scarily committed and forceful lyricist, and music nerds will lose themselves in the vastness of it all.
From beginning to end, West strides through the mix a wiser man, more fully aware than ever of both his personal shortcomings and his artistic greatness. Who could be mad at that?