“Can we get much higher?”
It’s the first of many questions Kanye West asks himself, his peers, and his fans on the first track of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The album, arguably the most anticipated of 2010, is the result of Mr. West’s struggles and criticisms from the media and the people over the past year and a half, stemming from the 2009 MTV VMA incident where West bombarded Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech. West was at an all time low, both in his career and personal life. He garnered so much hatred from the people that he relocated to Hawaii as a retreat, where he began recording his fifth studio album, his first since the 2008 chart topper 808s & Heartbreak. He flew dozens of artists in and out of Hawaii everyday to collaborate with on his mostly self produced beats. It all lead to West’s most innovative project ever, his dark fantasy, recorded for all to hear.
West’s lyrics on past records have always had deep meanings. On Fantasy, he takes his lyrics to another level, giving them multiple meanings to different situations. On “Runaway”, the albums most powerful track, West sings, “Baby I got a plan, runaway as fast as you can.” Later in the track he goes on to say, “and I don’t know how Im’a manage if one day you just up and leave.” It shows West’s constant battle, man vs. himself, the self-contradictory that is present throughout the entirety of the album. He loves this girl, be it his ex-girlfriend Amber Rose or a girl made up in his head, who he raps about in many of the albums songs. This girl is the source of both his joy and suffering.
When “Runaway” ends and that last auto-tuned bar is carried out Fantasy becomes an up-hill battle for Kanye but a sweet victory for fans. On “Hell Of A Life” West raps about a girl he has just met in the club. He instantly falls in love. He wants the girl to just drop everything and live the life of a rock star. West raps “…and got married in the bathroom/honeymoon on the dance floor/and got divorced by the end of the night/that’s one hell of a life.” He goes from being so high up, living his twisted fantasy, to another one of his dark lows. On the next track, “Blame Game”, West raps about his issues with this girl, the issue of giving her up to someone else and trying to move on. He raps, “On the bathroom wall I wrote I’d rather argue with you than to be with someone else/…and I went and found somebody else/…or harvesting the feelings yo I’d rather be by my fucking self.” West finds himself in the bathroom once again, just in a different situation. In one moment he spontaneously marries the girl of his dreams in a bathroom and in another he is contemplating his relationship with the girl in the same setting. Why a bathroom? It’s a place for reflection and thought and where most people begin and end their day. Cut to “Lost In The World”, a rendition of Bon Iver’s “Woods”, where West is truly lost in the world, and delivers one of the best verses of the album, “You’re my devil, you’re my angel/you’re my heaven, you’re my hell/you’re my now, you’re my forever/you’re my freedom, you’re my jail/you’re my lies, you’re my truth/you’re my war, you’re my truce/you’re my questions, you’re my proof/you’re my stress, you’re my masseuse…” Those eight bars show his greatest weakness while also showing off his amazing creativity. The beat does not disappoint either; listen to Bon Iver’s original and you will wonder how Mr. West created this epic, chill worthy song just by listening to the source material.
On the topic of disappointments, there are none. Fantasy carries a very serious tone throughout but it is definitely not without its humor. Chris Rock’s rant at the end of “Blame Game” will have you grinning from ear to ear. On “Dark Fantasy” West makes a reference to a popular 90s TV show Family Matters raping, “Too many Urkels on your team that’s why your wins low.” Then there are the amazing beats, bars and musical effects heard throughout every second of every song. The interlude before “All Of The Lights” sets the tone for an epic song with a roster of more than 12 artists including Rihanna, Elton John, Fergie, Kid Cudi and Charlie Wilson. “So Appalled” and “Monster” are straight from West’s ‘Good Friday’ program where he has been releasing a new song every Friday since this past August and has promised to do so until Christmas of this year. On “Monster” Nicki Minaj shows up both Jay-Z and Kanye with one of the best verses of her career. On “So Appalled” Kanye’s G.O.O.D. Music entourage delivers some of the best modern verses in hip-hop today. It’s a showcase for both up-and-coming and established artists such as Pusha T, Jay-Z, Prynce Cy Hi, Swizz Beatz and The RZA. When Rick Ross’s voice comes in over the electric guitar on “Devil In a New Dress” the song goes from being magical to a stroke of genius. “Power”, the single that kicked off West’s comeback, is still just as great as it was six months ago when it was first released.
Everyone thought Kanye West was done for, that he would never make a comeback in a world where people wanted nothing but failure for him. While he ended up proving everyone wrong (the album went gold in its first week), his main goal was to make amazing music as he has stated in interviews time after time. He doesn’t care about the fame, the money or the media. Kanye just wants to satisfy his greatest fans and push the boundaries of hip-hop to no end. He has set the bar so high that it will be hard for even Kanye himself to surpass what he has created. He will find a way, however, to do this and then some. It’s Kanye vs. Kanye, man verses himself, in both his personal life and his career. The only one who can answer the question of “Can we get much higher?” is the one who suggests it in the first place. It will be interesting to see how much higher Kanye West can get. If the past is any indication of the future, Mr. West is already working on his next innovative project, be it his collaboration, Watch The Throne, with Jay-Z or his next G.O.O.D. Friday track. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is a classic in the making and will most likely leave it’s mark on the music industry as the most innovative hip-hop/rap album of the decade.