Kanye West: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam)

We get it; Kanye West is the most hated man in global hip hop. It’s easy to see why: He’s a loudmouth douchebag with more press coverage than common sense, gets more play with glamorously well-endowed women than Hugh Hefner on his best day and, goodness gracious, what in the world is he wearing?! But all that distracts from the main reason people love to hate on ‘Ye: he just happens to make damn good rap music.

Text: Words Manifest

In My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye has collected all of his past triumphs and mistakes, and shows that he’s done what people would never give him credit for: learning. His rhyme game has improved by leaps and bounds, displaying a more balanced blend of that winning “I’m the best who ever did it/I’m so lonely, listen to my life story one more time” dichotomy that’s transcended simple rhythmic ranting into actually-engaging gonzo journalism. “Me found bravery in my bravado,” he confesses, right after drowning his sorrows in his Diablo. And that was on the 1st track. Never a slouch behind the production boards, on Dark Twisted Kanye subdues his trademark sampling tendencies and still manages to craft a Boombap 2.0 album that relies more on guitar riffs and massive synths than Grover Washington Jr cuts. (That King Crimson sample was pretty neat, though.) It’s not as sonically groundbreaking as works by El-P or Madlib, but ‘Ye seems to understand his unique position to introduce the mainstream listener to hip hop’s darker, more technical corners. This is groundbreaking arena music.

Despite his combative public persona, Kanye has always been able to play a team game, and on this LP he continues to do so admirably. In his ever more confident role as the director of a musical blockbuster, he guides his younger featuring wards to awesome results. Dark Twisted is going to be known as the album that validated Nicki Minaj’s massive hype; on ‘Monster’, she attacks the hats and snares with vicious abandon, finally giving that insane Barbie voice some contextual bite. (She’s not the only one who should cut a cheque for Kanye, though: Lupe Fiasco, Drake, Wale and Kid Cudi are all stylistic members of A Tribe Called West.) ‘Ye still makes plenty of room for other approaches. Perhaps out of respect for his Big Brother, Kanye leaves Jay-Z mostly to his own devices, and his Rick Ross feature ‘Devil In A New Dress’ sounds like it came off a Rick Ross album. Even Raekwon, who’s been consistent but rather predictable of late, piles into a rich verse packed with undecipherable slang-uage.

People will still hate on Kanye West; thing is, he doesn’t care anymore. By embracing the true school tradition of braggadocios rhyming and still keeping to the technicalities of his passions-cranking out hits, dictating terms to fashion institutions, pissing people off-he’s made it cool to be a rap geek. Unapologetic and still wallowing in the realisation that this rap game is pretty much rigged, Kanye keeps his head down, plays his cards to the best of his abilities and tries to have a hell of a life. We hope he does. J

LISTEN TO: ‘Gorgeous’, ‘Monster’
IF YOU LIKE THIS YOU’LL DIG: Kid Cudi, The Cool Kids, J Cole
RATING: 4.5

TRACKLIST:
1 Dark Fantasy
2 Gorgeous ft. Kid Cudi & Raekwon
3 Power ft. Dwele
4 All Of The Lights (Interlude)
5 All Of The Lights ft. Alicia Keys, Charlie Wilson, Elly Jackson, Elton John, Fergie, John Legend, Kid Cudi, Rihanna, Ryan Leslie, The-Dream & Tony Williams
6 Monster ft. Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj & Bon Iver
7 So Appalled ft. Jay-Z, Pusha T, CyHi Da Prynce, Swizz Beatz & RZA
8 Devil In A New Dress ft. Rick Ross
9 Runaway ft. Pusha T
10 Hell Of A Life
11 Blame Game ft. John Legend
12 Lost In The World
13 Who Will Survive In America
14 See Me Now ft. Beyonce & Charlie Wilson (Bonus)

Feed the man’s insatiable ego at kanyewest.com.