When it comes to Kanye West, you have to separate the person from the artist. The person may be a “jackass” as President Obama said, but the artist is a borderline genius.
“My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” released two weeks ago, is West’s fifth studio album and his best yet. He has come a long way since his famous interruption of Taylor Swift at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards and this album proves it.
The album begins with Nicki Minaj reworking the poetic intro to Roald Dahl’s “Cinderella,” which provides for an excellent begining to the opening track, “Dark Fantasy.”
“Twisted fiction, sick addiction. Well gather around children, zip it, listen,” Minaj says, drawing all attention to a chorus then into the beats. This is where the album officially begins.
The next song, titled “Gorgeous,” is another one of West’s typical heavy beats with special guests Kid Cudi and Raekwon, but West adds a string melody behind the heavy guitar and bass beat that shows a sophistication in his producing talents that has definitely matured since previous albums.
Typical West albums include many samples from old soul songs or even old rock songs and this album is no different. But the difference with West’s samples compared to other hip-hop artists samples, even his previous albums, are his natural talent for adding the beats and lyrics to perfectly supplement the sample.
In “Power,” the sample is “21st Century Schizoid Man” by King Crimson. In “Blame Game,” its Aphex Twin’s beautiful piano piece titled “Avril 14th.” “Blame Game” shows West’s genius by adding a simple bass beat with another piece of a string melody that perfectly supplements his lyrics and the piano.
Upon listening to this track, you realize how West has created beats and melodies that simply aren’t rap or hip-hop. If you had to put a label on it you could maybe call it progressive hip-hop, similar to progressive rock that was heavily influenced by classical music.
Another example of this new style of beats is his song “Runaway.” This track employs a soft back beat supplemented by piano that is one note at a time. It is simple, but when combined with the string melody West throws on at the end, the track seems so complex.
“Baby I got a plan. Runaway as fast as you can,” West says, including the escapism in his lyrics that he carried out in real life by traveling to Hawaii to record this album.
This album is not just heavy on the strings like “Runaway” or “Blame Game,” but includes songs like the tour de force “Monster,” which represents typical hip-hop songs and includes established artists like Jay-Z, Rick Ross and Nicki Minaj.
“Devil in a New Dress” sounds like it should be on his 2004 album, “Late Registration,” with its soulful beat and funky bass line. This is classic West, which makes me think he threw this on just to show everyone he hasn’t changed too much.
His ego peaks its head out on these tracks, with lyrics that are borderline misogynistic and deal with sex and wealth, like his lyrics of old. But those tracks with the matured production style with the added strings showed how West is, at times, insecure and almost paranoid with the way he is seen in the public eye.
He should never be insecure about his talents, though. West is by far one of the most talented producers and rappers in hip-hop today and showed us all by giving us a glimpse of his beautiful, dark, twisted fantasy.