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Polaroids Of Androids

Record Reviews

9.6

Kanye West
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

At this stage it seems like a rather futile exercise to even spill out a couple of sentences about the quality of this record. After all, by the time this review is published (after a few million re-reads and a few laps around time zones to ensure correct mdash placement), Kanye will have already been crowned The King Of 2010, the saviour of modern music and several other outlandish accolades that will not only take his ego to an explosive capacity level but also ensure that he will more than likely stumble on his next endeavour under the world's (read: The Internet's) impossibly high expectations.

But, obsessive compulsiveness etc etc, and as pointless as this feels right now, this one is just too hard to let rest. No homo.

"I fantasized about this back in Chicago"

Although for the majority of this album Kanye plays ringmaster — parading and conducting a seemingly endless celebrity guestlist — he makes sure he gets the first word in. Uncharacteristically, West uses the opportunity to remind folks where it all began. You know, when Lil West has the backpack-wearing bastard grandson of the Native Tongues family. Back when his claim to fame was that he had Talib, Mos and Beanie's phone numbers in his bootlegged Nokia. When he was all about sped-up soul samples, had an infectious drawl from injuries sustained after crashing his rented Benz into a tree and an almost spine-crushing chip on his shoulder over his own personal failures attempting to tip-toe through the White Man's higher education jungle.

The college obsession would distract his focus for the best part of the next decade. One of the most welcoming aspects of this album is that he's not only (FINALLY) "let it go", but he's also actually rapping. Yep, that was a sneaky little sideways kidney stab aimed at 808s and Heartbreak — which I actually quite like, but I know most of you haters fucking despise. And, yes, that album actually looks pretty weak in substance when held up against this.

"I'm just a Chi-town nigga with a Nas flow"

The original West Chicago Boy we met in 2003 is long dead. In his place there's a man that's endlessly re-inflating his own over-sizing ego (sorry mate, you don't have "a Nas flow"), while simultaneously hitting folks with a Double Paradox Punch — "I'm one of the greatest entertainers ever, but please pity me because I'm really insecure about the fact I might not be the greatest entertainer ever".

"Choke a South Park writer with a fish stick, I insisted they get up off of this dick"

It's really really really easy to hate Kanye West. In fact, it's a true testament to how brilliant My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is that, even though I think he's an absolute jerkwad, I still love pretty much everything that comes out of his mouth on this record, no matter how dumb, cringe-worthy, uneducated, righteous, bullshit or arrogant it is.

I think this is mostly because a large part of West's appeal is his obviously flawed nature, which, although we've seen snippets of in the past, really flourishes and parades itself this time around. All aspects of his personality — the chest-thumping bravado, the fake insecurity and the not-quite-believable sincerity — are above all else, human qualities. There's an underlying feeling that this balancing act is the character of Kanye rather than his genuine human condition, yet the split personality approach to his endless analysis — balancing self-awareness with his larger-than-life, invented persona — is an entertaining struggle where the listener is constantly forced to barrack for someone who is probably just as unlikeable as they are.

"I treat the cash the way the government treats AIDS, I won't be satisfied 'til all my niggas get it, get it?"

When Kenny West stood up with his mate Michael Myers at the Hurricane Katrina telethon on September 2, 2005 and told the world the awful/obvious truth — that Georgy Dubs didn't give half an ass hair about black folks — it was more than likely just a controversial publicity stunt to help sales for his new record, Late Registration, which was released around the same time. Ken doesn't really want to be a revolutionary ("fly") Malcolm X. Do you think Dead Prez have any money? Do you ever wonder why Public Enemy are forced to play shows in Australia every 3 months? Being a hip-hop activist doesn't pay the bills and/or get you into the back room at Prada. Unless you're sexxxy as fuck like Erik Badu. Or Thom Yorke. Obvs.

It could be argued that a large portion of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy features West poking fun at himself. Even this ridiculous AIDS line, which might seem like an outlandish claim against Mr Obama and Co, clearly doesn't have any substance and could easily be translated as Kenneth's attempt to simple state — "Jesus, I say some dumb shit... damn I'm paranoid as fuck about everything... Yo, the C.I.A put crack in the hood! LOL!". Or, of course, there's also the argument that we could be reading too much into the whole thing and this is just another example of Wanker West aimlessly shooting his mouth off, being a total cunt and making controversy to help his own cause. Either way, this second-guessing vs over-analysis of every line West throws away and/or strongly believes in, is an unbelievably addictive feature of this record.

"Restraining order, Can't see my daughter, Her mother, brother, grandmother hate me in that order"

1. There is no Kennisha West Junior.
2. Why let the truth get in the way of a good story/lyric?
3. And this is apparently different to when 90s rappers would call each other out as "Fake Gangstas"?
4. Oh wait, that still happens, right Prison Officer Rick Ross?
5. Speaking of Rick, he is (unexpectedly) the best frequent cameo guest on the album.
6. So, yeah, I guess this is the Fantasy part of the record.

"Cop lights, flash lights, spot lights"

At any time between 1992 and 1999 if you asked Lil Jonny what made a good rapper he/me would have replied with — "two things, mate: flow n lyrics". It was the era where I accepted the fact that Nasty Nas, Biggie "Ready To Die" Smalls, Mos "Black On Both Sides" Def and Jay-Reasonable-Doubt-Z pretty much leaked clever metaphors. Out of their butt cheeks. Fucking up their bed sheets.

But, as great as it is when an actually talented rapper jumps onto a track (most notably Raekwon's surprise verse at the end of Gorgeous), for the most part Kanye walks away with the most memorable verses. Or at the very least — memorable lines. Because, although he might have only minimally improved his flow over the past decade, Kanye's clearly learnt the importance of kicking out at least one instantly memory-burning lyric every stanza.

See also: "Mayonnaise colored Benz, I push miracle whips".

"Have you ever had sex with a pharaoh, I put the pussy in a sarcophagus, Now she claiming I bruise her oesophagus"

Throughout My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy Kanye touches on notorious aspects of his now-public lifestyle, including his apparent sex addiction. Not trying to shoot down his "illness" but in the wise paraphrased words of Some Comedian I Saw Earlier In The Year In New York — "Sex addict? I saw the women he was having sex with — they were all beautiful models. I think if he was having sex with guinea pigs and chairs and shit, then maybe we could call him a sex addict".

Sure, he was referencing Tiger Woods, but it's kind of the same thing. Ok, let's not get into that now. But, again, this ties into that stuff I was talking about up there. Kanye, as silly as he is, manages to connect with the people throughout this record. Not by admitting his own short-cumings, but by connecting on an issue we can all relate to. I mean, all humans are sex addicts, right?

"Champagne wishes and dirty white bitches, you know the shit is fucking ridiculous"

That's about 80% of the lyrics RZA drops on his verse at the end of So Appalled. Not only is the list of guests on this album "fucking ridiculous" but it's also amazing how well they're used. RZA (presumably) cashed a $20k cheque for a verse so short that it's hard to even justify him being credited, but at the same time, it's the unexpected, pleasant rim tickle at the end of an already amazing belt-around-your-neck-daring-Hutchinson-sex-move. Ridiculous value-for-money, sure. Yet after hearing it, it's hard to imagine the song without RZA's 12-second appearance.

Attribute this to Kanye's amazing star-pulling power or the eagerness of the guests to be involved in an album that seemed destined to be this amazing. Either way, a large part of the record's success is the way the supporting cast is utilised throughout, not only as a list of names after the word "featuring", but also as genuine contributors. They all snugly fit into their roles and even though the combination of names might on occasions seem like an elaborate stunt, none of the verses feel like they've simply been copy-and-pasted into place. It's actually not too far fetched to believe that Captain West loaded up the mini-bus with his best mates and shipped them all up his mountain cabin for the weekend for some serious rapping/bonding. Of course, Bon Iver was already squatting at the cabin, fighting heartbreak and the winter months and writing another shit album about the experience.

"I know I'm preaching to the congregation, We love Jesus but you done learned a lot from Satan, (satan, satan, satan)"

2010 really was the year of Satan. This album was kinda "meh" and then he drops some serious love for my boy Satan. Not really, but bucket-loads of fictional high fives for tapping into this Kenny.

"Pussy and religion is all I need"

And if 2010 isn't the Year Of Satan (sorry, religious/Satanic folks), then it's surely the year of the contradiction. While, Lil B may have taken the gold medal with his desire for "world peace and bling bling", West comes in a close second with this admission of requiring both his soul to be saved and his dick to remain wet.

"Who the fuck got your pussy all re-upholstered?"

Ok, let's talk about the blissful era of 1990's hip-hop. Again.

During this Golden Time it was a widely held belief that Sir Russell Jones (aka Ol' Dirty Bastard aka The Original Grammy's Stage Crasher) was a total batshit crazy fucker. And they were probably right. But at the same time, it was mildly criminal that Jones was passed off as a bit of a joke just because he was a couple of AK-47 clips short of a full LAPD vs Tupac vs innocent school boy bystander shoot-out.

Fast forward 15-or-so years and it seems that insanity seems to be as important in the world of 21st century rap as fake prison tattoos and/or shipping in tonnes of cocaine. 2009's standout hip-hop record, Raekwon's Cuban Linx sequel, was powered by a ridiculous amount of contradictory ideas and styles, where Rae and his creative collaborative partners genuinely tested to see how far they could stretch out the boundaries of their previous 'street hood rap' style in every possible direction.

The success of Twisted Fantasy is largely down to the unexpected treats, where West bravely attempts and continually pulls off things that just shouldn't work. Take the above silly lyric about "a re-upholstered pussy" for example. It comes amidst a confusing rant by comedian Chris Rock, following on from a uniquely engaging copy-and-paste internal monologue battle verse. This all acts as the dramatic climax to the John Legend laced break-up track Blame Game, which is unquestionably the most genuinely sincere and heartfelt song on the entire album.

There's plenty of enjoyable, straight-up, hip-pop moments on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, but it's this collage of mismatching ideas, thickly layered on top of each other, that really guarantees the repeat visits. The flexible pop elements will suck most people in, but the vast amount of substance will keep them there. Most probably for years.

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Record Reviews
Kanye West

 

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Comments

graciie

the review is almost as good as the album aye

1 decade ago

Rav

"To many Erkles on ya team, that's why you're a Winslow." Swaggles.

1 decade ago

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