My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Def Jam/Roc-A-Fella*****
Everyone has an opinion on Kanye West. Past and present US presidents have had a pop at him, while ceaseless media coverage of his petulant behaviour and narcissism has turned him into one of pop culture’s more ubiquitous figureheads. When West walks into a room, half the occupants already loath him. But views on his music are another thing entirely. The problem with celebrity is that any talent is often overlooked, which is a pity in this case because, when he’s not tweeting or throwing tantrums, West is one of pop music’s more thrilling and challenging artists.
Much of the work on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasyhas been carried out in the public eye. Over the past couple of months, West’s G.O.O.D. Fridaysseries, where he gave away a new tune every week, has provied a fascinating insight into who he was working with and what was going on in that studio in Hawaii. Whether this was down to West’s steadfast belief in his own abilities or a desire for publicity, the pre-release promo campaign was a win-win for all concerned.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasyis a magnificent, headspinning, audacious work. You can see that in such jaw- droppers as All of the Lights(a spine-tingling, grandstanding, dramatic tour-de-force in both rhymes and sounds departments) and solid gold posse cuts Monster, with Nicki Minaj (one of the performances of the year) and Jay-Z flanking West at the microphone.
It’s clear that West is pushing himself to compete not just with his peers, but with peers only he can only hear in his head. Every single twist here, even Chris Rock’s turn on Blame Gameafter John Legend has done his soulful strutting, works on several levels. It’s an album that throws hip-hop into a whole new stratosphere while positioning West in a different realm.
For now, it’s his masterpiece, but you know he’ll try to better this next time out.
Download tracks: All of the Lights, Monster