Since undertaking this adventure in blog-reviewing music, I have been trying to avoid looking at music reviews. But when I saw that My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy scored a whopping 94 out of 100 on Metacritic, I knew I wanted to check out this album for myself and come to my own conclusions.
I’ll admit, my exposure to rap and hip-hop were limited mostly to Jurassic 5 and the Roots1 and my prior knowledge of Kanye West was his making Mike Meyers uncomfortable by saying George Bush hated black people and his on-stage antics on the MTV Video Music Awards in 2009.2 One challenge is separating the music from the man and the man from his reputation. The second is reviewing an album from a genre I don’t normally gravitate to.3
Listening to Fantasy, I see why Kanye has a reputation as a successful producer and music visionary. The music in every song is excellent and does what it is supposed to: makes you want to move. When I listen in my car, I can’t help but bob my head along with the beats. He has the ability to take a simple piece of music and build a complex arrangement around it; his single “Runaway” being a prime example.
The man is passionate about music, about creating great music, and has an ear for cultivating an amazing sound. Songs like “Dark Fantasy,” “Power,” and “All Of The Lights” are arranged and mixed beautifully with beats, horns, strings and more that will leave any audiophile turning up their headphones and a man with no rhythm want to dance. I feel like even those of us not entrenched in hip-hop will look at My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy as a turning point in the evolution of the genre.
What we will not look back on with reverence is Kanye’s rhymes. Don’t get me wrong, he can articulate a point with his words and can create a hip-hop anthem like he did with “Monster,” but his vocals tend to lack audio aesthetics. Rihanna stands out more to me in “All of the Lights” than Kanye, and I find myself preferring Jay-Z’s and Nicki Minaj’s rhymes in “Monster.”
The creator’s vocals aside, Fantasy is deserving of the metric established by Metacritic. Based upon my limited knowledge of hip-hop, I feel it raises the bar for the genre. It made me care about an album, a producer; an artist that I thought was just an egotistical jerk who was using his fame to say whatever the hell he felt like saying. I am learning that he is a passionate individual and passionate about creating good music. Some of those who are the most enthusiastic are often the most vocal. Just like in life, you have to take the good with the bad. The bad in this case is the occasional Kanye outburst.
He’s like the crazy uncle holding court at the grill during a Fourth of July family cookout. He will say about five offensive/possibly racist things that will make you squirm in discomfort and avoid eye contact with him.
But man can the guy grill a great steak.
1. See: “rap artists white people have in their library to feel cultured.”2. Jesse Thorn covered this expertly on his site, Maximumfun.org. I will add this and then never speak of it again: Was what he did classless? Yes. Was President Obama correct when he called him “a jackass?” Absolutely. Was he contrite and did his apology seem sincere? It did. But do I say: “That poor girl, she had her moment ruined by an idiot?” No, I am not going to feel bad for a successful artist who was interrupted by someone who had too much to drink at a fake award show. She won a Grammy; that means more than a little metal astronaut award in any social circle.
3. Look forward to my review of Lady Antebellum’s Need You Now. I have a few hip-hop albums; I have even less country.