My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
We confess to having been rather underwhelmed by 808s & Heartbreak. Although we applauded Kanye West’s decision to play against type, the OTT Auto-Tuning drove us insane, and the whole thing read more like a studio experiment than a finished recording. But, like the rest of the Yeezy-obsessed world, we’ve been super-curious to find out what Kanye might do next.
Well. Exploring hitherto unplumbed depths of the well-weird hip hop pool seems to be the answer. Its beauty may be a matter of personal taste, but West’s fifth is certainly darkly cynical, definitely twisted (especially given the hidebound nature of much hip hop) and often fantastic. That the bonkers, bumptious and hilariously self-regarding rapper manages this without once taking his eye off the chart-pop ball is conclusive proof of his striking vision and verve.
Complex, layered, involving and at times so thickly atmospheric it might well pose a threat to asthmatics, the record ranges across DJ Premier-style old-school, dancehall/fidget house, Mo’ Wax-like illbience and juddering electro – sometimes all in the same track. It boasts a cast of big-name guests (Jay-Z, Rihanna, Drake, Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross, Raekwon, John Legend…) and samples both Gil Scott-Heron and (wait for it) Bon Iver.
Lyrically, West covers all bases from deeply rueful to embittered and crudely boastful, spitting more self-referential, meta-textual puns in ‘Gorgeous’ and ‘So Appalled’ than most rappers could in their entire careers. Can Yeezy still kick it? Yes he can.