Doc Zeus changed.
As a default, my brain tends to naturally drift towards soul-crushing negativity when it comes to nearly all aspects of life. This manifests in a healthy cynicism when it comes to my attitude towards modern hip hop but when it comes to this new Kanye album, I’m pushing my entire stack of chips onto black at the roulette table and going to call this the finest album of his career. I’m going all in. No joke. I love this record.
Ironically, it’s due to my natural cynicism for nearly everything in life that I find this record so appealing to me. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is the work of a man that thought things would improve for himself after his world caved in on him only to find that things have only gotten worse. I think this is a theme that is going to resonate with many people in these times in our nation. This is an album that will have a type of generational resonance that is going to outlast any initial skepticism about the record.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy doesn’t necessarily break any new ground thematically, but due to the scope of the record, it doesn’t need to either. Clearly, this is a record about failed relationships both in the personal (“Blame Game”, “Runaway’) and public realms (“Power,” “Lost In The World”, “Gorgeous”). It’s the way he addresses them with a resigned air of somebody who doesn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel that makes the work so powerful. For a generation of young people who after dealing with the worst presidency in modern history, have to sift through the wreckage of cratered economy, two endless wars and the oncoming apocalypse of Palinocracy (which is coming. Never underestimate the narcissism of scared and entitled white people), a record that is implicitly about life that never seems to get better is going to resonate.
Accordingly, Kanye’s sound has grown progressively darker since The College Dropout, and the production on this record is full of distorted guitar and vocals contorted to a natural shriek through the limits of the auto-tune. To match, his ability as a lyricist seem to have only grown. This seems like the natural progression of an introverted artist who paradoxically craves the limelight but seems unable to deal with the consequences of living a public life. The album’s nine-minute centerpiece, “Runaway”, is a record that is a core is the depressing story of man who can’t have functioning human relationships anymore and that pain is killing him.
Ignore the talk about this record being needlessly self-indulgent or navel-gazing, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” is the type of record Kanye should be making these days. It’s his most complete record. If anything, it could use less Raekwon.