- 01 Dec 10
High prince of bad taste delivers unexpected meisterwork
In recent times, the ill-thought-out movements of one Kanye West have detracted considerably from his undoubted creative cache.
Let’s face it, his numerous public vulgarities make it difficult to truly warm to this middle-class son of Chicago. From replacing his bottom set of teeth with diamond implants to arrogant grand-standing at multiple award ceremonies, Kanye had become a figure of derision for some, polarizing opinion with his often erratic behaviour.
His apparently skewed perspectives, excessive consumerism and questionable principles haven’t endeared him to many, but let’s face it, these are strange days, and in many ways Kanye is a product of our extraordinary times.
Stories emanating earlier this year from his Hawaiian studio fed the media machine, with the cost of making My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy allegedly spiralling beyond the three million dollar mark, a colossal indulgence it might have seemed, in the midst of a global recession. But worth it perhaps: the resulting tale of one man’s love/hate battle with celebrity culture, alienation and the obsessive materialism in which his own life seems to have become engulfed is right up there amongst his finest work.
For a start, it exposes the complex web of West’s numerous split-personalities; morphing from his default position of crazed egomaniac to introspective type and even finding time for our hero to indulge in a bit of much needed self-deprecation.
West has cited civil rights activist Maya Angelou, and musical legends Gil Scott-Heron and Nina Simone amongst the album’s principle influences and he predictably called in some of his significant buddies (Q-Tip, RZA) to add some production magic, thus to ensure his invention gets the requisite sonic platform. And the verdict on all of this?
The super-sized ‘Power’ pitches tribal chanting against a slice of King Crimson’s prog masterpiece ‘21st Century Schizoid Man’ to great effect; the blistering ‘Monster’, meanwhile, features Kanye leading a hypnotic old-skool scat cycle, with Trinidadian rapper Nicki Minaj providing the star turn, dropping her Caribbean accented rhymes into some superstar jousting between Jay-Z and Rick Ross.
Straight out of leftfield comes Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, who guests in autotune on the highpoint ‘Lost in the World’, undoubtedly a singular piece of autobiographical reflection.
The single edit of ‘Runaway’, which has also been expanded into a half hour online mini-movie, may be a fairly standard love song, bit it’s elevated considerably by a beautiful arrangement and some subtle vocal work.
‘Blame Game’ sees the eccentric West team-up with John Legend on a gentle piano-led ditty, juxtaposed intriguingly with Chris Rock’s barrage of spoken word sexually-charged expletives. And so it goes: leading to the conclusion that Kanye West is certainly not afraid to challenge himself or his listeners.
On the whole, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy proves to be full of remarkable surprises at every turn. Despite his foibles, Kanye has delivered. Fantastically.
KEY TRACK: ‘DARK FANTASY’