Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Far and away the most consistent ‘Ye album to date.

Label: Mercury

Rating: 9

Kanye West is not exactly one to keep things to a minimum. He’s much more the kind of person who thinks, ‘Hmm, how many guest spots can I get on a single song?’. If ever there was a clear indicator of the lengths he’s prepared to go to, it’s that ‘All Of The Lights’ features a hell of a lot of other people - and we’re talking big names here: Rihanna, Fergie, Elton John, Elly Jackson (La Roux)… oh, John Legend and Nicki Minaj (neither for the last time) as well.

Good grief. There are few other artists who can pull that off, and more importantly make it work. The same goes for many of the other flourishes that let the listener know this is very much a West record. ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ features Chris Rock (whose appearance at the end of ‘Blame Game’ is admittedly quite hit-and-miss) and has Kanye tipping his hat to Black Sabbath’s ‘Iron Man’ in the chorus of ‘Hell Of A Life’, with a four-minute vocoder solo popping up on ‘Runaway’ for good measure.

To borrow from ‘So Appalled’ (a song that only has Jay-Z guesting on it!), ‘this shit is fucking ridiculous’. It works, though. All of it, for once. This is far and away the most consistent ‘Ye album to date. Lyrically, Mr. West is on top form: he deals with the infamous ‘gay fish’ ‘South Park’ episode on ‘Gorgeous’ (‘choke a ‘South Park’ writer with a fish stick’), answers his critics on swaggering early highlight ‘Power’ (‘They said I was the abomination of Obama’s nation / That’s a pretty bad way to start a conversation’) and even takes aim at himself on ‘Runaway’ (‘I’m just young, rich and tasteless’).

Tasteless? Absolutely. ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ leaves the idea of good taste behind. It’s the most extravagant thing we’ve heard from Kanye so far (in musical form that is; the less said about the ‘Im’ma let you finish’ debacle, the better). It would have collapsed under the weight of its own self-importance if not for one thing: the songs themselves. If ever there was proof that he’s back at the top of his game, it comes in the form of ‘Monster’ - even if Minaj lays waste to her co-stars with a contribution that is nothing short of phenomenal. ‘Besides, ‘Ye, they can’t stand beside me,’ indeed.

This record’s insular predecessor, ‘808s and Heartbreak’, was one of the most daring moves by an established artist in quite a while. It didn’t quite hit all its targets, though, even if it deserved merit on ambition alone. ‘…Fantasy’, on the other hand, doesn’t just hit its targets. It destroys them. The only use of AutoTune present on the record is on the Bon Iver-sampling ‘Lost In The World’, but this time it adds to the sheer brilliance that is West’s fifth album, opening the song in style before it kicks off in earnest, combining with the Gil-Scott Heron sample (yes, seriously: he makes use of ‘Comment #1’) on ‘Who Will Survive In America?’ to produce one of the finest endings to a hip-hop album in quite some time. There is no weak link; there is not a single misstep (and this is a 68-minute-long album). This may very well be his masterpiece.