The B Side: Kanye West's My Beautfiul Dark Twisted Fantasy
Here’s a new column idea...well, I can’t say it’s new new since I’m certain I’m not the first writer to write aftermath articles on previously published work. But it’s new to The-Quotable so it’s new enough for The Company Man.
The premise first came to me while scribbling through my review of Ye’s latest for the Home Team. Yeah, it’s a masterful project showcasing the self sacrificing side of rap’s supposedly most self centered artist complete with awesome collaborations and angelic choirs and all that yackety yack that I yackety yacked about for nine hundred ninety-seven words or so.
I mean what I write. Even when I don’t write what I think. Product of the freelancer’s lifestyle.
But as spectacular as it is to simply listen to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, at best, it’s my fourth favorite Kanye West album.
Not fourth greatest.
Not fourth best.
Who knows where it ranks, but it’s my fourth favorite Kanye West album because it’s just not as much fun as The College Dropout, Late Registration or Graduation (the jump off for this recent string of darker full lengths: 808s and MBDTF back-to-back). It’s not as much fun because it’s not as lyrically flippant. It’s not littered with as many shots of infectious punchlines and unexpected wittiness -- the original appeal of the initially producer-rapper.
The honesty is still ever present. So are the concepts. Content is still the foundation.
But on MBDTF, infectious one liners like -- “And the DSS kids / some of them dyslexic / They favorite 50 Cent song is “12 Questions” and “That’s a different world like Cree Summers” and “Got a light skinned friend look like Michael Jackson / Got a dark skinned friend looks like Michael Jackson” and “You know how long I been on ya / Since Prince was on Apollonia / Since OJ had Isotoners” and just about all of “Family Business” and “Gone” and “Good Life” and “Good Morning” and “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” -- are largely located on one track: “Power”.
MBDTF has memorable bars, no doubt. “But what’s worse / the pain or the hangover / Fresh air / Rolling down your window / Too many Urkels on your team that’s why your Wins-Low” is fresh to death. “Don’t leave while you’re hot / that’s how Mase screwed up” is so true even the rapping Pastor feels it in his soul. And “Let’s break out of this fake ass party / Turn this into a classic night” is definitely a candidate for boogie down Quotable of the year, even if it is a direct descendant of “You should be honored by my lateness / That I would even show up to this fake shit” off Graduation’s, “Stronger”.
But in comparison’s to his previous work -- considering those tangibly dope lines are a significant part of the reason he resonated with heads so quickly despite not being a technically dope rapper initially -- overall...well...there’s no comparison.
The album is still lyrically ill. Mr. West ain’t fell off. If anything he’s drastically improved (as a rapper), showcasing styles we haven’t seen from him previously.
It’s eery how Ye flows so much like Pusha-T on “Dark Fantasy” and through the first verse on “Power”. Even the nasally “Haa” he strategically interjects sounds similar in octave to the rancid “illggh” (however it’s spelled) ad-lib that’s synonymous with The Clipse rapper. Rhymefest’s influence is spread all over “Power”’s third verse. He’s been writing with Kanye since he received co-writer credits on “Jesus Walks”, so that’s expected.
MBDTF’s “it takes a village approach” doesn’t end at the production level. Unfolding the congressional legislation-looking credits on the back of the poster that comes with the physical copy of the album is more than enough confirmation. Every song lists at least 4 co-writers, including the solo joints. But unexpectedly, for the first time -- considering the new styles and bars that sound less like vintage Kanye -- I can’t help but wonder who wrote what.
Kanye reminds me of Syler sometimes -- ensnaring the exceptionally talented, snatching their gifts and discarding the remains on his obsessive path towards recognition as the ultimate Hero. He soaked in Jon Brion’s signature strings and orchestration while co-executive producing Late Registration together then wielded them masterfully on MBDTF without the help of his one-time teacher. After trapping Hip Hop’s heavy weight producers in his Hawaiian hideaway for this project’s production period, the sonic heights for his next project are utterly unimaginable.
That’s the best thing about Kanye: his unwavering focus on out doing himself. He competes with himself and becomes infinitely better; becomes the trendsetter. Others compete with the trendsetter and become infinitely bitter.
That’s why he’s great, tantrums or otherwise. And to continue to obliterating the margins, he readily enlists whoever he needs to improve, whether that’s Rhymefest or Rza, Toomp or Auto-Tune, Pusha-T or Pete Rock or No ID or Premo or Rza or Jon Brion or J. Bhasker or any of the plethora of other people who line My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’s congressional legislation-looking album credits. It’s greatness by any means necessary, and apparently, co-writers and production assistance are necessary.
I’m cool with that. I love MBDTF. It’s genre bending and loaded with replay value and requires a shmillion lofty adjectives just to describe it. I would’ve given it a perfect rating had it not been for the wayward Rick Ross verse on “Devil In A Dress” and it’s lack of vintage shots of one-line lyrical immortality that embodied my first three favorite Kanye projects. I think collaborative writing makes it impossible to consider anyone the “greatest emcee” (the next title Ye claims he’s targeting in the video below), but that has nothing to do with crafting an awesome project.
Most importantly, I think columns like this are fun, necessary even. The rambling segues and that lead to the ultimate argument of any article are often more interesting than the finished product.
So I’ve decided to address the album review afterthoughts as well.
Let’s call it The B Side.
New new or not, it’s new for The Company Man so, it’s new enough.