Mr. West Woke Up

Nov. 22nd, 2010, Kanye West released his highly anticipated album: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. It had been two years after the release of 808s and Heartbreak and we all waited anxiously to see how West reinvented himself this time. His label, G.O.O.D. music, was steadily reaching its pinnacle. The line up of artists consisted of Kid Cudi, Pusha T, and even Yasiin Bey (formally known as Mos Def). While many of us sat hungry for the album, West doled out singles every Friday. This was aptly named G.O.O.D. Friday and satiated our appetites once a week over the span of three months. These G.O.O.D. Friday tracks enlisted various members of the label at that time and gave us a taste of MBDTF.  A few of the most notable singles were “Power”, “Christian Dior Denim Flow” and “So Appalled”, all of which landed a spot on the album.

art by George Condo

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is arguably West’s greatest effort. Some folks feel this album is overrated because of the grandiose production and heavy hitting features. Nevertheless, this album coalesced art with hip-hop in a way that we didn’t know we needed. We see in West’s discography leading up to this album that his foresight continuously paved the road in his lane and continued to do so with MBDTF as well.

The Beauty of West’s Dark, Twisted Fantasy

The method to West’s madness evolves into a baroque piece of work from production to album art and videos. He closed out the 2010 VMAs with a minimal but dramatic performance featuring Pusha T as they premiered “Runaway”. West donned a bright red suit with a small Ionic style column in the middle of the stage and an MPC resting on top. The beat drops and three ballet dancers run in a weaving formation before joining West in the center of the stage. Allowing the contort into different poses with each downbeat, they then move fluidly off the stage and allow him to fill up the rest of the space. Pusha T joins him for his verse in a salmon suit that was a conversation piece for a few days. The simplicity of the stage design catered to the drama of the actual performance.

In October of that year, West premiered his short film titled Runaway. It was truly a masterpiece. He directed the film and scored it with his album, analogous to Michael Jackson who created short films for many of his albums and singles. Runaway told the story of West being a successful black man and the issues that arise. He expounded on relationships, acceptance, and self-image. Selita Ebanks played the phoenix with whom he fell in love. The phoenix, itself, representing rebirth and emerging anew. Their relationship moved quickly but wholeheartedly; it attested to the complicated nature of love.

The cinematic aspects of this film such as color, wardrobe and direction enriched the album without taking away from it. The representation of opulence he chose often appears in typically white settings. The dinner party scene included all black patrons dressed lavishly in all white while served by an all white wait staff. The entertainment was live a live ballet performance with white dancers in all black. The contrast of the colors and representation of the rich and the help was necessary to the overall message.

Fantasy Becomes Reality

art by George Condo

Lyrically and sonically, West pushed himself to new heights with his expression— often painted as egotistical, MBDTF portrayed him in a more human manner. We take a seat and ride out this journey with him via social commentary, hypnotic melodies, and bare lyricism.

As we revisit this album, a fan favorite was “Monster” featuring Jay-Z, Rick Ross, and Nicki Minaj. Everyone showed out with fervent wordplay but heralded Nicki’s verse as the best out of them all. The track produced by West, Mike Dean and Plain Pat. The beat catered to everyone’s voice, flow and delivery. This also continued to affirm the versatility of West while allowing his counterparts to shine in their talents as well. The coolest element of this album, though, was the aggregation of the many moving parts it included. Calling on George Condo for five different album covers, the 16 man team of producers and the reinvention of Kanye West set My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy to be one of the greatest albums of the decade and of all time.

Take some time to yourself today and press play. Remember those moments when you first heard the singles or the first time you played the album in its entirety. The intricacy of MBDTF stirs about vivid and unique memories in us all yet stands the test of time and remains relevant. Happy anniversary to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.