Kanye West has borne the brunt of indulging in egomaniacal Tourette’s, the cost being that his behaviour (the stage-crashing, Bush-bashing, braggadocios antics) has overshadowed his actual output. Here’s the conflict though: each one of his five albums has, in some way, been a game-changer, from the self-conscious joke raps on College Dropout to the gilded boom-bap on his latest, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Maybe it’s self-inflicted or unfair, but the story constantly surrounding him blurs the fundamental premise that he’s a) put in work to come up from a behind-the-scenes producer to household name, b) survived death, an experience he immortalized in his first hit single, and c) pushes the creative boundaries of hip-hop while retaining its integrity. You’d be naïve to think that wouldn’t give you bragging rights.
Be open to West’s mind, which we explore on MBDTF, and you’ll experience what those European jaunts, fashion experiments and Amber Rose meant, and the Rococo Rap symbol he’s become. It’s an album you’ve never heard before, one of the most aesthetically effortless fusions of classical modes of music (symphonic arrangements, piano melodies, choral harmonies) with real hip-hop sensibilities (call-and-response, stunning sampling and drums, drums, drums). Here, Kid Cudi and Rihanna are addictive; RZA and No I.D. appear alongside Elton John; Nicki Minaj opens and Gil Scott-Heron closes. Each song, from the string intro on “All of the Lights” to a growling Bon Iver hook on “Hell of a Life,” is new terrain. No rapper/producer has consistently ― and that’s the operative word ― generated acclaimed record after acclaimed record (808s & Heartbreak included), each time giving us something completely different, each time revealing another layer of his incredibly human persona. (Def Jam)