Kanye Omari West. Modern music’s most polarizing figure. This man is the most mocked, unstable egomaniac working in the music scene and at the same time the most influential, sympathetic geniuses working…well, anywhere. West’s art cannot be separated from himself, because to do so would be to fundamentally misunderstand the purpose, the overarching narrative of his music. At the same time, I find that the only way to really “get” Kanye is through his music. When Kanye releases an album, it is entirely indicative of his state of mind in its twisted entirety. Yes, yes, there are hateful glares being transmitted my way already, saying “How dare you like someone I don’t and will never try to?” I see your frantic waving of the 2009 VMA’s and the admittedly awful Bound 2 music video. In turn, I raise you the greatest collection of songs ever conceived, created or assembled, 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
MBDTF is the album even vehement Kanye haters admit is a gem. It is the golden idol that I worship, and Yeezus is its son. In MBDTF, we open the first track, Dark Fantasy, with a then unknown, pre-sellout era Nicki Minaj, reading us, her little children, a story of “twisted fiction, sick addiction.” Our ears are then graced with what I can only assume is a choir of angels lauding the position that Kanye has achieved after Graduation, claiming the throne that Jay-Z left for him. All of a sudden, a swaggering beat comes in to introduce us to Kanye’s opening statement: “I fantasized about this back in Chicago.” Kanye ruminates on his fame, his grandeur, his acclaim. But at the end of the day, this is not what he wanted. After the passing of Kanye’s mother, after the open depression on display in 808’s and Heartbreak, he returns to the celebrity of being Kanye West and all the debauchery that comes with that. But it isn’t the same. What fulfilled him in the Graduation era isn’t working anymore. “The plan was to drink until the pain over, but what’s worse, the pain or the hangover?”
I could write much more about Dark Fantasy, and it’s just the opening track. Throughout the album, the audience is dragged through Kanye’s dissatisfaction with the fame that has swallowed him whole, his sinking into a deep inner darkness to cope, his total separation from reality, his seclusion, shutting himself off from the life of a celebrity, becoming lost in the world. All the while, his failing relationship with Amber Rose is detailed all too vividly. Not to sound condescending or anything, but people who have a bubbling hatred for Kanye West based on the media’s representation of him need to listen to his most recent album, whatever it may be at the time, to really know what they’re talking about. If they still hate him after, that’s fine. People don’t like other people, that’s how it goes. But the man is the music with Kanye, and I hold his music to be the most thoughtful and standard-raising in recent memory.