We’ve come to the end.
Numbers 10-8, with Frank Ocean, M.I.A. and Animal Collective: here.
Guest writers: BadBadNotGood, Afrikan Boy, Glass Animals
Numbers 7-5, with The Knife, LCD Soundsystem and Kendrick Lamar: here.
Guest writers: Errors, The Juan MacLean, clipping.
Numbers 4-2, with Arctic Monkeys, Arcade Fire and Radiohead: here.
Guest writers: Eugene McGuinness, The Twilight Sad, Moby, Brendan Canning
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Kanye West – ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’
(Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam, 2010)
‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ is a modern masterpiece.
On his fifth studio LP, Kanye takes the role of a traditional music producer and focuses on sourcing the best cast to assemble his fairy tale.
To highlight and analyse the influence of the album, we have invited a diverse range of different artists and creative individuals to share their experiences of Kanye’s opus, and its impact on their own work.
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The Process, by Atlanta rapper Rome Fortune
On how Kanye brought all of the elements together…
“Prior to its release, I didn’t really know what to expect from ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’. Kanye was going in a whole different direction to the previous album. When he was doing the GOOD Friday records, I was like, ‘What the hell is he doing?’ But after listening to the album first time through you can tell every part of that album, whether massive or minute, it was thought about and calculated.
“That was my first thing: Kanye was always a top dude and polished, but this is polished beyond polished! It didn’t really hit me properly until I was riding around to it. Certain times in rap music a project, person or area will really push everybody else to do some different shit. And listening to that album I was like, ‘This is going to make people’s taste level go up a little.’
“I related to the collaborative spirit of it. He used a lot of different people literally like instruments; he didn’t use them just because of how big their name was. I try to work in that way myself, especially with producers; I’m really big on my production and a real stickler on that. You have to be hands-on with everything. You have to know what each detail sounds like, because you need to know how to attack your bars. I definitely felt that on ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’. It’s one of the reasons that I never try to do the same thing twice; you do it, you done it, do some new shit.
“I really relate to the personal aspect – with women, every man can relate, but maybe me more so than others because I really go through that shit. To put that in a way where every song has a story and it’s real vulnerable, that’s dope. That’s something that is lacking in rap at the moment; people are scared to be vulnerable, and everybody is scared to take down their cool.”
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The Fashion, by Clothsurgeon head designer Rav Matharu
On Kanye and GOOD Music’s Rosewood movement…
“A sharp, fitted suit is not often associated with hip-hop. The genre tends to attract negative attention, and a rebellious stigma is simultaneously attached to it: low-slung jeans, not-well-fitted single pleat wool trousers.
“What a sharp, slim-fitting Dior Homme number does project is a man of style, success and celebration. The Rosewood Fashion Movement that Kanye and his clique, the Rat Pack of culture, championed surrounding the release of ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ was a spirit of arrival: ‘We are here, with a new found graceful contemporary etiquette.’ A movement named in homage to the successful, self-sufficient black people who where racially attacked and murdered in the 1920s.
“This clean, crisp, well-structured look almost contradicts what can be regarded as one of Ye’s greatest albums. A Hedi Slimane silhouette sitting obscurely in a Dali painting comes to mind.
“‘MBDTF’ showcases many eclectic sounds and unthought-of features that work in harmony. Boundaries are something that are always being blurred, pushed and taken to a diverse level with Kanye, whether it’s fashion or music.
“You are summoned to admire the creativity. A narcissistic Kanye is something that we have begun to love or hate, but on this occasion he gave his alter-ego the limelight.
“Catch him if you can. Frank Abagnale Jr. had escaped into a dream, fantasy-like world, while Carl Hanratty and colleagues pursued the superior being – a man of mystery that created a well thought out album, not just a collection of tracks. It’s similar to creating a menswear collection: each individual garment is well thought out, then has to flow and work together with every other piece to communicate your design direction and story.
“Metamorphosis of Narcissus. The man who painted such a picture is a monster dressed like a gentleman. Only Freud could explain better.”
‘Monster’ (contains images which may offend)
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The Production, by Edinburgh producer S-Type
On the influence of ‘MBDTF’’s sonics…
“It’s a huge rap cliché to liken an album to a movie, but this record really feels that way to me. Its progression tells a story – the sequencing has a very clear beginning, middle and end. Every song has a different style and emotion, but it’s a very cohesive project.
“Straight away, on opener ‘Dark Fantasy’, we’re hit with this huge uplifting gospel choir. I love the contrast of the choir in the chorus and RZA’s signature gritty production in the verse.
“Kanye is very clever in the way he utilises his vocal features. ‘All Of The Lights’ features 14 additional vocalists – on paper it’s an absolute mess, but they’re used sparingly, like instruments. It’s such a triumphant-sounding record. When I first heard it, I thought to myself, ‘This sounds like Hudson Mohawke’ – those big, anthemic horns, the vocal chops and snare fills. Word on the street is Kanye did actually make it after hearing an old HudMo demo.
“‘Devil In A New Dress’ is one of my favourites. It’s produced by Bink!, pioneer of that classic Roc-A-Fella sound alongside Kanye and Just Blaze. This song has that sound, and is reminiscent of Jay-Z’s ‘Blueprint’. However, it’s structured more like a classic soul or rock song; after Ye’s finishes his part, there’s a long emotional instrumental section with a guitar solo, then out of nowhere Rick Ross comes in. There’s lots of little surprise interludes or extended outros on this whole LP, that’s partly why it’s so special.
“Since ‘MBDTF’ and ‘Yeezus’ I’ve noticed a lot of hip-hop producers and engineers use distortion. If you listen back to the album, you’ll notice a lot of fuzzy vocals and drums. This record definitely influenced me to dirty my sounds up more. I love that blend of classic, raw drums and samples, but it’s all mixed really clean. He uses additional instruments but makes them feel like a sample, and vice versa; everything gels perfectly.
“There’s something inspiring about working with so many different artists to come together to form one amazing body of work. It’s something that’s very rare, in this arrogant world of rap music, where everyone wants to be the best.”
‘All Of The Lights’
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The Ambition, by Murkage Dave, black British rock star
On the way ‘MBDTF’ demonstrated how far the medium of rap can go…
“The day I watched Kanye’s short film, Runaway, my whole attitude to the possibilities of rap music changed. I remember calling up my bandmate, Gaika, and obsessing about it together for hours. At the time, Murkage was just a club night, but we really wanted to make records. We had started trying but we were scared, so we were writing these nonsensical half-joking songs. ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ totally changed our outlook; Kanye made us see what could be achieved in the medium of rap music. He forced us to test the boundaries of what was possible sonically and visually, even though we had f*ck all money.
“‘MBDTF’ combined the stadium ambition of ‘808s & Heartbreak’ with these incredibly luxurious beats, super-focused rhymes, and guest features that fit like a glove. The album ticks every box you can think of but doesn’t sound manufactured at all. It’s the sound of pure artistic expression twinned with unbridled ambition.
“Kanye made this album by a process I like to call ‘collision of genius’; he literally worked with the best people in every field to bring his vision together. The album credits boast some of the top producers, musicians and visual artists in the world, something we’ve seen him repeat with ‘Watch The Throne’, ‘Cruel Summer’ and ‘Yeezus’. It’s common to hear people saying that Kanye is an arrogant prick, but I think that when it comes to music creation he’s kind of the opposite. It takes a lot of humility for a renaissance man like Kanye to let other musicians and artists work on his ideas.
“Murkage has always been surrounded by a naturally occurring collective of talented creatives too, so watching and learning from Kanye taught us to be able to let go of our ideas when necessary for the greater good.”
‘Runaway’ (full length)
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The Art, by contemporary artist Harold Offeh
On Kanye’s sleeve collaboration with George Condo…
“I have to confess to letting ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ pass me by initially. I’m not sure if it was my ageing, as I approach my 40s, or simply a weariness of the overblown egotist and hype machine fuelling the global brand that is Kanye West.
“But I’ve never really had a problem with West’s music. It is at times provocative but generally playful and satirical. So when I was invited to reflect on West’s ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ and its artwork by the contemporary American artist George Condo, it was an opportunity to visit an album new to me, but one which some consider West’s masterpiece.
“The collaboration between West and Condo is intriguing. Condo is known for his darkly comic and kitsch paintings often consisting of a series of portraits of clownish and comically distorted figures: absurd, outlandish but intriguing. His work has fascinated the art world since his emergence in the 1980s as part of a new wave of painters that included Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring.
“Condo and West’s own collaboration led to the creation of a series of small dark paintings that were to form the multiple covers for his ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ album. The most infamous of these sees a black male figure, possibly alluding to West, reclining on a bed while being straddled by a naked white woman with angel wings and a polka dot tail (below). The black figure stares out at the viewer with mad staring eyes and both wear grotesque grins.
“Condo’s work is the perfect visual articulation of West’s music. For at the heart of West’s overblown persona is an on-going self-reflective critique of the American psyche and its continued obsession with fame, money and power. West and Condo exemplify the American Gothic, the other side of the American Dream. It is the story of success and wealth that masks an empty void of dissatisfaction. West is the classic rags-to-riches tale, but the album reflects a longing for something more.
“Condo’s painting of the black male figure straddled by the white angel presents a contemporary American grotesque. It literally deals in the stuff of taboo and the horrors of America’s social history. The black man and white woman engaged in intercourse. It’s easy to forget that up until the late-1960s interracial marriages were still illegal in some US states. The happily daemonic expressions of the figures’ faces in Condo’s painting seem to acknowledge this history of taboo.
“There is, of course, a very obvious underpinning for West’s project. He is at heart trying to puncture that history, that American psyche. The album is called ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’, and it’s that final world that seems the most apt and appropriate summary of West, his music and public persona. He presents a very deliberate, antagonistic persona that courts controversy and media attention. It is a high-risk strategy; the danger is you become seduced by your own hype. But, for me, what saves West is the music and the lyrics. In those you find insight, critique and self-deprecation, in the best traditions of hip-hop. Here you see an artist trying to provide social commentary and holding up a mirror to himself and our times.”
‘Dark Fantasy’ feat. Teyana Taylor (live for VEVO Presents)
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Interviews conducted and contributions assembled by Grant Brydon
Here is the 100 greatest albums of our lifetime, listed for your no-need-to-click-elsewhere convenience…
1 Kanye West – ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’
2 Radiohead – ‘In Rainbows’
3 Arcade Fire – ‘Funeral’
4 Arctic Monkeys – ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’
5 Kendrick Lamar – ‘good kid, M.A.A.D city’
6 LCD Soundsystem – ‘Sound Of Silver’
7 The Knife – ‘Silent Shout’
8 Animal Collective – ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’
9 M.I.A. – ‘Kala’
10 Frank Ocean – ‘channel ORANGE’
11 Amy Winehouse – ‘Back To Black’
12 J Dilla – ‘Donuts’
13 Flying Lotus – ‘Los Angeles’
14 The Streets – ‘A Grand Don’t Come For Free’
15 Death Grips – ‘The Money Store’
16 Kings Of Leon – ‘Aha Shake Heartbreak’
17 Kanye West – ‘The College Dropout’
18 The Bug – ‘London Zoo’
19 Burial – ‘Untrue’
20 Sufjan Stevens – ‘Illinoise’
21 The xx – ‘XX’
22 Vampire Weekend – ‘Vampire Weekend’
23 Bloc Party – ‘Silent Alarm’
24 Caribou – ‘Swim’
25 Grimes – ‘Visions’
26 Beirut – ‘Gulag Orkestar’
27 Portishead – ‘Third’
28 Late Of The Pier – ‘Fantasy Black Channel’
29 Nicolas Jaar – ‘Space Is Only Noise’
30 TV On The Radio – ‘Return To Cookie Mountain’
31 King Krule – ‘6 Feet Beneath The Moon’
32 Battles – ‘Mirrored’
33 Earl Sweatshirt – ‘Doris’
34 The National – ‘High Violet’
35 Lorde – ‘Pure Heroine’
36 The Horrors – ‘Primary Colours’
37 alt-j – ‘An Awesome Wave’
38 Kanye West – ‘Yeezus’
39 Bon Iver – ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’
40 David Bowie – ‘The Next Day’
41 Bobby Womack – ‘The Bravest Man In The Universe’
42 Swans – ‘The Seer’
43 Connan Mockasin – ‘Forever Dolphin Love’
44 Tame Impala – ‘Lonerism’
45 Modeselektor – ‘Happy Birthday!’
46 Actress – ‘R.I.P.’
47 Madvillain – ‘Madvillainy’
48 James Blake – ‘Overgrown’
49 Moderat – ‘II’
50 The White Stripes – ‘Get Behind Me Satan’
51 Boards Of Canada – ‘Tomorrow’s Harvest’
52 The Black Keys – ‘Brothers’
53 Four Tet – ‘There Is Love In You’
54 The Roots – ‘How I Got Over’
55 Andy Stott – ‘Luxury Problems’
56 The Flaming Lips – ‘At War With The Mystics’
57 Rustie – ‘Glass Swords’
58 Interpol – ‘Antics’
59 Nas – ‘Life Is Good’
60 Clipse – ‘Hell Hath No Fury’
61 Drake – ‘Thank Me Later’
62 Machinedrum – ‘Vapor City’
63 Zomby – ‘Where Were U In ’92?’
64 Justice – ‘Cross’
65 These New Puritans – ‘Hidden’
66 Wild Beasts – ‘Two Dancers’
67 Antony And The Johnsons – ‘I Am A Bird Now’
68 Fever Ray – ‘Fever Ray’
69 Foals – ‘Total Life Forever’
70 James Holden – ‘The Inheritors’
71 My Morning Jacket – ‘Z’
72 Shabazz Palaces – ‘Black Up’
73 The Libertines – ‘The Libertines’
74 Goat – ‘World Music’
75 Arctic Monkeys – ‘AM’
76 tUnE-yArDs – ‘W H O K I L L’
77 Metronomy – ‘The English Riviera’
78 Fuck Buttons – ‘Tarot Sport’
79 Lykke Li – ‘Wounded Rhymes’
80 Jon Hopkins – ‘Immunity’
81 Chromatics – ‘Kill For Love’
82 John Talabot – ‘fin’
83 Adele – ‘21’
84 Tim Hecker – ‘Ravedeath, 1972’
85 Joanna Newsom – ‘Ys’
86 Saul Williams – ‘Saul Williams’
87 Jay Z and Kanye West – ‘Watch The Throne’
88 Run The Jewels – ‘Run The Jewels’
89 Julia Holter – ‘Loud City Song’
90 Kindness – ‘World, You Need A Change Of Mind’
91 Liars – ‘Sisterworld’
92 SBTRKT – ‘SBTRKT’
93 The Kills – ‘No Wow’
94 Grizzly Bear – ‘Veckatimest’
95 Franz Ferdinand – ‘Franz Ferdinand’
96 Thom Yorke – ‘The Eraser’
97 Panda Bear – ‘Person Pitch’
98 Beach House – ‘Teen Dream’
99 The Child Of Lov – ‘The Child Of Lov’
100 Kode9 & The Spaceape – ‘Black Sun’
Thanks for reading.