Fresh Off The Press | My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

In his latest album, Kanye West has once again proved why he is a true pioneer in hip-hop. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Kanye has never made the same album twice. His production/musical style has always built onto itself and changed, while the rest of hip-hop has scrambled to keep up.

Ye's debut album College Dropout not only brought back the soul sample, but at the same time proved that soulful beats could be hits with the masses. A year later on Late Registration, Kanye brought in Jon Brion to refine his production with a more orchestral sound, while still keeping his soulful roots. Also worth noting is the fact that Kanye collaborated with acclaimed producer Just Blaze for Touch the Sky, something Kanye had never done before. 2 years after that, Kanye once-again raised the bar with Graduation, infusing synth-heavy electro-pop/rock with his polished sped up soul samples, working with producer DJ Toomp on several tracks. Definitely a triumphant album. Now we all know what happened next... Kanye's mother passed away, and he made what is widely regarded as his worst album to date. Although I wasn't particularly fond of 808's and Heartbreak (repetitive lyrics and heavy Auto-tune anyone?), it did give Kanye experience with the vocoder, and more complex drum patterns. Despite my qualms with the instrumentals, it contained some of Kanye's most emotionally compelling work so far. A hit and a miss effort. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is the culmination of all of Kanye's influences and experiences. It incorporates everything that worked and failed for Kanye in the past, resulting in one of the most unique hip-hop albums ever created.

1. Dark Fantasy: Kanye's albums have generally started off with impressive intros, and this RZA and No I.D. co-produced track is no exception. Nicki Minaj narrates in a faux-British accent before Charlie Wilson and Keri Hilson-esque vocals harmonize the chorus: "Can we get much higher? So high..." Kanye spits some of his finest trademark quotables over an incredibly infectious piano and synth loop : "The plan was, to drink until the pain over/ but what's worse, the pain or the hangover?/ Fresh air, rollin' down the window/ Too many Urkels on your team, that's why your Winslow." Arguably my favorite track on the album.

2. Gorgeous ft. Kid Cudi & Raekwon: This is a debut of a new musical style for Kanye. A laid-back track featuring a smooth guitar loop, a soft high-hat, and Kid Cudi handling the hook quite well, working within his rather limited vocal range. Kanye preaches his usual arrogant minutiae ala Graduation's The Glory that we all expect and love via distorted vocals. The true highlight of the track comes from Raekwon, who works emcee magic whilst being accompanied by electric guitar.

3. Power ft. Dwele: The perfect example of all of Kanye's musical techniques coming together in one song. You've got a powerful soul sample, polished orchestral strings, distorted vocals and a cinematic breakdown of the beat near the end. A perfect musical backdrop for Ye' to stunt while confessing his frustrations: "I just needed time alone, with my own thoughts/ Got treasures in my mind but couldn't open up my own vault/My childlike creativity, purity and honesty/ is honestly being crowded by these grown thoughts." Epic, and more chaotic than Kanye's previous collaboration with Dwele on Flashing Lights.

4. All of the Lights Interlude: An excellent prelude that sounds like something you'd hear at a symphony orchestra. The haunting strings sound so despairing that you'll be completely caught off-guard for the insanity that comes next...

5. All of the Lights: The "Stronger" of MBDTF, and one of the most overwhelming works from Mr. West. It's a blaring anthem with loud triumphant horns, and has one of the most INSANE drum patterns I've ever heard in hip-hop. The features here are so random, it seems as though Kanye picked them out of a hat. All of the Lights is a sonic masterpiece; a song that sets a new standard for producers everywhere.

6. Monster ft. Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj & Bon Iver: This track is one of the many posse cuts from G.O.O.D Fridays. Everyone featured, with the exception of Rick Ross, contribute to the track very nicely. The true winner here is Nicki Minaj, who manages to outshine both Jay-Z and Kanye with a wild and animated verse.

7. So Appalled ft. Jay-Z, Pusha T, Prynce Cy Hi, Swizz Beatz & The RZA: A posse cut from G.O.O.D Fridays that could've used one or two less features. Although Kanye, Jay, Pusha and Cy Hi satisfy with some very clever rhymes, Swizz and RZA's inclusions on the hook are completely unnecessary. It's a confusing move, making you wonder why they weren't given any verses (especially RZA). Despite these shortcomings, the dark beat fits in well with the tone of the album, and makes good use of Kanye's signature sampling.

8. Devil in a New Dress ft. Rick Ross: A gloomy soulful track produced by Bink!, one of the musical architects of Jay-Z's The Blueprint. Kanye sounds at his most natural here, delivering some great rhymes: "Hood phenomenon, the Lebron of rhyme/ Hard to be humble when you stuntin' on a jumbotron.""I hit the Jamaican spot, at the bar, take a seat/ I ordered the jerk, she said you are what you eat." Unlike on Monster, Rick Ross' feature is well-earned with his verses on what is undoubtedly my favourite beat breakdown on the whole album.

9. Runaway ft. Pusha T: This is the longest song on the album, and is (of course) an ode to himself and other douchebags (his critics perhaps?): "Let's have a toast for the douchebags, Let's have a toast for the assholes, Let's have a toast for the scumbags, and every one of them that I know/ Let's have a toast to the jerkoffs, that never take work off/ Baby I got a plan, run away as fast as you can..." It's a good thing Kanye chose to keep some of the samples used in the VMA performance, because they end up enriching the final product. Clocking in at 9 minutes, you'd expect for the song to become tedious, but Kanye knowingly breaks down his piano and synth beat roughly halfway through. Kanye also takes autotune in a new direction, by harmonizing his heavily distorted voice with sombre violin strings to haunting effect.

10. Hell of A Life: An angry and synth-heavy anthem that succeeds in being one of Kanye's most offensive songs yet. Kanye doesn't hold back, chronicling his wildest dreams: "One day I'm gon' marry a porn star/ We'll have a big ass crib and a long yard/ We'll have a mansion and some fly maids/ Nothin' to hide, we both screwed the bridesmaid." Kanye's pants of exhaustion near the end of the track reveal signs of regret in his lifestyle; an interesting addition to the song that makes Kanye seem much more sensitive, despite all evidence towards the contrary.

11. Blame Game ft. John Legend: A definite contender as my favourite track on the album, and also a testament to Kanye's growth as a songwriter. The despairing strings and somber keys create a beautiful backdrop which Kanye uses to vent: "On the bathroom wall I wrote: I'd rather argue with you than be with someone else/I took a piss and dismiss it, like fuck it, and I went and found somebody else/ Fuck arguing or harvesting the feelings, yo I'd rather be by my fuckin' self/Till about 2 AM and I call back and I hang up and blame myself... somebody help." With John Legend's soulful vocals on such a sorrowful song, his performance on the hook couldn't go wrong. Chris Rock also makes an appearance, bringing some humour to an otherwise bitter track.

12. Lost in the World ft. Bon Iver/ Who Will Survive in America: For those who have seen Runaway (the short film that accompanies the deluxe edition of the album), this track will undoubtedly remind you of the climax in the film. This track samples Bon Iver's song "Woods", making it a grandiose affair, by building on top of it with upbeat drums and vocal samples. Lost in the World also features Kanye's favourite verse he's ever written: "You're my devil, you're my angel/ You're my heaven, you're my hell/You're my now, you're my forever/ You're my freedom, you're my jail/You're my lies, you're my truth / You're my war, you're my truce/You're my questions, you're my proof/You're my stress and you're my masseuse." *sigh* That’s beautiful, and one of the reasons why Lost is one of my favourite Kanye tracks EVER. Who Will Survive in America is an excellent outro, featuring a preaching Gil Scott Heron. It uses the same instrumental as Lost in the World, but gradually breaks it down until there is only silence, followed by slightly awkward applause. A fitting end to Kanye's most shocking and daring work to date.