In 2009, Kanye West was in a dark place. What resulted was one of the most critically acclaimed records of the 2010s, and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was born.
His previous album, 2008’s 808’s and Heartbreak, was a result of the sadness and trauma he experienced after losing his mother, Donda West.
The feel and sound of the record resulted in a record that showed the world a side of the artist that we hadn’t seen up to that point.
Following several incidents, most notably the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards where he interrupted Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech for the Best Female Video category, West began to become scrutinized by those in the industry.
Just like how he dealt with the pain that he felt when writing 808’s, West fled to Hawaii to record his next album and escape from the media.
While many of West’s previous records were also critically acclaimed, MBDTF was something different.
As a result of the scrutiny and pain that he had felt because of his time as one of rap’s top artists, West created a record that would explore the culture of how excess and luxury can negatively affect one’s life.
The first track, “Dark Fantasy,” was bombastic and explored the life of a celebrity. West raps on his experience in the limelight and the feeling of reaching one’s peak.
Yet, there’s an air of cynicism and underlying sadness to the track.
The line “The plan was to drink until the pain over, but what’s worse? The pain or the hangover?” speaks for itself. One can’t find peace at the bottom of a bottle, and their woes only grow.
As the album continues, we eventually find ourselves at track 3, “POWER.”
“POWER” explores the high that one feels when they’re at the top.
Like “Dark Fantasy,” West raps with the bravado of the success that he’s felt at the top, but towards the end of the track, raps “This will be a beautiful death, I’m jumping out the window, I’m letting everything go.”
West paints a dark picture that shows that even when one is at their peak, the expectation to maintain that position alongside the scrutiny of those that surround you can get to one’s head. He ends the track by asking “You got the power to let power go?”.
“Runaway,” track 9 on the record, is considered by many to be West’s magnum opus.
The track, which is instantly recognizable by its first piano key, is a haunting one. West lays it all on the table, rapping about his insecurities and realizing that he must change.
“Yeah, I always find, I always find something wrong. You’ve been putting up with my **** way too long. I’m so gifted at finding what I don’t like the most,” raps West.
The tragic part however is, that despite realizing his flaws, he’s unable to change.
He’s consumed by the life that he lives.
As the track ends, we hear an outro that becomes impossible to understand. We realize that it’s West singing, and we can hear the pain and sadness in his voice.
West would continue to release records and be involved in countless controversies after its release, even running for the presidency in 2020.
He’d go from calling himself a God in 2013’s Yeezus to making a full-on Gospel record in 2019’s Jesus Is King. Many of his records are considered classics.
Yet no album was quite as personal and fleshed out like My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was.
It’s a commentary on a life many of us will never quite understand, and that’s what makes it so timeless.