Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy at Ten

4 min read
What a first-time listener learned about the Kanye phenomenon.
Kanye West performs his new single "Power" at the opening ceremony of the 2010 BET Awards in Los Angeles, Calif., in 2010. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

Kanye West. The words alone are charged nowadays — and have been for some time. Few other figures in public life have such a record of fame and infamy — often at the same time — in the 21st century as this highly visible musician. He continues to find new ways to keep himself in the headlines, as in recent years with his high-profile (if confused and short-lived) embrace of President Trump, his seemingly more durable conversion to Christianity . . . and his repeated struggles with mental illness. With Kanye, it seems, it's the whole package.


Thus it has been for a while. And thus it was near the end of the 2000s, when a string of controversies — most notable though hardly alone among them, his tirade against fellow musician Taylor Swift at the Video Music Awards — sufficed to place him in one of the many troughs that his surprisingly extensive career has so far featured. His response was to go into a sort of exile, in Hawaii, and to produce My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which just turned ten years old, and which was recently named the 17th-greatest album of all time by Rolling Stone.

Unlike the case with Arcade Fire's The Suburbs, another album that turned ten this year, I had no connection or existing fondness for Kanye's Fantasy — or much for Kanye himself, really, whom I tended to regard as an interesting, if sometimes insufferable, curiosity. I also lack much of an interest in hip-hop. But on the recommendation of a friend, and in recognition of the album's tenth anniversary, I decided to give it a serious listen. I emerged with a greater appreciation for Kanye's abilities and a greater understanding of his durability as a phenomenon.


My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is, in essence, an invitation to participate in the myth of Kayne as a world-historical figure. The lyrics of…
Jack Butler
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