THERE IS A GOLDEN METROPOLIS AND IT STANDS AT YOUR FEET. THE WINDOW IS OPEN AND IN THE MARBLE PENTHOUSE BEHIND YOU LIES THE RUBBLE OF YOUR HEDONISM: VIOLENCE AND COKE, SPILT BOTTLES AND WOMEN. IT EVAPORATES AND THEY SLEEP, YOU HAVEN'T AND YOUR EYES FORCED OPEN ARE BURNING. THOUGH THE CITY GLIMMERS OBSESSIVE AND SPENT BELOW YOU, THE SKY IS STARLESS AND BITUMEN, THE WIND SCREECHES. IT WOULD BE A HELL OF A FALL. SOMETIMES YOU DREAM OF A BOY WHO ONE DAY DECIDED TO CLOSE HIS EYES AND SPRINT, BUT YOU CAN'T REMEMBER WHO THAT BOY WAS, ALL YOU KNOW NOW IS THE MAN HE CAME TO BE: HALFWAY TO GOD, HALFWAY TO HELL. AND YOU COME TO UNDERSTAND THAT TRUE POWER IS A FINGER ON THE BUTTON - NOT WHAT YOU HAVE GAINED BUT THE OPPORTUNITY TO LOSE IT ALL. AND YOU KNOW HOW IT FEELS TO TEMPT IT, TO DANCE WITH FAILURE AND EVADE IT AT THE LAST SECOND. TRUE POWER IS NOW WHAT LIES BEHIND YOU, STICKY AND CONSUMED, ALL THAT NOTHING - TRUE POWER IS A JUMP THAT WILL TURN IT FINALLY TO DUST. A BEAUTIFUL DEATH: TO BRING IT CRUMBLING, HAND IN HAND WITH FAME AS YOU FALL WEIGHTLESS THROUGH THE WHIPPING NIGHT. JUMP.
"I don't need your pussy bitch, I'm on my own dick."
Cop lights, strobe lights, spotlights - an iris dilates as they hone in tight upon it, high on ego, high on fame. Addicted to it ("Ain't no question if I want
want it, I need it".) Kanye's beautiful, dark, twisted fantasy is this: it is fame and how it has warped him, tore away at his soul and changed his DNA. It's his relationship dying in the public eye, it's interrupting Taylor Swift at the VMA's, it's those that hated 808's and everything he has worked so long for with reckless abandon. It's how despite all the damning voices that try to grasp at his ankles, he still rockets further to the God that he worships, power. He won't stop until he rests in its hand with black angels.
On MBDTF, Kanye West is not only a rapper but a conductor, weaving multiple musicians, producers and compositions into a tapestry of disillusioned celebrity. Though he no longer resembles the begrudged dropout that he started as, he finds the persistent plague of skinny wrists and plastic smiles trying to exploit him - for his money, because of his race, for his power - and as a result, MBDTF is an oddly melancholic album; its symphonic hard-hitters are underlined with a confused rage: Kanye is lost in the world and this is his score.
A watershed moment in his career, MBDTF is now (the) staple in West's discography, but upon release it sounded like the apex synthesis of all he had hinted at prior to this point. Choirs, orchestras and an operatic scale, it is astounding that the album works so well and slotted so perfectly into modern rap history. Now, we take it for granted. Sometimes you will sit with goosebumps as you listen to the obsessively perfected arrangements and have to pinch and remind yourself that "this is hip-hop". The word isn't able to contain what you hear.
The grandiose sum of West's efforts is transcendence, of genre and of past in an album that marks the killing off of previous Kanye's and the beginning of one burned flesh and bone into the public eye. Kanye signs his soul to invincibility, dons the cape of a supervillain, and centrepieces his own censorship on the album art. The transgression penned by George Condo, pixelated and framed against block red is so emblematic of the record's content that it is perhaps more iconic now than the original painting. Sex and power: censored. Art: censored. Kanye's attempts to relay his new life to you are in vain, it is deemed to outrageous for the public eye. Each aggressive anthem seems to scream "handle me": the 21st-Century schizoid man.