I was there the night [artist id=”1230523″]Kanye West[/artist] started writing My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. It was September 13, 2009, at the MTV Video Music Awards. You probably remember what happened that night .
Anyway, I was there, standing about 200 feet from West when he bolted onstage during Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech. I heard the gasps from the celebs sitting around him and the boos from the folks up in the cheap seats. I saw him flip them the bird, stride defiantly back to his seat, throw his arm around Amber Rose. I saw Pink walk by the couple during a commercial break, say something pointed and shake her head in disgust, while her security guards tried in vain to shuffle her along.
I watched as West was escorted out into the wings of Radio City Music Hall, up a flight of stairs, where huddled members of MTV’s brass (like my bosses’ bosses’ bosses) were waiting. I didn’t hear what was said after that, but I could tell it was tense, because I was specifically told to move on by a pair of security guards in black suits who clearly weren’t up for negotiation.
So, yes, I was there the night Fantasy was conceived, even if West wasn’t actually scribbling down lyrics or punching drum patterns into an MPC at the time (how could he do all that and still hold his Hennessy Black?). It was the moment when ’Ye became the most-hated man in America, a rapping amalgamation of “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and Alex Rodriguez and that terrible toddler you always see in the grocery store. The implications of his VMA tantrum were so far-reaching that our current president called him “a jackass” and our 39th president ripped his behavior as “completely uncalled for.”
In retrospect, the whole thing seems pretty ridiculous, but at the time, it was the biggest scandal on the planet, and ’Ye spent the next few months apologizing (and apologizing and apologizing ) for what he had done … even if, you know, what he said during his tirade was sort of right. It didn’t matter. He was vilified. He became a laughingstock, a cautionary tale. People whispered that he was headed for rehab.
Instead, West decided to go into seclusion. The story refused to die. So one day, somewhere in Hawaii (or India ) or wherever he was holed up, Kanye made a decision: He was done apologizing. He was finished hiding. And he didn’t care what Donald Trump or Jimmy Carter had to say about him. Not anymore.
And that’s when he decided to welcome us all into his Dark Twisted Fantasy. The story may have begun on September 13, 2009, but it ends right now. Because Fantasy is most definitely the last word, the final chapter. And, no, Kanye’s not saying he’s sorry, not even once. It is less an act of contrition than it is a declaration of independence, an unapologetic, unflinching ode to excess and depravity, a sweeping ride through thrilling highs and crushing lows, a blow-by-blow account of one man’s battle to find not only himself but a balance between the immediacy of sexuality and the long-term ledger of spirituality. It is a garish theatrical spectacle, a production filled with angels and demons, ghosts and Greek choruses, kings and pharaohs, judges, juries and executioners. In other words, it is a pretty apt summation of the past 14 months of Kanye West’s life: an over-the-top, too-ridiculous-to-be-real spectacle that never seemed to end.
Which is why everything on Fantasy seems to be pushed to the breaking point — and then pushed even further beyond. The beats are badder, the boasts bigger. The women are looser and the cars faster. The stakes are higher and the temperature hotter. West can’t get higher or lower, angrier or hornier, steadier or more unhinged. It is a thrilling, chilling listen, not only the most jaw-dropping accomplishment of his already stellar career, but the most personal too. West has been surrounded and suffocated, tormented and judged, and he’s smart enough to know that he’s powerless to change the tide of public opinion. So instead, he’s just going to explain himself. “Take it or leave it, believe it or not,” he seems to be saying with Fantasy, “But here is who I am and this is why I do what I do.”
That fearlessness, that honesty is what makes Fantasy such an incredible album. It is defiantly anti-reconciliatory. There are no olive branches extended, and if you hate Kanye for every tantrum he’s thrown and you’re past the point of forgiveness, then you are most definitely going to skip his new album. And it will be your loss. The bald-faced swagger of tracks like “Monster” or Power,” the complex fragility of “Runaway” or “Blame Game,” the lyrical scope of “Hell of a Life” or “Gorgeous,” it’s an embarrassment of riches and a dazzling array of accomplishments, though perhaps the most dazzling is this: With My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye West has closed the book, he has moved past his detractors, and he’s done it by going deep, by being brave and bold and, yes, probably a little crazy too. Move on or get the hell out of the way because Kanye is done apologizing for what he did. Finally.
Do you think Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy represents his best work to date? Sound off in the comments!