There is perhaps no album released this year that comes with as much emotional baggage — or backstory — as Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, a 70-minute magnum opus of high emotion and even higher stakes. Born out of a 14-month period of intense personal struggle and immense public scrutiny, Fantasy is West at his most unhinged and unrepentant. But perhaps the album’s greatest accomplishment is that it perfectly mirrors the turbulent, trying times in which it was made: The beats are bigger, the boasts bolder, the highs higher and the lows, well, they’re practically subterranean.
So, with Fantasy finally in stores, we decided to look back at the road that led to this day. From Taylor Swift to the top of the charts, it’s been quite a ride but, ultimately, ‘Ye survived and thrived. He pushed himself and the boundaries of hip-hop, and by doing so, transformed into arguably the most vital artist in music today. And he did it all without explaining himself to his (many) detractors. Hate him or love him, Kanye West is a survivor. And with his new album, he’s proved once and for all that he’s here to stay.
On September 13, 2009, West crashed the stage during Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the MTV Video Music Awards, grabbing the microphone from her and famously proclaiming, “Yo Taylor, I’m really happy for you and I’mma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time.”
Immediately after his outburst, West was asked to leave the VMAs and subsequently apologized to Swift on his blog, but the damage was done. Fans ripped West’s behavior as childish and in the days following the incident, everyone from Donald Trump to President Obama followed suit. West would continue to apologize for his actions, first during a tear-filled interview on “The Jay Leno Show” and then to Swift directly.
But none of it helped stem the tide of negative public sentiment and, soon after, he would pull out of his much-hyped Fame Kills Tour with Lady Gaga and all but disappeared from the public eye. In October, following rumors that placed him everywhere from rehab to India, West’s friend Kid Cudi told MTV News that he’d spoken to ‘Ye and that he was “cool.”
In January, West announced on his blog that he had returned to the studio to begin work on his new album. He hit the blog once again a few weeks later, this time to fire back at his critics , saying he was “saddened” by their negative comments.
In February, West contributed to the “We Are the World — 25 for Haiti” charity single and released a “haunting” video for “Coldest Winter,” the last single from his 808s & Heartbreak album. In May, he took over a New York nightclub to premiere a handful of new songs, and then officially ended his hiatus with the leak of “Power” to the Internet.
In June, he launched into full-blown comeback mode with a swaggering performance of “Power” at the BET Awards and a fiery verse on Rick Ross’ “Live Fast, Die Young.” He began previewing new material during impromptu performances at places like the headquarters of Facebook and Twitter .
In August, he premiered an artful, intense video for “Power” and took to Ustream to announce his album would drop “sometime in November.” He remixed a song for Justin Bieber and launched his G.O.O.D. Friday initiative, which gave fans a first listen to tracks like “Monster” and “Devil in a New Dress.”
In October, he officially announced that his album would be called My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and then traveled to London to premiere a 35-minute film he’d directed for “Runaway.” Later in the month, he’d take the film to MTV for its television premiere . He also announced that Watch the Throne, his much-discussed team-up with Jay-Z, would now be a full-length record, and later became embroiled in a feud with “Today” show producers and host Matt Lauer. (He would subsequently cancel a scheduled performance on the show.)
Finally, Dark Twisted Fantasy leaks early but wows critics and fans everywhere.
Open the floodgates! It’s Mega-Release Week, with Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Jay-Z, Ne-Yo, Ke$ha, My Chemical Romance and Lloyd Banks all dropping new albums. Stick with MTV News for everything you need to know about the brand-new music.