Conflict is woven into the fabric of Kanye West's existence.
That conflict is part of what makes him the stubbornly passionate, painfully outspoken and creatively adventurous artist who stretched our imaginations to experience a world far beyond what we thought was possible in hip-hop. But every once in awhile, his internal conflict threatens to ruin something precious.
Kanye's rants, on-stage interruptions and on-air outbursts have never bothered me -- in fact, his verbal diarrhea has created some of my favorite pop culture moments in history. Instead, it's his complicated and conflicted relationship with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy that really and truly irks me.
I can barely muster the energy to argue with a normal human who would dare to debate that My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time -- and, one of the greatest albums of all time, period. So I'll be damned, when Kanye decides to dismiss this masterpiece, which celebrates its fifth anniversary on Nov. 22, as just "an apology record," on top of that adding that "Yeezus and 808s are so much better and stronger."
I'll entertain 808s & Heartbreak, since that record was groundbreaking in its own right, but the fact that he thinks Yeezus even comes close makes me want to light to a bonfire with the hardcopies of every Kanye album I've collected over the past 10 years, just to make a point.
“So many people rate Dark Fantasy as one of the best albums, and Yeezus and 808s are so much better and stronger," he said during an interview with SHOWStudio. "Dark Fantasy is almost like an apology record. ‘Power’ was the least progressive song that I ever had as a single...People want to talk about how much they love that like it’s Thanksgiving dinner. But how long has Thanksgiving dinner been cooked for?”
What? Because too much thought and time goes into preparing Thanksgiving dinner vs. the 30-minute weeknight meal that was Yeezus?
I understand that after Taylorgate at the 2009 MTV VMAs, Kanye felt the need to retreat into his cocoon and return with a peace offering for the public, but why does that give him the right to diminish this record?
Even the videos were masterpieces. "Runaway," both the short film and the truncated version, were simply gorgeous, while I haven't been able to watch his "Bound 2" video more than once in its entirety, even knowing that he intended it to be lo-fi (read: terrible and cheesy?)
Not only is it a crude dismissal of an album that was astounding in its construction -- recorded in Hawaii and California in a series of now-legendary studio sessions, with artists like RZA, Nicki Minaj, Jay Z, Bon Iver, John Legend, Rick Ross -- it also diminishes the flurry of excitement that rap fans felt when he lead up to its release with G.O.O.D. Fridays. Many artists have tried to duplicate that format since then, but none of them will ever really touch it.
That was a very sacred moment in musical history for many of us.
My rage after hearing Kanye slight the album reminded of something I read in college: "The Death of the Author," an essay from French theorist and literary critic Roland Barthes.
Barthes argued that once an author submits work for public consumption, their biographical context and intentions should not be relevant to the interpretation of the text. This never made sense to me in terms of an actual auto-biography, but short of that, I think Barthes makes a great point, noting that the author's history and feelings "impose a limit on that text."
In this case, Kanye is author. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is text.
Whatever he was going through while he recorded the album certainly affected how he shaped the project, but five years removed, it's taken on a life of its own, and hearing him publicly diminish it because of his own personal demons is just unbearable for me.
All I'm saying is...I appreciate that Kanye's conflict makes him great, but when it comes to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, I'd prefer that we take it back to grade school. If he doesn't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all.