Inside Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy: 'Dark Fantasy'

The release of Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, one of the most hotly-anticipated albums of the year. The 13-track LP completes something of a comeback narrative for West that began with the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards (when he was ostracized for crashing the stage during a Taylor Swift acceptance speech and went underground for a while) and was built up over the course of the past year with some key live performances, the "G.O.O.D. Friday" download series and the recently-released short film "Runaway." In fact, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is so dense and full of gems that it's necessary to take each song and break it down to its bare elements. Today, we begin with the album-opening track "Dark Fantasy."

"You might think you've peeped the scene..."

"Dark Fantasy" opens with a pre-emptive narrative by Nicki Minaj (doing her best/worst British accent that she breaks out so often). It is structured like a nursery rhyme and sets the tone for the song (which is intense and hallucinatory) and the album (which is claustrophobic, dense, dark and full of mystery).

"Mercy Mercy Me"

"Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" is a song from Marvin Gaye's landmark 1971 album What's Going On.

Lamborghini Murciélago

The Murciélago was a limited-edition supercar made by Lamborghini. First introduced in 2001, the last one rolled off the line in May of 2010. Though "murciélago" means "bat" in Spanish, the car was actually named after a fighting bull famous for surviving 28 sword shots during a fight in 1879.


West describes himself as having "a Nas flow," a reference to the legendary New York rapper Nas. While the two have not often been associated together, West has borrowed a lot of his rhyming style from Nas (but then again, so have dozens of other rappers).

Phoebe Philo

It wouldn't be a Kanye song without a reference to a fashion designer. There are actually several on this album, but Philo — the British creative director of Céline — makes the first appearance. Philo herself is credited with bringing back such staples as high-waisted jeans and baby doll dresses, and she has designed a hugely popular series of handbags.

"Sleepy Hollow"

Strangely, there are a handful of references to "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. A short story originally written by Washington Irving in 1820, the story has become iconic thanks to a number of film and television adaptations (including a big-budget 1999 feature film directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp). The characters of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horsemen have both become icons, though it's still hard to tell what Pusha T means when he calls himself Ichabod Crane in his verse on "Runaway" (which we'll get to later in the week).

Kings of Leon's "Sex on Fire"

Tennessee band Kings of Leon's "Sex on Fire" was the first single from their 2008 album Only By the Night. It became a huge hit and paved the way for their true crossover single "Use Somebody."

Leona Lewis

Lewis had her big breakthrough in 2007 when she won the third season of the British TV series "X Factor." Later, she scored her big crossover success when Oprah Winfrey featured her single "Bleeding Love" on her show, which catapulted it up to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 (where it had three separate runs on top). Lewis has released two albums so far: 2007's Spirit and 2009's Echo, both of which have performed well worldwide.

"Too many Urkels on your team/ That's why your wins low"

In the best couplet from "Dark Fantasy," West invokes famous TV character Steve Urkel. Played by Jaleel White for nine seasons on the ABC staple "Family Matters," Urkel became a hugely iconic crossover character for his nerdy appearance, nasal whine and his way with catch phrases (like "Did I do that?"). The punchline is a double entendre, as the family that Urkel used to terrorize were known as the Winslows.