Collection: 17. Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Our relationship with Kanye West was still in its love-hate phase when he created the 21st century’s most awe-inspiring hip-hop masterpiece. It’s an album every bit as chaotic as he was at the time — from the creepy funk of “Gorgeous” to the crushing attack of “Hell of a Life.” After his Taylor Swift VMAs fiasco in 2009, West went into a kind of self-exile, eventually ending up in Hawaii, where he imported a huge group of collaborators who included Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, Nicki Minaj, and RZA.

In all-night recording sessions, he’d ping between studios, sculpting his most maximalist music ever; “a song like ‘Power’ took 5,000 hours,” he later said, “like literally.” West pulled from everywhere — Elton John played on “All of the Lights,” and “Power” sampled prog-rockers King Crimson. West’s sense of his own grandiose ambitions bordered on the comical; during the writing process for the nine-minute “Runaway,” he famously told guest rapper Pusha T to add “more douchebag” to his verses. The resulting track opened with just a single, eerie piano note before building into a mountainous, anarchic tune that incorporated everything from a Rick James sample to a vocoder that evoked Robert Fripp’s guitar playing on Brian Eno albums.

The sonic overkill was lavish, but the record hit so hard because he mixed megalomania with introspect; “You been puttin’ up wit’ my shit just way too long,” he rapped on “Runaway.” West later called Dark Fantasy an apology record.” Perhaps. In any case, that wisdom has proved fleeting. -

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