2. Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
The sheer audacity of Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is matched only by its overwhelming appetite. Born in a period of strife amid self-imposed exile, during a near-mythic island summit of rap superfriends in Hawaii, MBDTF is an exercise in God-level debauchery. It is at turns baroque and symphonic, with song-length Auto-Tuned codas, posse-cut performances that redefined the form, and an immense phantasmagoria of light and sound that threatens to overshadow its A-list cameos. It was a creation that accurately reflected West’s massive ego, in a period of rare bruising: By 2010, he’d drunkenly antagonized Taylor Swift, symbol of All-American sweetness, and been called a jackass by a sitting president. But instead of apologizing, Kanye conjured a warped, all-encompassing vision of excess, a toast to the assholes, a battle cry for fellow monsters. It was a huge risk that proved not just redemptive but deifying.
MBDTF’s songs are meticulously designed set-pieces that ably house all their drama. West goes bar-for-bar with Raekwon on “Gorgeous,” leveling some of his sharpest critiques of race, class, and rap iconography, only moments after pairing beatmaking legends RZA and No I.D. together on an epic deserving of an opera house. The endearing douchebag anthem “Runaway” stripped Kanye of any remaining pretense, his singing bald and honest, and reintroduced Pusha T as his attack dog. With the industry in flux and rap sales lagging, the new landscape began to take shape in My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’s wake. It spearheaded the first wave of great albums produced this decade; the two biggest rappers of the next generation, Drake and Kendrick Lamar, followed Kanye’s lead overtly on their breakthrough records. Bon Iver’s profile was exponentially boosted by this album. Pusha and Nicki Minaj aren’t really Pusha and Nicki Minaj without it. And for Kanye, MBDTF remains the most pristine jewel in a collection of rare artifacts—a perfectionist’s brush with perfection. –Sheldon Pearce / Pitchfork.com