Label: Roc-A-Fella Release date: 22/11/10 Link: Official Site Buy: Amazon Whether you’re his biggest fan or gritting your teeth determined not to acknowledge his presence, Kanye West is big in his game. The tricky bit to work out is what exactly his game is, though. He stormed through never-more-mainstream Graduation with flying colours, but seemed to slump somewhat with the follow up 808’s And Heartbreaks. This was a bit of a disappointment, honestly, to see someone try and break what was the status quo of rap, and apparently fail to make it take off in any big way. What a surprise then, when My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy comes along and clarifies this for me. What we saw in 808’s... was minimal, and the new-wave wave was enjoyed by a few people in 2009, but ultimately it came and went with minimal impression on pop culture. What West took from that foray is this: that less is not more. The lesson he learnt has been put to good use, and what you get with ‘...Fantasy’ is more from the production, and more from the lyrical content. And then some more of everything in between. This album, then, shows West pushing out from basic formulae, experimenting and not just trying new things but carrying ideas right through until they are fully formed and flourishing. The guest list on this album is, unsurprisingly for an artist of Kanye West’s stature, a who’s who of hot collaborators (Jay-Z, KiD CuDi, The RZA) who don’t for a moment sound like they are merely reeled in to create a hit more than simply to add their take to the already extensive mix; for one of the more eclectic choices, look no further than ‘Lost In The World’, which borrows Bon Iver’s (yep, you heard) vocals from his track ‘Woods’. Interestingly West takes another minimalist styled track for this, and loads it up with all he has to offer, putting his mark unmistakably all over it, reviving and bringing it right up to speed with the rest of the album. The autobiographical content of his 5th studio album is not surprising perhaps: considering the amount of Kanye West’s antics that have been in the gossip columns it’s impossible to assume that he would remain unaffected by any of it. We’re offered a glimpse into his world on tracks like the self-deprecating ‘Monster’, and as he admits, life can be ‘fucking ridiculous’ (on 'So Appalled'). His reach goes beyond just the self-indulgent, as the spoken word closer ‘Who Will Survive In America’ paints a dire picture of the far reaching effects of democracy around the world. So what is Kanye’s game? Switching his style up at every turn, it seems. Whether he’s storming stages, sampling King Crimson, giving weekly instalments of his album away, or offending the moral majority with some questionable album artwork, it’s all in the name of pushing his own artistry ever further. I couldn’t say that this will convert any of the unconvinced (if 'Power' hasn’t already, nothing else on here will), but whether you like it or not, his influence is inescapable, and it’s impossible not to respect the man. Photobucket