Today officially marks the sixth anniversary of Kanye West’s critically acclaimed album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. This is also the first of many Fascination’s Behind The Accolades posts, where we go in depth as to what makes an album great.
But to know why Dark Twisted Fantasy is so incredible, we have to know the circumstances that lead to the creation of this masterpiece. So it all started during the VMAs when Taylor Swift- hold up, I’ma let myself finish, but we need to go back. ALL the way back.
Kanye West grew up in Atlanta, Georgia and into a divided home. He and his mother, Donda, eventually moved to Chicago and then Nanjing, China where she taught as an English professor. Against the wishes of his mother, 20 year-old Kanye dropped out of college in order to pursue music and produce beats for other rappers. In 2004, he released his debut album The College Dropout to widespread acclaims. Using stories from his childhood, reflections on dropping out of college, his near-fatal car accident, gospel influences, and lyricism about the value of dreams and family, Kanye had transformed all of his hardships into something great.
In his sophomore album Late Registration, the touching ballad to his mother, Hey Mama, exemplified the love he had for her. With lyrics that talked about how he’ll eventually go back to school, that he’s thankful that she allowed him to become who he is, and how he wants to be so successful that his mother won’t ever have to work again, Kanye showed the world the profound impact his mother had on him. Unfortunately, her passing due to cosmetic complications caused Kanye to become broken during a time when he had just started to adjust to pop-stardom. This lead to his synth-pop album 808s & Heartbreak. A game-changing album that revealed a much more emotional and introspective side to hip-hop and went on to influence the careers of many singers and rappers such as Kid Cudi, Drake, and Childish Gambino.
And now I’ma let myself finish. Within those following years, Kanye solidified his status as much more than just a rapper. Whether some accept it or not, Kanye is one of the most influential artists ever, but his ability to make greatness out of despair came at a cost. His original clothing line Pastelle failed in 2009 and he began doing work with Nike. His fashion ventures, management of the GOOD Music Record label, and multiple tours lead to him becoming overworked, egotistical, and borderline hedonistic. All of this lead came to a climax during the 2009 VMAs when he publicly proclaimed that Beyonce had a better video than Taylor Swift.
So this is it for Kanye West right? It certainly would be for a lot of people. Rising stardom, successful albums, failed business ventures, and then an embarrassing, antagonizing drunken outburst in view of millions? It’s a classic story of a star crashing and burning in a blaze of glory.
But not him.
Kanye West is a motherfucking phoenix.