A beautifully written exploration of Kanye's landmark 2010 album, and his wider work - positioning West as the most compelling American artist of recent years.
In the first decade of the twenty-first century, Kanye West produced what is arguably the most compelling body of work made by a popular American musician during the period. Rising from obscurity as a precocious producer through the ranks of Jay-Z's Roc-A-Fella records, by the time he released My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy in late 2010, West had evolved into a master collagist, an alchemist capable of transfiguring semi-obscure soul samples and indelible beats into a brash and vulnerable art form. A long look at the arc of his career - from the early days as an apprentice producer gaining mastery of the sample, to his creation of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy during a hypomanic self-imposed Hawaiian exile - tells us about the march of pop music into the twenty first century and, by extension, the redrawn lines of American life. In our cloud-based and on-demand world, amid a cultural consensus with practically no regard for the pop album as an aesthetic product, West straddles this critical moment as what David Samuels of The Atlantic calls the first true genius of the iPhone era, the Mozart of contemporary American music. He boasts an intrusive online presence-- tweeting to the unpredictable tune of his mercurial moods--and understands as few artists do the viral value of so-called rich content, of digital video (some of which he directs) and the well-placed high resolution image. Yet, for all that, his body of work has demonstrated a cohesive drive toward perfecting that nearly forgotten form - the album. Weaving original soundscapes comprising old, familiar voices (Ray Charles, King Crimson, Otis Redding, and a host of others), no other artist has so deftly curated conversations between pop music's past and future--very much a story of our culture's narcissistic wish for unfettered digital ubiquity--and no album tells this story with more decadent artistry and surrealist gusto than My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
About the Author
Kirk Walker Graves is a writer from Tennessee at work on his first novel. Currently, he directs the communications efforts of the Governor's Books from Birth Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to bolstering early childhood literacy in Tennessee. A graduate of Princeton University, he lives in Nashville with his wife, Jessica, and their dog, Sanderson.
In Graves' book, he not only breaks down each track on the record, but he also effectively lays out the context of the album's release, explaining why Kanye is deserving of an investigative book like this one (and hopefully soon, others), and what about Mr. West makes him the biggest and most off-putting rock star on the planet. -- Dan Buyanovsky Revolt TV Kanye West is the millennial generation incarnate, or at least that's what Kirk Walker Graves would have us all think. Throughout the 150 or so pages of this book, Graves unpacks the enigma that is Kanye West's personality and art. This book isn't so much about the musical qualities of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy as it is about how Kanye's ego and public persona can be used to explain modern 20-somethings. Graves finds meaning in West's music that I never would have picked out on my own. His fandom is clear, but he never steps into hyperbole in his praise of the music. Though, at times, it feels like his discussion of this album can get a bit too academic, I appreciate the thought that he has put into his analysis of Kanye's work. This book is some serious next-level music criticism-I never realized how much Kanye's Gucci line meant to my life before this guy told me about it. -- Alex Gilvarry SLUG Magazine West may be divisive enough to not win over his detractors, but Graves' mix of fanboy marvel and critical detachment is persuasive enough to convince even detractors to give My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy a close listen. At the end of its 132 pages, Graves makes a convincing argument that this four-year-old deserves a spot in the 33 1/3 series. But perhaps more important, he does something that great criticism should do: he makes you want to listen to the album. -- Sean McCarthy PopMatters
Series: 33 1/3
Number Of Pages: 152
Published: 17th July 2014
Publisher: Continuum Publishing Corporation
Dimensions (cm): 16.5 x 12.0 x 1.0
Weight (kg): 0.14
Edition Number: 1