Music, Writings and Art live from the twisted mind of Tokyo Cigar

My write up about the Kanye West album.

[Review] Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – Written By Tokyo Cigar

Some albums are just meant to inspire debate. Those albums are usually the ones that set the bar of what will be considered the “Next shit”. The debate aspect comes from the fact that said album challenges the comfort zone of the genre that it comes out in. This is that type of album. The universal outlook on this piece of art (make no mistake kids, this is ART) has been glowing. As it should be. Being a producer myself I look at things differently than what a person that is simply a fan would. This is because I have more of an idea of the work that goes into it. [cont.]

One thing I always love is when I can hear that said artist bust his/her ass to make the album. It’s sort of an unwritten code that only other producers can decipher. The chick in the club shaking her ass to her latest favorite jam (you know her, the chick that rushes the floor screaming “That’s my song” when she hears the opening bars leak through the speakers) can appreciate the song for what it is but the producer’s that stay up for nights straight working on a beat until it fits the vision they had will look at the same song differently. Noting little details like how Runaway uses the same drum break that leads into The Basement from Pete Rock and CL Smooth‘s seminal Mecca and the Soul Brother album. Mentally breaking down all the elements to it until he/she understands the vision the other producer was going for. Some of us may critique the beat if it doesn’t fit into our own particular way of doing things ( some fans do this too ) others simply sit back and marvel at the work we are witnessing, shaking our collective heads and simply saying “WOW”. For me this album easily is the latter.
I had a conversation with my boy J earlier today about the fact that when the “Underground” first gained prominence in Hip Hop it was a place where those that thought outside the box could gain accolades for favoring progression that the mainstream didn’t allow. But nowadays the majority of the underground has succumbed to the approach of having a formula. (usually a chopped up sample over heavy drums and light orchestration) Usually when an artist goes beyond these confines they are met by certain people claiming “That’s not REAL hip hop” even when the artists doing it are certified underground legends. (Exhibit A: Peep the reaction Felt 3 by Slug, Murs and the one and only Aesop Rock got from the backpack elitist that would have preferred for Slug and Murs to only rhyme over soul beats like they haven’t been doing that for YEARS)

Kanye West has been in the spotlight for many things (none of which I care to get into) but one thing people seem to overlook is despite the ego (or confidence depending on how you look at it) is the fact he is OBVIOUSLY someone who love music with a passion. How do I know? LISTEN TO THE F*CKING ALBUM. Do you think anyone who see music as simply a hustle would have bothered to make an album as musically complex as this? Everything from the breakdowns to the lavish instrumentation screams out “This dude worked on these beats for MONTHS not minutes” Even the beats provided by RZA ( as I said before, if you don’t know who that is KILL YOUR DAMN SELF ), No ID, Bink, Mike Dean etc are clearly manipulated to fit the vision Ye‘ had for this album. I can relate. When I produced the beats for my instrumental album Frozen Flesh, Ugly Soul or Left of the Scenery and Midnight Hindsight for my group The Plexiglass Fountain I was on such a mission that I lost more nights of sleep than I care to admit. People that heard the finished products told me that they could hear a lot of extra work and passion went into making those joints. (Hell yeah it did haha ) It was the same thing I felt when I heard The Cold Vein by Cannibal Ox for the first time. It’s a mutual respect that fellow producers have for each other when we hear one of our own push the boundaries just for the sake of doing it. Believe me MBDTF is literally dripping with that shit. Pretentious? You’re damn right that this album is that, but it is that in the best way possible. From the expertly layered vocals that announce Dark Fantasy to the filthy ( for lack of a better word that to describe it ) guitar chops, drum break and keyboard sprinkles that form the boom bap fueled Hell of a life Speaking of boom bap, one of the elements that informs that production style, Drum breaks, are used heavily on this album. Either chopped or looped. The drums on this album stand out for their smack capabilities. I read in a “making of” feature that Kanye used Mobb Deep‘s drums as a reference point for this album. It really shows because these drums punch in the same way that Havoc‘s early style did. Uncompromising in their aggression and very HARD.

This album has had so many reviews written about it that I can’t say anything that hasn’t been said before. So rather than rehash what other writers said about it, all I’m gonna say is THANK YOU Kanye. Thank you for making an album that is exciting to listen to in this age of safety nets. The purists can stick to their guns. Shit, I love traditional hip hop as much as they do (if you saw me wilding out to the jazzy beats of the Low End Theory and Midnight Marauders at Rock The Bells 2010 you would know better than to doubt that) but I still love to hear something that is so good and next level it almost scares me how adventurous it is. This is a double edged sword because certain producers create a great sound then abandon it for something else that is nowhere near the initial brilliance they displayed but this is not one of those albums. The only “traditional” Ye‘ sounding beat was done by Bink but I dare anyone to say that Ye‘ did not push his sound anywhere but forward with this.

So, allow me to end this with one of my favorite lines off the album “DJ’s need to listen to the models/ you ain’t got no fucking Yeezy in your serato?/ (you aint got no Yeezy nigga?)” Any self respecting music head that doesn’t have this album deserves to get cursed the fuck out. Nuff said.


Tokyo Cigar


originally posted on

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