Long read, I know. I hope you get something out of it.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy showcases Kanye West's journey preempting a spiritual enlightenment. These are big words to describe what many may just classify as a typical hip-hop album, especially when Mr. West is unapologetically abrasive describing his high life of women, cars, and money, but there is clearly a deeper meaning to all of it.
The first track of the album is the aptly titled Dark Fantasy. From a superficial level, the title of the song may not be that obvious, but bare with me. Kanye is deep within the grips of his ego in this song while name-dropping his Murcielago and boasting about his status and skills. So what is a dark fantasy? Let’s first define a fantasy; it is an imagination that if comes true, would be expected to make life better in some way. A dark fantasy, on the other hand, is one that is hoped for, but when finally achieved, results in even more misery. Is his fantasy of being super famous while driving a Lamborghini coming from a position of higher consciousness, or the dark parts of the ego?
Moving onto the next track, Gorgeous is wrapped up in the ego just as much the previous song. It’s an expression of need; “I need this in order to better.” It’s coming from the frame that the world is out to get us and that we need to get ours. The song strategically includes a reference of the government trying to hold us down and blaming others for our own problems, there’s a reason why this is only happening towards the beginning of the album. And what is the hook really saying? “Ain’t no question if I want it, I need it, I can feel it slowly drifting away from me” To me, it represents the scarcity mentality of the ego.
Power shouldn’t be too difficult to decipher, so for the sake of space, I’ll focus only on the most potent part of the song, that being “Now this'll be a beautiful death,
jumpin’ out the window, lettin’ everything go.” This is the death of Kanye’s high self-image. The reason for this death being a beautiful one is because when you have no self-image to protect, you are free to do what you really feel. When you look at the cover art for Power, you see a king with a sword through his head; this is the death of self-image. Even though it's the spark that causes a person to search for higher consciousness, this death is faced with much resistance and causes many problems, and won't let up until the person hits rock bottom. Imagine a CEO who lost his job and now can’t find work, think of the tailspin he’s likely to fall into from losing something that he viewed as an extension of himself. This is what the next section of the album deals with.
Since we have yet to hear the interlude for All of the Lights, there’s not much to say about the track. Though I expect it to represent the transition period right after the CEO loses his job, or when the king becomes a vagrant, a fall from grace or funeral for the self-image. All of the Lights is about all of the external sources a person uses to fulfill the emptiness of want, for example the former CEO who becomes an alcoholic or drug addict. The way I like to describe All of the Lights is by using the phrase “external sources of light,” as oppose to the internal source of light that every individual already has. These external sources of light are the things the ego seeks out in order to fulfill itself; of course, external sources of light will never fulfill a person. That boost of self esteem felt when acquiring an external source of light can only last so long, and then it needs something else. It's fitting that this concept of superficial gratification applies to the flashiest, most mainstream sounding song on the album, the song that just happens to feature 12 other pop stars. Remember when Kanye spoke of the child running free at the beginning of the video and after being influenced by society, he became a manageable, slow walking, social robot? People are put in a constant state of needing to fulfill the superficial standards of society, and they become driven by the fear of not being good enough, and take it out on others- “I slap my girl, she call the feds."
Kanye has now turned into a Monster. That feeling of when you just don’t give a fuck anymore because you’re dreams have been crushed is laid out on both Monster and So Appalled. This entails the darkest, most devilish moments on the album. Both of these songs have a sort of “fuck it, I’m just going to go crazy” attitude. If you remember when Kanye explained that the devil is a part of his own conscious, you'll understand how that applies to the next song. Devil in a New Dress is about how the ego adapts to situations and appears totally different from before. The ego at the beginning of the album was “I’m this big pimp, I’m so awesome,” the ego now is “I’m total shit, I’m a failure.” Both of these come from the ego. The ego is a person’s story; “this is who I am, and this is how I compare to others,” whether positively or negatively. This new ego is recognized on Devil in a New Dress as simply the same ego dressed up as something different.
In a recent interview, Kanye said the he leaves a lot of ambiguity in his songs, that he may actually be talking to himself when it sounds like he’s talking to another person. I believe this to be the case for the rest of the album. He’s talking to the dark parts of his conscious and uses women as a representation of the ego’s desires. Listen to Devil in a New Dress and try to see it from the perspective of a person talking to his ego. With Runaway, the tables have turned; it’s now the ego talking to the person. Runaway is the moment of coming clean. The ego admits to the person all that it has done wrong and encourages the person to become free of its grip, “runaway as fast as you can.” Kanye is becoming aware of the fact that the only thing stopping him is himself. It’s because the ego “always finds something wrong.” Runaway is the ego telling the person “hey, let’s get our shit together.” Also, the distortion at the end of the song represents that once the dark part of the mind is recognized for what it is, it loses its power, and becomes just a noise.
After this realization, the future implications of seeing life in a different way run rampant. Hell of a Life is the mind fuck. On this album, women represent an aspect of our consciousness, so it's fitting that when our mind is going haywire the women are doing gangbangs and such. Here’s an example I like; a quantum physicist starts to see how consciousness plays a role in quantum mechanics, and this disturbs him because he’s a scientist, this stuff isn’t supposed to apply. But then he keeps seeing evidence that consciousness really does have an effect at the quantum level. He then starts rethinking his whole outlook and all the repercussions it may have. He even considers if he might be going insane (“have you lost your mind?”), plus if he was to take this to another scientist he would be called crazy, and voila, you have a mad scientist. Think what would happen to you if everything you ever believed turned out to be 100% false, it’s hard to even consider the mental anguish that would ensue. But at the same time, if this is the truth, so be it, even if it’s crazy. Let’s not kid ourselves any longer, let’s put this out in the open, let’s fuck with the lights on. The song also shows his regained lust for life. Kanye has connected with his higher consciousness and is going to make the most out of it; "Grab my hand and baby we'll live a hell of a life."
Lost in the World represents the peaceful isolation and mystery. He’s lost in the world, he doesn’t know where he really belongs, but he’s ok with that. It's somewhat of an identity crisis, where you don't know who you really are anymore. Consider this, most people stay on the safe shores of being what they're told to be. Kanye has decided to head out to sea to find who he really is, he's searching for his own island. As of this song, he's still lost at sea, but he's one of the few who's actually searching. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy shows the fall of a high self-image, and the rebirth of a child who seeks rather than accepts. Perhaps Kanye's next album will indulge in his experience of finding his own island. Consciousness is our greatest gift and greatest curse; it can provide us with an empowering reality or a disempowering reality.
You're my devil, you're my angel
You're my heaven, you're my hell
You're my now, you're my forever
You're my freedom, you're my jail
You're my lies you're my truth
You're my war, you're my truce
You're my questions, you're my proof