The Curmudgeon’s Award for Sleeping Through a Crazy Parade
By Conrad Amenta | 7 December 2010
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
(Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam; 2010)
–Or– I Thought My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was like a 72%
First thing’s first: 72% is still a pretty good record. 72% on the Glow is approximate to a BNM, four Rolling Stone stars, eight-and-a-half Stuff Magazine erect dicks. So this isn’t a reaction to the album which, sure, is catchy and fascinating the way any spectacle is fascinating, which is to say also a bit alienating, like you’re looking at your best friend and seeing a living doll from the Uncanny Valley. This is a reaction to the hyperbole, to the sudden organization of individuals into a new mainstream, and to the realization that you’re on the outside of something massive and homogeneous.
Kanye West is going to win a million awards and sell a billion albums and top every year end list, and that’s great, if only because if he doesn’t finally and convincingly win every fucking winnable thing then he’ll have more very public crises of confidence and identity, and these crises will fuel ever more expository self-analyses for which to reward him, such as “Don’t you know I’m a motherfucking monster?” Which, again, who cares, right? Celebrity wackos aren’t uncommon, so why harp on this one? But it’s in every justifying account of just what makes My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy so obviously brilliant, every attempt to quantify its excellence, that there seems to be some dependence on this public persona as, if not the reason, than the subtext of why this record is so amazing. Before, Kanye was an egomaniac, but now he’s a self-aware egomaniac. His attitudes are zeitgeistal, peripatetic in the way 2.0-perpetuated memes are, in the manner of the new media vomitorium of endless self-worship. His personality is complex and conflicted, that mixture of braggadocio and insecurity in all great hip-hop. The craziness of this man and the quality of his music are indelible to one another. And he says to put that pussy in a sarcophagus!
Speaking as a guy who doesn’t listen to that much hip-hop for all of these reasons, there were three hip-hop records this year that absolutely leapt out of my speakers and grabbed me and announced, “Even though you don’t know thing one about hip-hop, you should probably like this. What this person is doing is dexterous and difficult, and/or the lyrics are indeed clever, and/or the beats and arrangements and production are infectious, and you don’t need to follow this person’s blog to get it,” and those records were by Big Boi, Das Racist, and Shad. Hold on, put the phone back on the cradle (you don’t even know my number), lemme explain: I’m not saying those records are better than Kanye’s. I’m saying the reason why the goodness of this Kanye record is so brain-bustingly obvious is not so obvious to everyone, is not so obvious to me as the goodness of even those three supposedly inferior records. Kanye’s greatness is not self-evident, is not finally and unequivocally proven. It’s just a record. Let’s allow some dialogue back in.
Sleeping through the parade is no biggie. It’ll be like any music fad, including those in which I’ve participated before, which is to say, over in about three months. But we’re at the peak of it now, the absolute, hysterical zenith of praise. All mouths are open, all eyes fixed, all are bent at the altar of this magnificent achievement. And I don’t want to negate that. I’m psyched that you’re psyched. I want to hear more about why you like this record so much. But if you’re like me, one of those few standing around at parties listening to people strike up new friendships around this record, grotesque and ruinous like an escaped baboon at a baby shower, just know that I, also, don’t really get it.