Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.
In this Love Letter To A Record series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.
Driftwood – Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, (2010)
Dear My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,
You are a masterpiece.
You invoked a whole new colour palette and combination of possibilities in my mind.
When I first found you, I was working in a studio that me and my friend built around Pyrmont. We were pitching pop songs through our manager to land with signed artists and building our catalogue. I remember being introduced to you and thinking “you are unapologetically different” – “there aren’t any rules, just do what you hear do what the [email protected]*k you want”.
In my opinion, you are one most tasteful, soulful, and well-arranged avant-garde Hip Hop albums I’ve had the honour of listening to. You opened a new paradigm into the possibilities of production in this pace at the time.
You are a combination of taste and execution, sharing a rare proximity within the highest pedigrees of expression.
I’ve always found it hard to identify with one single genre or group. I’ve always shared a wide variety of friends from all walks of life and have been inspired by those environments. From Glebe as a kid to boarding school in America.
For me, you are just that… you are much more expressive than a one-dimensional story, you are inspired by a vast mix of styles, textures and feelings.
The cinematic choirs chanting regal haunting harmonies over samples laced with piano and string lines dropping into those driving Kanye MPC drums and driving base pulses are timeless. The sample flips and sound selection are of a masterful level, live instrumentation, orchestral builds, with attention snatching vocal features and momentary skits like Niki Minaj intro lend to a deeper narrative.
The mix on this album is particularly interesting. In my opinion, the guitar amp on the vocal chain wasn’t being done a lot back then. Letting the guitar riff occupy the top end while those MPS drums and Base share a driving force on that bottom end in a beautiful way. The instrumentation choice within these pieces is much of a mixing decision as the mix itself. The nuance within the sound selection process with Kanye is always second to none. To then find the melodies he does within the scope he does it in across his range and makes sense of the amount of other energy he introduces into his arrangements through sampling, choirs, live instrumentation, and more is masterful song crafting.
You are the definition of balance and decision making in the most finite combination of expression. You understand combinations and unique variables in your expression. You know how to carve space and accentuate moments. Easier said than done when you are introducing as many elements as you do into a single song.
I read somewhere Kanye spent over 5000 hours on creating ‘POWER’. That is testament to his intention and ability to chase a moment until you find the answer.
Guest vocalists on the album include Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Bon Iver, Jay-Z, Pusha T, Rick Ross, Kid Cudi, John Legend, Elton John.
The album was mainly produced by Kanye but had notable collaborators such as Mike Dean, No I.D., Jeff Bhasker, RZA, S1, Bink, and DJ Frank E.
You will always be the one that got away.