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How Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is the Embodiment of West’s Music

Luis Torres

Arizona State University


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Abstract: In this paper, I plan to examine the ways in which Kanye West and his music

exemplify what a West album consists of in order to meet the standards West has created for

himself. By using “Last Call” as the primary text, this paper will examine how several tracks

from West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy live up to the expectation of a West rap album.

Keywords: Kanye West, rap, hip-hop, music


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In order to truly understand West and his music, one must understand rap and hip-hop to

obtain a holistic understanding of the genre. Rap is a genre that contains certain elements that

make it unique. It is a form of storytelling through techniques such as euphemisms, metaphors,

rhyming and flow that bring a story to life. In addition to that, rap is composed of a sound which

includes but is not limited to synthetic drums, samples from older songs (specifically R&B) and

traditional instruments such as percussion, winds, etcetera. West, by default of this definition of

rap music, is a creator and innovator within the genre of rap.

Looking closely at his 2004 album The College Dropout, West produced a range of songs

that are revered as important and timeless rap songs. This specific paper which will dissect and

analyze West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is a culmination of rap music by using “Last

Call” from The College Dropout to compare and contrast certain songs such as “Devil in a New

Dress,” “Gorgeous” and “Blame Game.” There are certain elements in these songs that will be

evaluated such as flow, the beat, metaphors, storytelling effectiveness, and an elicit of emotion.

In 2004, Kanye Omari West officially introduced himself to the rap game with his debut

album The College Dropout. The debut album contained a number of skits, feature verses from

rap legends and a distinct sound that West established for himself and continues to have an

impact in the rap genre. Specifically, West’s “Last Call” from the debut album successfully

captivates the sound and style of West. “Last Call” is a story about how West evolved from

being a small producer gaining traction and recognition in Chicago to becoming both a rapper

and producer thanks to Shawn Carter, better known as Jay-Z, and his record label Roc-A-Fella

Records (Dombal, Pitchfork).


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The song is greeted by a snippet of Jay-Z’s voice and is immediately followed by the

hypnotic beat. A short, looped beat with synthetic drums and clapping layered with West singing

acapella creates a sound that draws the audience in. Then, West adds a sample by Bette Milder’s

“Mr. Rockefeller” that is sped up to meet West’s demands (Rapgenius.com). West is known for

his heavy and effective usage of samples that create a sense of nostalgia while simultaneously

showcasing West’s producing talent as he modifies and perfects his own sound.

The flow on “Last Call” smoothly rides along with the beat. A simple hook bridges the

verses. “And I am (Here’s to the Roc) / And they ask me, they ask me, they ask me, I tell them

(Here's to Roc-A-Fella)/Raise your glasses, your glasses, your glasses to the sky and (Here's to

the Roc)/This is the last call for alcohol, for the (Mr. Rockefeller)/So get your ass up off the

wall,” (West, The College Dropout). The flow never overpowers the beat and its speed creating a

pace that enables the audience to truly process and appreciated certain verses in the song. For

example, there are a few lines in the song that are quintessential West verses. In the second and

final verse, Wests raps a few of his signature verses. “Killing y’all n***** on that lyrical

shit/Mayonnaise-colored Benz, I push Miracle Whips,” and his other more elaborate verse, “I

ain't play the hand I was dealt I changed my cards/I prayed to the skies and I changed my stars/I

went to the malls and I balled too hard/‘Oh my god, is that a black card?’/I turned around and

replied, ‘Why yes but I prefer the term African American Express.’” West uses his verses that

are weaved with metaphors and humor to effectively create a story.

In addition to that, “Last Call” is the outro to his debut album. The last few minutes

contain the hypnotic beat in addition to heavy use of saxophone and piano. West discusses his

short and eventful journey from being evicted from his apartment into becoming a producer for

Jay-Z’s hottest songs. “...I unpacked all my shit. You know, we went to Ikea, I bought a bed, I
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put the bed together myself. I loaded up all my equipment, and the first beat I made was, uh,

‘Heart of the City,’ (West, The College Dropout).

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy expands on certain elements that are very much

trademark West by stripping his sound down and building it back up. “But on Fantasy, he gets

ridiculously maximal, blowing past all the rules of hip-hop and pop, even though, for the past

half-decade, he’s been the one inventing the rules. There are hip-hop epics, R&B ballads, alien

electronics, prog-rock samples, surprise guests from Bon Iver to Fergie to Chris Rock, even a

freaking Elton John piano solo. It’s his best album, but it’s more than that — it’s also a rock-star

manifesto for a downsizing world,” (Sheffield, Rolling Stone). Pitchfork’s editor Dombal adds,

“Kanye's Twisted Fantasy incarnation cherry-picks little things from his previous work and

blows them up into something less than sane. The expansive, all-encompassing nature of the

album is borne out in its staggering guest list which includes mentors Jay-Z, RZA, and No ID,

along with new charges like Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross, Kid Cudi, and Bon Iver's Justin Vernon,”

(Dombal, Pitchfork).

“Gorgeous,” the first of the three songs examined from West’s My Beautiful Dark

Twisted Fantasy for the purpose of this essay, contains the instrument and flow that West has

been praised for throughout his artistic career. Guitar riffs and a rock star approach heavily

compose the song in addition to rhythmic drums dark and addictive like a drug. In tandem with

the beat, West delivers layered verses throughout the song. “I was looking at my resume feeling

real fresh today/They rewrite history, I don’t believe in yesterday/And what’s a black Beatle

anyway, a fucking roach?/I guess that's why they got me sitting in fucking coach,” (West, My

Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy). Similarily to “Last Call,” West’s “Gorgeous” contains lyrical

content that mixes his humor along with delivering a message about his identity. In doing so,
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West continues his tradition of lyrical content with an underline theme that goes against the

current.

“Devil in a New Dress,” the second song that will be examined from My Beautiful Dark

Twisted Fantasy, contains a rhythmic beat that displays West’s artistic potential as he crafts one

of his most captivating songs. West, introduced to the game of rap as a producer, has always

been idolized and recognized for production value from song to song. “Last Call” is a mix of

sampling old school R&B sounds in combination of a heavy use of drums that create a signature

West song. “Devil In a New Dress” adopts a similar approach with a slowed down, more

melancholy vibes. A combination of piano, a guitar solo, slowed down 808 drums and cymbal on

top of a sampled Smokey Robinson version of Carole King’s “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?”

epitomizes the production capability of West (Rapgenius). Alike his trademark sounds that was

established in “Last Call,” West continues the tradition of utilizing a variety of instruments to

create a certain aurora as he does so well in “Devil in a New Dress.”

The final minutes of West’s “Last Call” transform into a short anecdote of West

describing his journey from local producer to one of Roc Nation’s staple figures. West, above all,

is a story teller that integrates certain aspects such as lyrics, instruments and his most important

and notorious asset—his voice. In “Blame Game,” West uses the final portion of the song to

satirically and cynically recount the story in which West’s old partner, Amber Rose, is with a

new man, played by Chris Rock. “Here, Chris Rock (playing the role of the Kanye’s former

girl’s new guy) gives a series of compliments of how well she has improved under the sheets…

because of what Kanye taught her,” (Rapgenius).

West’s twisted retelling of the encounter of when Rose supposedly pocket dialed West

while with her new man is yet another example of West’s potential to retell a story. While the
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final portion of the song can be considered gossip, it undoubtedly displays the ways in which

West can evoke emotion by a use of storytelling techniques.

Although West and his music have evolved in certain ways, West continuously creates

quality work by the use of an array of effective story techniques such as colorful language,

captivating production from start to finish, along with personal anecdotes that elicit an emotional

response from the audience. While this applies to nearly every West song and album,

“Gorgeous,” “Devil in a New Dress,” and “Blame Game” perfectly exemplify the way in which

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is the quintessential essence of West’s discography.


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References

Dombal, Ryan. Kanye West: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. 22 Nov. 2010,

pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/14880-my-beautiful-dark-twisted-fantasy/.

Kanye West – Last Call. 10 Feb. 2004, genius.com/Kanye-west-last-call-lyrics.

Kanye West (Ft. John Legend) – Blame Game. 22 Nov. 2010, genius.com/Kanye-west-blame-

game-lyrics.

Kanye West (Ft. Kid Cudi & Raekwon) – Gorgeous. 22 Nov. 2010, genius.com/Kanye-west-

gorgeous-lyrics. [Produced by Bink! and Mike Dean]. 22 Nov. 2010,

genius.com/2484803.

Sheffield, Rob. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. 25 Nov. 2010,

www.rollingstone.com/music/albumreviews/my-beautiful-dark-twisted-fantasy-

20101109.