Behind the Making of Kanye’s Twisted Fantasy

Yes, Kanye’s new album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, is certainly one of the best albums of the year.  The beats hit hard, the lyrical flow is both playful and introspective.  Kanye somehow holed up during a turbulent time in his life at Avex Honolulu Studios, focused all of his ambition and creativity, into a towering work of genius.

Along for the ride in Hawaii was Kanye’s rap collective — featuring Pusha T, Kid Cudi, Q-Tip, Consequence, and RZA among others — and they all knew that the only path to redemption for Kanye was deliver a bar-raising album.

Kanye’s process is communal—he literally goes around the room asking everyone there what “power” means to them, throws out lines to see how they’re received, and works out his exact wording with whomever is around to help. But his output is most definitely entirely his own—one listen to that consistently unique cadence, word choice, and sense of humor reveals that. Rappers, producers, and entourage are all welcome to offer ideas or phrases, but the funny thing is, nearly every suggestion is met with, “That’s really not at all a word I would ever say, but don’t stop offering ideas, thanks!” In fact, that day, a rah-rah couplet is offered by a rapper in the room (who will remain nameless) to close a line on “Power,” and Kanye jokingly says it would be “great—if my name was LL and I was making ‘Mama Said Knock You Out Pt. II.'” You get the feeling it’s addition by subtraction with him—the demonstration of what he doesn’t like illuminates what he does like.

And when he hits a creative wall, as he does this evening, he heads to another studio room to make progress on another song. In this case, it’s upstairs to check in on Q-Tip, who is syncing a beat he’d made to an acappella Kanye laid for a song called “My Momma’s Boyfriend.” Kanye had spit it to a Madlib beat, but didn’t feel like it was the right fit, so Tip is fitting a new track around the words. At first, Kanye is engaged, offering copious feedback, but as the record plays over and over, Tip tweaking small parts, Kanye starts to zone out. At first this means he just nods and stares without talking— processing, but too tired to speak. Eventually, the weight in his eyelids overcomes him and he nods off. It’s only 11 p.m., which means that we can expect a rested and ready Kanye by 2 a.m. at the latest. Tip keeps banging on the MPC for his sleeping audience while the rest of us decide whether to crash out at the hotel or wait on the next burst of creativity.

In what may be the steal of the year, in terms of bang for your buck, Kanye West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” is available at Amazon for $3.99.

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