From the moment Kanye exploded onto the scene with The College Dropout, he revolutionized the rap industry and with each new album broke the mold he had created on the album before. In both production and lyrical content, his ideas have changed the game more than anyone else over the past 10 years. With that influence came the fame, the money, and the bright lights.
As Kanye knew by 2010, though, it’s not easy for one man to have all that power. His life under the lights had bred criticism all around, from SNL and South Park to the music media, whether it was about 808’s and Heartbreak or the Taylor Swift fiasco. So when he released his fifth studio album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, five years ago, it was engulfed in conflict—the conflict between fame and misery and between who he started as, musically, and who he had become. The unique aspects of each of his preceding albums suddenly all crashed together, melding Dropout’s soul sampling with Graduation’s pop and hip-hop stylings, and Late Registration’s symphonic grandeur with 808’s sentimental crooning.
The result was Ye’s greatest masterpiece since his debut. Those clashing emotions and musical impulses came together to produce an album of colossal scale, laced with equal parts vanity and regret. It’s big, jarring, and beautiful, almost like it’s not part of real life but really is a convoluted dream—a dark twisted fantasy.
As you might expect, plenty of controversial and brilliant lyrics emerged from that fantasy. Here are five of the darkest, most twisted, but mostly memorable lines to come out of MBDTF.
“The plan was to drink until the pain over / But what’s worse, the pain or the hangover?”
The age-old question: Is numbing whatever shit you’re going through really worth the excruciating pain of waking up to your roommate Chip inhumanely making breakfast with no regard for your fragile eardrums, or worse? While Kanye’s troubles are probably way different than ours, his dilemma’s a very human one, one that most of us can sympathize with.
“What’s a black Beatle anyway, a fucking roach?”
In “Gorgeous,” one of the most lyrically compelling songs of his career, Ye really nails what he’s going through. With a simple but powerful play on words, he questions the contradiction between his revered place in the entertainment world and his continuing struggle to achieve true recognition and acceptance for what he’s done. He’s far from blameless in the way the media portrays him, but I can’t help but think that the amount of ridicule he gets is at least partly because he doesn’t look like what much of white America wants the musical prodigy of this generation to be.
“Do it better than anybody you ever seen do it / Screams from the haters, got a nice ring to it / Guess every superhero need his theme music”
What a coincidence! Kanye uses screams from the haters as his superhero theme music; I use this song as my theme music when I’m feeling like a superhero. The intoxicating beat of “Power,” the way Kanye turns even his struggles into a rallying cry and just owns that shit, it really takes me to another level where even doing laundry feels like I’m conquering the fucking world.
“I heard he bought coke with my money, that ain’t right girl / You getting blackmailed for that white girl”
Entendre. Is it a double? Is it a triple? A quadruple? I have no idea. All I know is that piece of wordplay is dope (get it?), especially when it’s delivered in the midst of a song as beautiful and honest as “The Blame Game.” And really, it doesn’t need any more explanation than that.
“Lost in this plastic life / Let’s break out of this fake-ass party / Turn this into a classic night / If we die in each other’s arms, still get laid in the afterlife”
This is one of the strongest and probably, most underrated lines on the album. When Yeezy talks about breaking out, you can feel the cathartic energy of his escape from the crushing expectations of his fame.
For a moment, it’s as if you too are breaking away from all the fakeness in your life. But despite that initial joy of the breakout, the line usually leaves me with a deep feeling of sadness. Because it is, in the end, a fantasy. Not a dark twisted one. In fact, it’s about as normal a fantasy as can be. Wanting to free yourself from all the bullshit to have a classic night with someone you can be completely real with is something that everyone can relate to. Unfortunately, for some, it may seem like it could never be anything more than a fantasy.
And that (along with the ridiculous production) is what makes this album so great. While Kanye’s struggles and fantasies are in some ways as different from any of ours as you could imagine, they still resonate because they make conflicts specific to his life feel universal.
We’re all running from something. Kanye just happens to be running from the lights.