Ten years after its debut, Kanye West‘s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy remains one of the most audacious records of all time. More importantly, it makes good on its promises: in 2020, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy still sounds like a widescreen masterpiece. It’s a decadent celebration of Kanye West, by Kanye West, for us (and maybe a little bit for Kanye West himself).
Now some time has passed, we have a clearer view on all the ways My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy changed hip hop and the broader arc of pop culture. This isn’t an exhaustive or especially deep list – there’s something extravagant and prophetic to pull out of every moment on the record – but these are five of our favourite takeaways.
1. A new era of maximum everything
The first thing you notice about MBDTF is there fact there’s just so much of it. It’s dense with inspiration and collaboration, and it’s hard to see the maximalism of mega-projects like Travis Scott‘s ASTROWORLD or Drake‘s collab-heavy compilations working without Kanye first proving it’s possible.
It’s not just how much Kanye put in, but the proggy ostentatiousness of what’s in there. I’d also make the case that Tame Impala‘s gradual melding with the world of hip hop wouldn’t have been so easy if Kanye didn’t pop that King Crimson sample in Power. Big sounds. Everywhere.
2. It split Kanye’s career in two
There are arguments to be made that MBDTF‘s predecessor, 2008’s 808s & Heartbreak, was the record which really pivoted Kanye away from sounds he fostered earlier in his career. 808s saw Kanye processing the death of his mother, Donda West, along with the end of his engagement. But MBDTF still feels like a statement of intent, the kind of document which would inform the experimentation and scope of the noisy, chaotic, gospel-inflected works to come. It’s all in there.
3. It helped Bon Iver get nutty
We all know Kanye’s talent for sampling eclectic sounds, but MBDTF also proved his ability to make others sound a little bit more Kanye. Do you think Justin Vernon, the gently experimental folk muso, would have crafted something as sprawling and glitchy as 2016’s 22, A Million if he didn’t first have that Lost In The World collab?
4. The lingering power of a Pitchfork 10
The record landed a perfect 10.0 from music blog/cultural arbiter Pitchfork. Since then, only one record has achieved the same feat: this year’s Fiona Apple record, Fetch The Bolt Cutters. Depending on how much stock you put in Pitchfork, this means MBDTF was the record to measure all others against for a solid decade. Here’s how we discussed the Pitchfork score at the time. And here we are, still talking about it.