NEW YORK - Despite his recent public spats with a U.S. talk show and Taylor Swift that have polarized opinions about Kanye West, critics on Monday seemed nearly unanimous about the rapper's new album: they love it.
West's "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy", released this week, is winning raves in the United states and around the world, and the positive press couldn't come at a better time for the Grammy award-winning artist.
In the past year, West has endured negative headlines after charging onto the stage at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards and stealing the microphone from country star Swift to tell audiences that R&B star Beyonce had a great video too.
His reputation seemed to be on the mend until earlier this month when he accused the co-host of U.S. news program "Today" of portraying him negatively over an interview he gave about previously calling ex-president George W. Bush a racist.
Yet, the best thing for an artist caught in a whirlwind of negative publicity is to pump out good art, experts say, and it appears that is what West has done on "Twisted Fantasy."
"History shows that a hit record or a great body of work causes memory lapses when it comes to wrongdoings," Vibe magazine editor-in-chief Jermaine Hall told Reuters. "And as shocking as Kanye's behavior is at times, there is a familiarity to it at this point."
On "Twisted Fantasy," West has embraced new sounds and samples, and his lyrics explore his personality flaws with little concern as to whether a song becomes a hit single. That notion, in itself, seems to have resonated more with music fans and critics than previous media mishaps.
"AHEAD OF THE FIELD"
"Here is an artist so far ahead of the field, he may as well be in a different field altogether," British newspaper The Daily Telegraph said in its review, adding that the work could be considered the "Sgt. Pepper" of hip-hop.
In the United States, Rolling Stone magazine, The Washington Post and West's hometown paper The Chicago Sun-Times have lauded "Twisted Fantasy" as nothing short of genius.
West's last album, 2008's "808s & Heartbreak", was seen as a departure from his previous three hip-hop records due to its heavy reliance on auto-tune West singing instead of rapping.
For "Twisted Fantasy," West retreated to Hawaii and rounded up an eclectic set of guests to help out, including Elton John, Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, John Legend, Drake, La Roux's Elly Jackson and popular indie folk artist, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver.
The result is a complex collage of West's emotions and beliefs weaved throughout 13 tracks of ramped-up music that is largely being viewed as a leap forward, not only from his 2007 album "Graduation" but in the hip-hop genre overall.
West finds himself exploring the relationship between being an artist and a celebrity on the 9-minute long "Runaway" and again on the minimalist "Monster," which features verses from Jay-Z and Nicki Minaj.
Opening song "Dark Fantasy" starts the album sounding like a modern gospel track, but quickly transforms into one of the more revealing pieces as West raps, "the plan was to drink until the pain was over but what's worse, the pain or the hangover?"
"The production is head and shoulders above (his earlier albums)," Hall said. "Lyrically, Kanye always tells a cohesive story on each record. I think this is his most cohesive story yet. With this album, you're buying into an entire body of work. It doesn't digress."
Source: Bob Tourtellotte/Reuters