5 YEARS AFTER THE FANTASY
by RULA AL-NASRAWI
“My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” turned five earlier this week. Five is an underrated number. It’s the number of fingers and toes on each hand and foot. The number of senses we have. The official number of the planet Mercury—whatever that means. The number of vowels in the English alphabet. The number of hearts pumping blood through one little earthworm’s body. Whether we see it or not, the number five bears some sort of unspoken significance. And five years ago or five years ahead is both not that long and still a long enough time for life as we know it to shed its skin 5,10,15,20 times over. Within five years I had my heart broken, moved to a new city, met some special people, lost some special people, grieved, recovered, loved again and rebuilt myself again. Lost in the world. Down on my line. New in the city. Down for the night. Whether we give a shit or not, that small odd number holds some serious power.
2010 was a pivotal year. But you could honestly say that about most years. Something is only truly pivotal when what we once knew ceased to exist, warped into a grotesque version of its former self. Like we flipped a page one day and the new chapter was nothing like the one before, almost a different book altogether. But there were some stories brewing at the start of the new decade that gave us both wide-eyed promise and cold-sweat fear. It was the year a 7.0 earthquake devastated Haiti killing over 160,000 people, an event that Haitians still have not fully recovered from. It was the year of Bieber fever. Of Sarah Palin wet dreams. Tectonic plates were shifting but we weren’t sure what those subtle shifts would bring quite yet. This was the year Kanye West released his fifth album, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.”
MBDTF is the dirty and painfully poetic offspring of four previous albums worth of work. When it’s less about proving yourself to the fans and more about just proving yourself to yourself. When you haven’t sold out quite yet, or had that nervous breakdown the public is inevitably waiting for. Kanye still hasn’t sold out yet for me, but for others, from starting a fashion line that Tim Gunn has recently called “dumb” and marrying the world’s most famous woman who sits on a throne of nothingness, some would say he has. MBDTF was a post-Amber Rose pre Kimye, Kanye. At the peak of his idontgiveashit-ness, telling off Taylor Swift on stage, brutally calling out his exes in his lyrics, and subjecting us all to his singing voice-autotune or nah. Will he lose it or nah? Will he fuck it up this time, or nah?
The fantasy was initially conceived while West had exiled himself in Oahu, Hawaii in a studio that he had booked indefinitely until the project was finished. He enlisted the help of his friends, but Kanye friends are not like your friends or my friends. Elton John, Alicia Keys, Beyonce, Rihanna. These are Kanye’s roll dogs. The people holding up this project below from its warm and gurgling underbelly. This album was the three-headed dog Kanye depicted in his 2013 project “Yeezus,” only with more heads and more dog and absolutely zero cowbell. Ok, maybe a little cowbell.
Something about the strings of ‘Dark Fantasy’ and the trumpet fanfare in ‘All of the Lights,’ the simple piano of ‘Runaway’ and the pounding drums and choir of ‘Lost in the World,’ the orchestral production of it all—how could something be so extra without ever feeling like it? How could Kanye himself be so extra but still fully get that string quartet plus Nicki Minaj plus a phoenix shooting through the sky equals shoving a viagra into your eardrum.
See, that’s the thing about Kanye. He gets it. He knows what boys like, and what girls want. MBDTF was a compilation, a grandiose yearbook signed by all of his previous works. Welcome to graduation. The album was both sophisticated and gritty, but more than anything, it was also brutally honest. From twisted fictions, and sick addictions to drug life, thug life, rock life every night to no more drugs for me, pussy and religion is all I need. I truly believe the man. And who to blame, you to blame, me to blame, for the pain and it poured every time when it rained. Sex, ego trip, and doubt. Fast cars, shooting stars. The album was a bloody rare burger and we liked it.
Five years ago, the Great Recession was nearing an end. On paper, things were looking up, but that didn’t mean that Lady Liberty would flip a switch and money would start pouring into our mouths. How you say broke in Spanish, me no hablo. Obama was in his second year of Presidency, clearly already struggling to pick up after the Bush administration. No one man should have all that power. Immigration to the U.S. in 2010 had hit a record high, almost 30 percent more than the immigrants entering the country in 2000. Who will survive in America? Who will survive in America? Who will survive in America? Both our economy and immigration policy have slowly begun to shift in positive directions. Tectonic plate shifts. That’s what the five-year mark of a new decade promises after all, a significant enough change in a short enough time. A change we can feel even if we can’t actually see it or feel it in our hands. Looking back after the ‘Yeezus,’ explosion, I find myself looking for that same change. That same tectonic shift. Something to nudge me and let me know that I didn’t make it all up.
But the strangest thing of all is that even five years ago, just long enough without being too long, we were set up to be exactly where we are today. I'm living in the future so the present is my past. We were prepared for a United States where everyone has medical insurance after Obama signed the health care bill. We were prepared for a world of regular surveillance, thanks to Wikileaks. And with Kanye’s “Lost in the World” being written about Kim Kardashian, we were even unknowingly prepared for Kimye too. Who would have thought, five earthworm hearts ago, that we were unknowingly just around the corner the whole time?
Never in your wildest dreams. Never in your wildest dreams, in your wildest.