Favorite 4365. “Hell of a Life” by Kanye West

Album Cover Video:

Extra point to West for constructing this song around the hook of Sabbath’s “Iron Man:”

“Hell of a Life” has been interpreted as a metaphor for drug addiction, as West’s dream of finally successfully courting Kim Kardashian, or as a song about his relationship with then-girlfriend Amber Rose. Ultimately, perhaps, the song is a peak into the dark places of West’s mind that, perhaps, gave the album its title.

Favorite 4364. “Runaway” by Kanye West & Pusha T

Official video:

Full length version with epic Pusha T verse:

Everywhere I read about the song, they describe the piano at the start of “Runaway” as “haunting.” I would say that word captures it perfectly. It is reminiscent of 90’s trip-hop in the best way.

Much like “Power,” “Runaway” is a statement of personal identity. West lists his faults, specifically in regards to how he interacts with people. The chorus nails it:

And I always find, yeah, I always find something wrong
You been putting up with my shit just way too long
I’m so gifted at finding what I don’t like the most
So I think it’s time for us to have a toast
Let’s have a toast for the douchebags
Let’s have a toast for the assholes
Let’s have a toast for the scumbags
Every one of them that I know
Let’s have a toast for the jerk-offs
That’ll never take work off
Baby, I got a plan
Run away fast as you can

The Pusha T verse is quite rightly praised as a highlight of the piece. He portrays himself as the kind of douchebag Kanye kind of only pretends to be. His character is just appalling and that’s the point – he’s telling his girl to run away, but he knows she won’t. He admits he’s a douche but, since he also acknowledges he’s not going to change, he becomes a hundred times worse. Powerful ending to a great song.

4363. “Devil In a New Dress” by Kanye West & Rick Ross

Album cover:

“Devil in a New Dress” is built largely around an altered Smokey Robinson sample from “Will You Love Me Tomorrow:”

That sample and the slower beat make the song sound a bit like a soulful throw-back to The College Dropout. I’m not especially taken with this track, but maybe I’m just not listening to it enough.

4362. “So Appalled” by Kanye West, JAY Z, Pusha T, Prynce Cy Hi, Swizz Beatz & RZA

Fan lyric video:

There’s some really fantastic lines and wordplay on “So Appalled,” so I actively encourage you to listen to it. Its not one of my favorite songs on the album, but its not one I skip over either. There’s some especially good material about MC Hammer, God’s iPod, and MTV. To say any more would be to spoil things.

RZA of Wu-Tang Clan, Jay-Z, Swizz Beats, Pusha-T and Cyhi the Prynce are featured.

Favorite 4361. “Monster” by Kanye West, JAY Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj & Bon Iver

Official (Hostel inspired?) controversial video:

“Monster” plays on multiple meanings of the word monster – from the literal reading of the word to the concept of a “monster hit.” The song features Jay-Z, Rick Ross, and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, but the undisputed star of the track is Nicki Minaj. She sings the last verse and kills it so fucking hard. The whole song is good, but Nicki growls, laughs and taunts it into greatness.

The great thing about Nicki’s last verse is she proves, both in terms of talent and transgressive-ness, that (between herself, Kanye and Jay-Z) she’s the biggest monster of them all. She is all the cool.

Favorite 4360. “All of the Lights” by Kanye West

Official video:

“All Of The Lights” features a number of singers, notably Rihanna on the chorus, but also John Legend, The-Dream, Elly Jackson, Alicia Keys, Fergie, Kid Cudi, and Elton John (who also plays piano, naturally). A great album is identified, in part, by the number of great songs you find on it. “All of The Lights” makes My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy four for four great songs so far.

Unlike many of the other songs on this album, on this track West raps from the point of view of a different character – a parolee who is trying hard to reconnect with his daughter. Genius.com argues that this scenario is actually a metaphor for West’s relationship with his fans, but I think its also appropriate to read the lyrics literally.

If you want to play a challenging game, try to identify when the different singers who contributed to this song are featured. Most of them are blended into backing vocals, but some of them can be heard quite clearly.

Favorite 4358. “Power” by Kanye West

Fan video:

I guess this is the official video for the song, but its not the whole song:

“Power” may very well be my favorite song by Kanye West.

First, it features a well employed sample from King Crimson:

Second, the lyrics are tight. West shows himself to be self-aware, confident, vulnerable and witty. For example, the whole “power” motif cuts both ways if you listen to the song – he both suggests that he does have power, but a closer listen suggests that he’s aware that the “power” attributed to him by his critics is not real – as in do his critics really think he has that much power? The song is also empowering in the sense that singing it is an affirmation of one’s own power. Very effective song writing.

Third, holy cats is it catchy as all get out. The altered sample from Continent n6 is especially satisfying:

From start to finish, a fantastic song.

Favorite 4357. “Gorgeous” by Kanye West, Kid Cudi & Raekwon

Fan video:

Kid Cudi provides the massive hook for this song and Raekwon of Wu Tang Clan contributes one verse. “Gorgeous” features some of West’s best lyrics ever. The song focuses on social injustice, which West, of course, personalizes.

The song employs a great sample from The Turtles’ version of “You Showed Me:”

I’ve not been writing a whole lot about West’s songs because I feel like they kind of speak for themselves. I’ll mention that I especially love this progression:

And at the airport they check all through my bag
And tell me that it’s random
But we stay winning, this week has been a bad massage
I need a happy ending and a new beginning
And a new fitted, and some job opportunities that’s lucrative

Nice double use of happy ending there. I’m apparently a fifth grader.

Favorite 4356. “Dark Fantasy” by Kanye West

Album cover video:

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was Kanye West’s outstanding 2010 album. It was the first album I ever listened to by West and it blew me away. It still does.

West’s personal music preferences allegedly lean towards rock – specifically indy rock, but West samples from some wide and disparate sources here. He constructs some amazing tracks. Anyone who argues that West doesn’t actually create music or do anything other than “twiddle nobs” is a moron.

The album opens with “Dark Fantasy”. The first voice you here is Nicki Minaj, the second Teyana Taylor. Justin Venon of Bon Iver also guests on this song.

Its almost impossible to separate the artist from the music with Kanye West. His songs make so many references to his life that you almost need to follow the gossip columns just to get what he’s referring to. Fortunately for us, we have Genius to annotate the lyrics.

I love the hook on this track (“Can we get much higher? So high! Oh oh oh!”) because its catchy as all hell. This is partially built around a Mike Oldfield sample:

The whole piece announces that this is going to be something huge and bombastic from West (he’s sometimes called a “maximalist”). The album was released after a number of major public incidents in West’s life – notably the infamous Taylor Swift incident. As a whole, it explores the the pitfalls of celebrity and success – those things don’t necessarily make you a happy person.