My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is the fifth studio album by American rapper and producer Kanye West. It was released on November 22, 2010, by Def Jam Recordings and Roc-A-Fella Records. It follows a period of public and legal controversy for West, who retreated to a self-imposed exile in Hawaii in 2009 and recorded at Honolulu's Avex Recording Studio in a communal environment involving numerous contributing musicians and producers. Additional recording sessions took place at Glenwood Place Studios in Burbank, California, and at Electric Lady Studios and Platinum Sound Recording Studios in New York City.
The album was produced primarily by West, along with a variety of high-profile producers such as Mike Dean, No I.D., Jeff Bhasker, RZA, S1, Bink, and DJ Frank E. Music journalists have noted the album features a maximalist aesthetic and opulent production quality with elements of West's previous works, including soul, baroque, electro, and symphonic styles, as well as progressive rock influences. Thematically, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy explores West's status as a celebrity, consumer culture, race, and the idealism of the American Dream. Guest vocalists on the album include Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Bon Iver, Jay-Z, Pusha T, Rick Ross, Kid Cudi, John Legend, Elton John and Raekwon.
To help market the album, West released free songs through his weekly GOOD Fridays series and four singles – "Power", "Runaway", "Monster", and "All of the Lights" – all of which were top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100. West also released a musical short film, Runaway (2010), set to music from the album. In its first week of release, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 and sold 496,000 copies, eventually reaching three million for a triple platinum certification by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was an immediate and widespread critical success, and was named the best album of 2010 in many publications' year-end lists, including the annual Pazz & Jop poll of American critics nationwide. The album also won Best Rap Album at the 2012 Grammy Awards but was not nominated for Album of the Year, which was viewed as a "snub" by several media outlets. The album's hit single "All of the Lights" won Best Rap Song and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. Widely considered West's best album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy has ranked in several professionally curated lists as the best album of the 2010s and among the greatest of all time according to NME and Rolling Stone. George Condo's accompanying artwork – illustrating West straddled by an armless winged female (a phoenix) – has been ranked among the greatest album covers.
The album was conceived during West's self-imposed exile in Oahu, Hawaii, at Avex Honolulu Studio following a period of legal and public image controversy. He said later that fatigue from overworking led to his controversial outburst after Taylor Swift was awarded Best Female Video at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. He was disgusted with the ensuing media response, which led to a hiatus from recording. Amid the widespread negative response to his behavior, his scheduled tour with recording artist Lady Gaga to promote his previous album, 808s & Heartbreak, was cancelled on October 1, 2009, without explanation.
Recording and production
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was recorded in sessions at Avex Recording Studio in Honolulu, Hawaii. Additional recording took place at Glenwood Place Studios in Burbank, California, and at Electric Lady Studios and Platinum Sound Recording Studios in New York City. It was reported that West spent over $3 million provided by his record label Def Jam to record the album, making it one of the most expensive albums ever made. He later explained the initial recording process to Noah Callahan-Bever, Complex editor-in-chief and West's then-confidant, who said "he'd holed up in Hawaii and was importing his favorite producers and artists to work on and inspire his recording. Rap Camp!" Artists who were reported to have participated in the sessions for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy included: Raekwon, RZA, Pusha T, Rick Ross, Charlie Wilson, Big Sean, Cyhi the Prynce, Swizz Beatz, Dwele, Nicki Minaj, T.I., Drake, Common, Jay-Z, John Legend, Fergie, Rihanna, The-Dream, Ryan Leslie, Elton John, M.I.A., Justin Vernon, Seal, Beyoncé, Kid Cudi, Mos Def, Santigold, Alicia Keys and Elly Jackson. Record producers who participated in the sessions with West included: Q-Tip, RZA, DJ Premier, Madlib, Statik Selektah, and Pete Rock. Madlib said he made five beats for the album, while DJ Premier said his beats were ultimately discarded.
West, who had previously recorded 808s & Heartbreak at Avex, block-booked the studio's three session rooms simultaneously for 24 hours a day to work on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. According to Callahan-Bever, who visited West during the recording sessions, "when he hits a creative wall ... he heads to another studio room to make progress on another song". West never slept a full night at the "glass-enclosed mansion" he had rented, opting instead to take power naps in a studio chair or couch 90 minutes at a time. Engineers worked around the clock, as West bounced from room to room. This assiduous work ethic led to him employing two private chefs, one for hot and one for cold food. Before recording in the afternoon, West and most of his crew played games of 21 against locals at the Honolulu YMCA for leisure. Kid Cudi smoked marijuana in preparation and worked out on a treadmill, while RZA worked out in the weight room. West held breakfast each morning at his Diamond Head residence for his crew.
Throughout the album's development, West solicited other producers and musicians to weigh in on its music with conversations and contributions at the studio. Observing discussions among them during his visit, Callahan-Bever noted: "Despite the heavyweights assembled, the egos rarely clash; talks are sprawling, enlightening, and productive ... we are here to contribute, challenge, and inspire". In an interview with Callahan-Bever, Q-Tip described the process as "music by committee" and elaborated on its significance to the sessions and West's work ethic:
Pete Rock said of his studio experience with West, "He's definitely hip-hop, his roots, I was testing him on joints ... He takes it to another level which is dope. He had these musicians and this song, they played around my little raggedy beat and made it real. I love the way he works – he goes from one room, writing rhymes then goes to another beat and goes to another room and does something else – I love what he's done". Rapper Pusha T characterized the album as "a collage of sounds" and found West's recording methods unorthodox, saying that: "We could easily be working on one song, thinking we're in a mode, and he'll hear a sound from someone like [producer] Jeff Bhasker and immediately turn his whole attention to that sound and go through his mental Rolodex to where that sound belongs on his album, and then it goes straight to that song, immediately". DJ Premier said of the production in comparison to West's previous work, "Well, first of all, if you look at all of Kanye West's output, he actually did a lot to bring back sampling and make it cool again, even though he's more of a mainstream artist ... but his new album is strictly hard beats and rhyme. He's totally done with electro. You're gonna be surprised what you hear".
To prevent any of the material leaking onto the Internet, West made the album's recording as secretive as he could; he instituted a "No tweeting, no talking, no e-mailing" rule for others at the sessions. Pusha T recalled West's attitude in an interview for Rolling Stone, saying that "then there happened to be a leak, and I remember Kanye ranting and raving, like, 'Fuck this! We're not going to ever work there again! We're going to work in hotel rooms!'" West subsequently recorded in hotel rooms for Watch the Throne, his 2011 album with Jay-Z.
The music is described as maximalist by Jon Caramanica, who also notes East Coast hip hop elements, and Rob Sheffield, who observes "hip-hop epics, R&B ballads, alien electronics, prog-rock samples". Various writers also observe elements from West's previous four albums. Entertainment Weekly's Simon Vozick-Levinson believes these elements "recur at various points", and include "the luxurious soul of 2004's The College Dropout, the symphonic pomp of Late Registration, the gloss of 2007's Graduation, and the emotionally exhausted electro of 2008's 808s & Heartbreak". Sean Fennessey of The Village Voice writes that West had learned "the gifts of his handpicked collaborators" from previous studio albums and utilizes them here, sometimes to a heightened degree, "arranging orchestral majesty" (cf. Jon Brion on Late Registration) and "adapt[ing] DJ Toomp's oozing menace" (from Graduation) while "Cudi's moaning melodies became elemental" (cf. 808s & Heartbreak).
The album is viewed as a culmination of West's past albums. Ryan Dombal of Pitchfork says, "Musically, [the album] largely continues where 2007's Graduation left off in its maximalist hip-hop bent, with flashes of The College Dropout's comfort-food sampling and Late Registration's baroque instrumentation weaved in seamlessly". Andy Kellman echoes this sentiment, but adds that "it does not merely draw characteristics from each one of them. The 13 tracks ... sometimes fuse them together simultaneously. Consequently, the sonic and emotional layers are often difficult to pry apart and enumerate". Kellman feels "All of the Lights" denotes the album's "contrasting elements and maniacal extravagance". Conversely, Robert Christgau comments that the music abandons the "grace" of The College Dropout and Late Registration in favor of "grandiosity" and "sonic luxuries".
The album is also described by music journalists as a work of prog-rap music, with Carl Williott of Idolator musing if it was "the world's first". HotNewHipHop writer Samuel Allan regarded it as "a massive, paradigm-exploding piece of pop maximalism and prog-rap", and Rolling Stone's Christopher R. Weingarten called it "a Pink Floyd–sized, King Crimson–sampling 68-minute prog-rap behemoth in the age of shrinking budgets". Eric Sundermann of Noisey also referenced the album as prog rap, and fellow contributor Phil Witmer regarded the album as "an unprecedented retreat by a hip-hop artist into the weird world" of 1970s progressive rock. Al Horner from NME called it a rap opera.
Lyrics and themes
Throughout the album, West's lyrics explore themes of excess, celebrity, decadence, grandiosity, escapism, sex, wealth, romance, self-aggrandizement, and self-doubt. Andrew Martin of Prefix Magazine notes the album's ethos as "more is more", describing it as "a meditation on fame" where West decries the burden that it entails. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy also features more open references to drinking and drug use than on West's previous albums. Nathan Rabin of The A.V. Club describes it as "darkly funny, boldly introspective, and characteristically fame-obsessed", noting "manic highs and depressive lows emotionally" on the album. Christgau finds the album's themes of insecurity and uncertainty to be West's "heart, his message, the reason he's so major", noting the tracks "Hell of a Life" and "Runaway" as examples. Greg Kot, writing in the Chicago Tribune, said West displays a transparency and "almost pathological allegiance to expressing his emotions, unfiltered".
In the opinion of Pitchfork's Ryan Dombal, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is "a hedonistic exploration into a rich and famous American id". Chris Martins of Spin says it is an alternately grandiose and eloquent production that "owed as much to the artist's self-aggrandizing ego as to the voracious id that would destroy it publicly". Music writer Ann Powers interprets the predominant theme on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy to be "the crisis of the jet-lagged cosmopolitan ... the exhausted cry of one who's always new in town, chasing whatever goal or girl is in the room, fueled by consumer culture's relentless buzz, but finally left unsatisfied". Powers views the songs work "as pornographic boasts, romantic disaster stories, devil-haunted dark nights of the soul" and perceives West's "uncertainty about his own place in the world" to be connected to the subject of race, stating: "The rootlessness West celebrates and despairs of on Fantasy belongs to someone who feels unwelcome everywhere. This isn't just a personal problem. It's the curse of what the author Michael Eric Dyson has called 'the exceptional black man', embraced for his talents but singled out for the color of his skin". According to Sheffield, "it's also a rock-star manifesto for a downsizing world."
The album begins with "Dark Fantasy", opened by Nicki Minaj narrating in an English accent a retelling of Roald Dahl's poem Cinderella. The song introduces themes of decadence and hedonism, with West musing how "the plan was to drink until the pain was over / But what's worse, the pain or the hangover?". The track's lyrics contain musical and popular culture references, including: the song "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)", the Lamborghini Murciélago sports car, rapper Nas, fashion designer Phoebe Philo, the short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", the song "Sex on Fire", singer Leona Lewis, and television character Steve Urkel. "All of the Lights" incorporates drum 'n' bass breaks and brass fanfare. West's lyrics contain a reference to the death of Michael Jackson in the opening lines and present the narrative of a character who abuses his lover, does prison time, scuffles with her new boyfriend, and subsequently mourns his absence from his child's life. West enlisted 11 guest vocalists, including Alicia Keys, John Legend, Elton John, Tony Williams, Elly Jackson for the song; Rihanna sings the song's hook. In an interview with MTV, Jackson said of the song's vocal layering, "He got me to layer up all these vocals with other people, and he just basically wanted to use his favorite vocalists from around the world to create this really unique vocal texture on his record, but it's not the kind of thing where you can pick it out".
"Devil in a New Dress" is built on a sample of Smokey Robinson's "Will You Love Me Tomorrow". Its lyrics are about lust and heartache, with sexual and religious imagery described by one critic as "part bedroom allure, part angelic prayer". It is the only track without production by West but features his characteristic style of manipulating the pitch and tempo of classic soul samples. "Runaway" features a piano-based motif comprising a series of sustained descending half and whole notes, with a coda that incorporates light strings and vocoder-singing by West. The narrator's self-critical lyrics reflect on his personality and character flaws. Sean Fennessey cites the song as the point in the album where "self-laceration overtakes chest-beating", noting West's sung-line: "I'm so gifted at finding what I don't like the most". Inspired by his two-year relationship with model Amber Rose, "Hell of a Life" contains a psychedelic rock sample and a narrative about marrying a porn star. According to critic Ryan Dombal, the song "attempts to bend its central credo—'no more drugs for me, pussy and religion is all I need'—into a noble pursuit ... The song blurs the line between fantasy and reality, sex and romance, love and religion, until no lines exist at all. It's a zonked nirvana with demons underneath; a fragile state that can't help but break apart on the very next song". "Blame Game" is a low-key track about a painful domestic dispute. It features a sample of the piano composition "Avril 14th" by Richard D. James, additional vocals by John Legend, and a profane skit by comedian Chris Rock.
"Lost in the World" features tribal drums and samples Bon Iver's "Woods", a song originally written about alienation, applied by West "as the centerpiece of a catchy, communal reverie." It features several musical changes, beginning with Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon's faint vocals, followed by 4/4 drums, gospel-styled chorus, and increased tempo, and a final measured tempo. "Lost in the World" transitions into the closing track "Who Will Survive in America". It serves as the album's coda and is built on a sample of Gil Scott-Heron's "Comment No. 1", a blunt, surrealist piece delivered by Scott-Heron in spoken word about the African-American experience and the fated idealism of the American dream. Scott-Heron's original speech, which criticized the 1960s Revolutionary Youth Movement for failing to recognize the more basic needs of the African-American community, is edited to a reduced version on the track that, according to music writer Greg Kot, "retains its essence, that of an African-American male who feels cut off from his country and culture". By contrast, Sean Fennessey interprets it as "a too-serious denouement for an album that is more about the self's little nightmares than some aching societal rejection".
Title and packaging
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was formerly known as Good Ass Job and then tentatively titled Dark Twisted Fantasy. GOOD Music artist Big Sean was the second person to announce the album's title was Good Ass Job. On July 24, 2010, a banner appeared on West's blog that read "My Dark Twisted Fantasy Trailer". On July 28, 2010, West announced on his new official Twitter account that: "The album is no longer called 'Good Ass Job' I'm bouncing a couple of titles around now." The official title, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, was announced on October 5, 2010; the title Good Ass Job will be used for West's upcoming collaborative album with Chance the Rapper.
The artwork, designed by George Condo, shows West being straddled on a bed by an armless winged female (a phoenix) with fearsome features and a long, spotted tail. Both are nude, and one of the phoenix's nipples and her buttocks are visible. The artwork was done at the painter's New York studio, after West visited for several hours and they listened to tapes of the rapper's music. Over the next few days, Condo made eight or nine paintings for the album. Two of them were portraits of West, one in extreme closeup, with mismatched eyes and four sets of teeth. Another showed his head, crowned and decapitated, placed sideways on a white slab, impaled by a sword. There was also a painting of a dyspeptic ballerina in a black tutu, a painting of the crown and the sword by themselves in a grassy landscape. Condo made five covers, all which were included with the album's purchase. A second cover, with a painting of a ballerina, was posted on the Amazon.com pre-order page. It was originally intended to be the artwork for "Runaway"'s single release, but West used a photograph of a ballerina instead. Another painting, The Priest, was completed for the album by Condo, who described it as an attempt to bring depictions of religious figures into the modern world.
According to Condo, West requested the original cover image be provocative enough to be banned by retailers, as a publicity stunt. In October 2010, a month before the album's release, West tweeted: "Yoooo they banned my album cover!!!!! Banned in the USA!!! They don't want me chilling on the couch with my Phoenix!" He also suggested Walmart had rejected the cover and cited the case of Nirvana's 1991 album Nevermind, which featured a photo of a naked baby. "So Nirvana can have a naked human being on their cover, but I can't have a PAINTING of a monster with no arms and a polka dot tail and wings," he said. In response, Walmart denied West's suggestion in a statement that read, "We're excited about Kanye West's new album and we look forward to carrying it in our stores … We did not reject the cover artwork and it was not presented to us." Some retailers would not carry the album with its original cover, in which case Condo's ballerina artwork was used as a substitute.
In 2011, it was named one of the 50 greatest album covers of all time by MusicRadar. In 2015, Billboard named the phoenix artwork as the 30th best album cover of all time. In 2017, NME listed it as the seventh best album artwork of the 21st century so far.
Before the album's release, West initiated the free music program GOOD Fridays through his website on August 20, 2010, offering a free download of previously unreleased songs each Friday; some were included on the album. Titled after his imprint label GOOD Music, the program generated considerable publicity in the months leading up to the album's release. Online marketing coordinator Karen Civil said of the program in retrospect, "It's a genius idea. He did something no one had ever done before, and at a point when he was the most hated person in music, he brought excitement back with his Friday releases". G.O.O.D. Fridays was originally intended to continue through December, but West extended it through January 2011.
On September 12, 2010, West premiered "Runaway" in live performance at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards. Three weeks later, on October 2, he performed the song on Saturday Night Live, along with "Power". Two days later, the album's release date was announced for November 22. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was released for digital download on Amazon at a list price of $3.99. This coincided with the site's $3 discount promotional offer on MP3 purchases made valid through the release week. Four singles were released from the album and became top 40 hits on the US Billboard Hot 100 – "Power" (released July 1, 2010, charted No. 22), "Runaway" (released October 4, charted No. 12), "Monster" (released October 23, charted No. 18), and "All of the Lights" (released January 18, 2011, charted No. 18).
A 35-minute film – Runaway, featuring the titular song's official music video – was directed by West and released on October 23, 2010. Filmed in Prague over a period of four days during Summer 2010, the film stars West and model Selita Ebanks and features a script written by Hype Williams with the story written by West. West described the video as an "overall representation of what [he dreams]" and a parallel to his music career, in that, "It's the story of a phoenix fallen to Earth, and I make her my girlfriend, and people discriminate against her and eventually she has to burn herself alive and go back to her world. I've been feeling the idea of the phoenix. It's been in my heart for a while. It's maybe parallel to my career. I threw a Molotov cocktail on my career last year, in a way, and I had to come back as a better person. At one of his screenings in Paris, the film seemed to represent a lot emotionally for him as he broke down in tears. Later after another screening, West said his music and "art" and how it affects people is the reason he continues to create music.
Following the release of the album, West performed headlining sets at several large festivals, including SXSW 2011, Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, and Coachella 2011; the latter was described by The Hollywood Reporter as "one of the great hip-hop sets of all time." To further promote the album, West performed at Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
In its first week of release, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 and sold 496,000 copies in the United States. The entry blocked Nicki Minaj's debut studio album Pink Friday from the top spot with 375,000 sales, with the week marking the first time in two years that the Billboard 200 has seen two albums bow with more than 300,000 units. This gave West his fourth consecutive US number-one album and was higher than the 450,000 first-week sales of his previous album 808s & Heartbreak, with the debut week becoming the fourth-best sales week of 2010. The album's first-week digital sales of 224,000 units marked the fourth-highest sales week for a digitally-downloaded album. The album was also a chart topper in Canada, standing as West's fourth number one album on the Canadian Albums Chart. It sold at a smaller rate in Denmark, reaching number four on the Danish Albums chart. Similarly, the album opened at number six on the ARIA Albums chart.
In its second week on the Billboard 200, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy descended six places to number seven, while remaining above Pink Friday by one place, and sold 108,000 copies, marking a 78% sales decline. The album ultimately spent 115 weeks on the Billboard 200, and by July 2013, it had sold 1,351,000 copies in the US, as reported by Nielsen SoundScan. By June 2011, the album was the second best-selling digital rap album ever, selling 483,000 digital copies. On November 23, 2020, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was certified triple platinum by the RIAA for three million shipments in the US. That same year, it was reported that the album had been played one billion times on the streaming service Spotify.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was met with widespread critical acclaim. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from professional publications, the album received an average score of 94, based on 45 reviews. Aggregator AnyDecentMusic? gave it 8.8 out of 10, based on their assessment of the critical consensus.
Reviewing in November 2010, Andy Gill of The Independent hailed the album as "one of pop's gaudiest, most grandiose efforts of recent years, a no-holds-barred musical extravaganza in which any notion of good taste is abandoned at the door". Ann Powers, writing for the Los Angeles Times, found the music "Picasso-like, fulfilling the Cubist mandate of rearranging form, texture, color and space to suggest new ways of viewing things". It was also called West's most lavish record in a review by Time magazine's David Browne, who said it proved again that few other artists shared his ability to adeptly combine diverse elements. Dan Vidal of URB highlighted the rapper's ability to bring the best out of his collaborators, finding it comparable to the work of Miles Davis. In Rolling Stone, Sheffield called the album West's best and most wildly inspired record to date, claiming that no other artist was recording music as dark or uncanny, and adding that West had transgressed the very conventions he established for rap and pop music of the past five years. Sputnikmusic critic Channing Freeman regarded it as "the first album in which he's truly lived up to his potential in every way – as a rapper, as a lyricist, as a songwriter". The Village Voice's Sean Fennessey found it overwhelming and skillfully produced because of the way each song transitions over "like some long night out into the hazy morning after". Robert Christgau, in MSN Music, hailed it as a "world-beating return to form" for West. Pitchfork awarded the album a 10/10, the first perfect score it had given to a new release since Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot in 2001.
Some reviewers were more qualified in their praise. For The Guardian, Kitty Empire was critical of West's lyrics calling women "ruthless money-grabbers" on what she deemed a "herculean" and "flawed near-masterpiece". Andy Kellman, reviewing in AllMusic, found West's rapping inconsistent on what was nonetheless "a deeply fascinating accomplishment" in West's catalogue: "As fatiguing as it is invigorating, as cold-blooded as it is heart-rending, as haphazardly splattered as it is meticulously sculpted, [the album] is an extraordinarily complex 70-minute set of songs ... As the ego and ambition swells, so does the appeal, the repulsiveness, and – most importantly – the ingenuity".
At the end of 2010, numerous critics and publications included My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy on their year-end top albums lists. Many named it the best album of 2010, including Billboard, Time, Slant Magazine, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, and Spin. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was voted best album in The Village Voice's Pazz & Jop critics' poll for 2010, winning by the largest margin in the poll's history. The singles "Power", "Runaway", and "Monster" were voted in the top-10 of the Pazz & Jop's singles list. Metacritic, which collates reviews of music albums, named it the best-reviewed album of 2010 and the sixth best of original albums from the 2010s to have at least 15 professional reviews.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy later appeared on decade-end and all-time lists of the best albums. In 2012, Complex included it on their list of 25 Rap Albums From the Past Decade That Deserve Classic Status. In October 2013, Complex named it the best hip hop album of the last five years. The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. In August 2014, Pitchfork named it the best album of the 2010s decade so far, and an accompanying essay said, "West broke the ground upon which the new decade's most brilliant architects built their masterworks; Bon Iver, Take Care, Channel Orange, and Good Kid, M.A.A.D City don't exist without the blueprint of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The list ends here because it's where the decade truly begins." Christgau later ranked it as the decade's eighth-best album, saying it remains "perversely superb".
Based on such rankings, Acclaimed Music lists My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy as the 26th most critically acclaimed album in history, the third-highest ranking for any hip hop album. According to Chris Lambert of Forbes in 2019, the album "has maintained a consistency of recognition" as West's greatest work and one of the top albums from the 2010s, if not the decade's best album. In 2020, Marc Hogan from Pitchfork considered it among the great art pop albums of the last 20 years to "have filled the void of full-length statements with both artistic seriousness and mass appeal that was formerly largely occupied by [rock] guitar bands".
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy won awards for both Album of the Year and Reader's Choice: Best Album at the 2010 HipHopDX Awards. For the 2011 NAACP Image Awards, the album was nominated for Outstanding Album, and at the 2011 BET Hip Hop Awards, it was awarded CD of the Year. The album earned a nomination for Top Rap Album, presented at the 2011 Billboard Music Awards, where it ultimately lost to Eminem's 2010 album Recovery.
For the 54th Annual Grammy Awards in 2012, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was nominated in the category of Best Rap Album, which it won. "All of the Lights" was also nominated for Song of the Year, Best Rap Song, and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration, winning in the latter two categories. However, The Recording Academy's decision not to nominate My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy for Album of the Year was viewed by many media outlets as a snub, along with the rejection of Watch the Throne – West's collaborative album with Jay-Z – for that category. Writing for Time in December 2011, music journalist Touré deemed West's nominations in minor Grammy categories "booby prizes", and stated, "MBDTF is by far the best reviewed album in many years: the critical community flipped out over it like nothing since Radiohead’s zenith. And it sold well, over 1.2 million so far. So what happened? How is it Grammy overlooked Kanye's magnum opus and gave noms to four sonic widgets and Adele's 21?" He explored possible reasons for the Academy to snub West, including split votes between My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Watch the Throne, concerns over West's past controversies, and more commercially appealing nominees, but ultimately stated:
In the Los Angeles Times, Randall Roberts was critical of the nominations for the 54th Grammy Awards, particularly for the Album of the Year category, noting the exclusion of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – "the most critically acclaimed album of the year, a career-defining record" – as a snub in favor of nominating less substantial albums. West, who was vocal in his displeasure with past award snubs, responded onstage during a concert on the Watch the Throne Tour, saying: "That's my fault for dropping Watch the Throne and Dark Fantasy the same year. I should've just spaced it out, just a little bit more."
|2.||"Gorgeous" (featuring Kid Cudi and Raekwon)||5:57|
|4.||"All of the Lights (Interlude)"||1:02|
|5.||"All of the Lights"||4:59|
|6.||"Monster" (featuring Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj and Bon Iver)||6:18|
|7.||"So Appalled" (featuring Swizz Beatz, Jay-Z, Pusha T, Cyhi the Prynce and RZA)||6:38|
|8.||"Devil in a New Dress" (featuring Rick Ross)||5:52|
|9.||"Runaway" (featuring Pusha T)||9:08|
|10.||"Hell of a Life"||5:27|
|11.||"Blame Game" (featuring John Legend)||7:49|
|12.||"Lost in the World" (featuring Bon Iver)||4:16|
|13.||"Who Will Survive in America"||1:38|
|14.||"See Me Now" (featuring Beyoncé, Charlie Wilson and Big Sean)||6:03|
|1.||"Runaway" (short film)||Hype Williams||West||35:00|
- ^[a] signifies a co-producer
- ^[b] signifies an additional producer
- "Dark Fantasy" features background vocals by Nicki Minaj and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, and additional vocals by Teyana Taylor and Amber Rose
- "Gorgeous" features background vocals by Tony Williams
- "Power" is stylized in uppercase letters and features additional vocals by Dwele
- "All of the Lights" features additional vocals by Rihanna, Kid Cudi, Tony Williams, The-Dream, Charlie Wilson, John Legend, Elly Jackson of La Roux, Alicia Keys, Elton John, Fergie, Ryan Leslie, Drake, Alvin Fields and Ken Lewis
- "Runaway" features background vocals by Tony Williams and additional vocals by The-Dream
- "Hell of a Life" features additional vocals by Teyana Taylor and The-Dream
- "Blame Game" features additional vocals by Chris Rock and Salma Kenas
- "Lost in the World" and "Who Will Survive in America" feature additional vocals by Charlie Wilson, Kaye Fox, Tony Williams, Alicia Keys and Elly Jackson of La Roux
- "Dark Fantasy" contains samples of "In High Places", written by Mike Oldfield and Jon Anderson, and performed by Anderson.
- "Gorgeous" contains portions and elements of the composition "You Showed Me", written by Gene Clark and Roger McGuinn, and performed by The Turtles.
- "Power" contains elements from "It's Your Thing", performed by Cold Grits; elements of "Afromerica", written by Francois Bernheim, Jean-Pierre Lang, and Boris Bergman, and performed by Continent Number 6; and material sampled from "21st Century Schizoid Man", composed by Robert Fripp, Michael Giles, Greg Lake, Ian McDonald, and Peter Sinfield, and performed by King Crimson.
- "So Appalled" contains samples of "You Are – I Am", written by Manfred Mann, and performed by Manfred Mann's Earth Band.
- "Devil in a New Dress" contains samples of "Will You Love Me Tomorrow", written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin, and performed by Smokey Robinson.
- "Runaway" contains a sample of "Expo 83", written by J. Branch, and performed by Backyard Heavies; and excerpts from Rick James Live at Long Beach, CA, 1981.
- "Hell of a Life" contains samples of "She's My Baby", written by Sylvester Stewart, and performed by The Mojo Men; samples of "Stud-Spider" by Tony Joe White; and portions of "Iron Man", written by Terence Butler, Anthony Iommi, John Osbourne, and William Ward, and performed by Black Sabbath.
- "Blame Game" contains elements of "Avril 14th", written by Richard James, and performed by Aphex Twin.
- "Lost in the World" contains portions of "Soul Makossa", written by Manu Dibango; a sample of "Think (About It)", written by James Brown, and performed by Lyn Collins; samples of "Woods", written by Justin Vernon, and performed by Bon Iver; and samples of "Comment No. 1", written and performed by Gil Scott-Heron.
- "Who Will Survive in America" contains samples of "Comment No. 1" performed by Gil Scott-Heron.
Credits adapted from the album's liner notes.
- 2010 in hip hop music
- GOOD Fridays
- List of hip hop albums considered to be influential
- List of number-one albums of 2010 (Canada)
- List of Billboard 200 number-one albums of 2010
- List of number-one rap albums of 2010 (U.S.)
- List of Billboard number-one R&B albums of 2010
- Runaway (2010 film)