The unstoppable force that is Kanye West returns with his fifth studio album ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’, which goes on sale today. In this album, Mr. West ditches the emotional auto-tuned singing of his last album in favor of a return to hard-hitting beats and rhymes. As always, Kanye places sampling at the heart of his production technique, and this time his choices for inspiration are more diverse and surprising than ever. All tracks on this album were co-produced with other notable names such as RZA, No I.D. and Mike Dean. Let’s take a look at the original gems behind the new work – with a big thank you to all WhoSampled contributors who identified those samples!
The album kicks off nicely with uplifting opener ‘Dark Fantasy’. Kanye uses a vocal hook from Mike Oldfield’s ‘In High Places’ from his 1983 ‘Crisis’ LP and builds around it with newly recorded vocal parts. On the second track, ‘Gorgeous’, Kanye lifts the coveted guitar stabs from the Turtles‘ 1968 classic, ‘You Showed Me‘. Next up is hard-hitting lead single ‘Power’, built around a break from a tough late 70s disco number by obscure group Continent Number 6 laid over the drums from Cold Grits’ heavy funk cover of the Isley Brothers’ ‘It’s Your Thing’. These exact drums were previously used by Kanye in ‘Crack Music‘ off 2005′s ‘Late Registration’ album. Distorted vocal elements are also added courtesy of progressive rockers King Crimson.
Kanye then reels in an all-star cast including Swizz Beatz, Jay-Z and RZA on ‘So Appalled’, using loops from ‘You Are – I Am’ by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, released in 1979. Following this is the sublime ‘Devil in a New Dress’. A pitched-up loop taken from Smokey Robinson’s ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow’ from his ’73 ‘Smokey’ LP provides a heartfelt groove for what is perhaps the album’s strongest track. Next up Kanye chops up another classic funk break, ‘Expo ‘83’ by The Backyard Heavies, creating a chunky, dark groove for ‘Runaway’, featuring Pusha T. ‘Hell of a Life’ opens with a fuzzy organ sample taken from the intro to 60s group Mojo Men’s ‘She’s My Baby’, pitched down to create a dirty bassline. This is then coupled with a beat and vocals lifted from Tony Joe White’s ‘Stud-Spider’, which leads us into the chorus, the auto-tuned interpolation of Black Sabbath’s ‘Iron Man’.
Perhaps the most unexpected sample on the album is on ‘Blame Game’ which centres around a piano loop taken from ‘Avril 14th’, off the ‘Drukqs’ LP from none other than IDM legend Aphex Twin. The epic ‘Lost in the World’ opens with an extended autotune acapella introduction, interpolated from American folk group (and featured artists on this track) Bon Iver’s ‘Woods’. This then breaks into a Baltimore Club style beat including elements from Lyn Collins’ oft-sampled ‘Think (About It)’, peppered with snippets of spoken word from the unmistakeably Gil Scott-Heron. This leads us seamlessly into the final track, ‘Who Will Survive in America’, extending the idea with extensive sampling from the same track.
An album that throws such a diverse and unconventional choice of samples into one musical melting pot is bound to be an interesting listen, and this is certainly the case here. Kanye keeps expanding the musical palette of mainstream Hip-Hop, and it seems like his fans are welcoming his return to the rapping style that made him into the megastar he is today. We can’t wait to see where Kanye will go next.