Alex Stephenson THE MACGUFFIN MEN: 21st Century Schizoid Fan

Pretty much every hip-hop fan not named Kanye West, Sean Carter, and maybe Beyonce Knowles knows in their heart that Jay-Z’s best days are behind him, but Kanye remains an unknown. In any given scenario where you put Kanye in a studio he has been – and remains – a complete wild card. And that’s kind of unique. 

Given the title, I was unsurprised when Runaway began with Kanye running through a forest, away from something unseen, before driving through that same forest in a car that likely cost more than the budget for Hancock. And then a phoenix comes crashing down from the sky, forcing Kanye to crash his car… because of course this happens. Kanye picks up the phoenix and seems to wordlessly accept her as his girlfriend, or something.

They begin a tour through Kanye’s life that involves an 8½ homage, a giant papier-mache Michael Jackson head, a large dinner party, and some good ol’ fashioned phoenix fuckin’. The film ends with the phoenix leaving Kanye and Earth, and we once again see Kanye running through the forest, trying to get her (it?) back.

Kanye’s most recent album release, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, was roundly adored by critics, hip-hop fans, and people who just happen to like music. While it is far from a perfect record – the two and a half minute Chris Rock monologue at the end of Blame Game is unfunny and unforgivable, Hell of a Life isn’t great, without the visual aspect a nine-minute version of Runaway actually is unnecessarily long – it was the most enjoyable hip-hop record released last year, and features a number of songs that are structurally inventive in a way popular hip-hop rarely is.

Gorgeous features some of West’s best verses and a beautiful beat switch-up for Raekwon’s rhymes, Dark Fantasy contains a pretty great RZA-by-way-of-Kanye beat as well as the line, “Look like a fat booty Celine Dion,” and the drums on Lost in the World are Margot-Kidder-circa-1996 insane. Even the mediocre songs are at least kind of impressive: Hell of a Life is still enjoyable and All of the Lights’ seizure by drum committee is delightful. Not to mention that the stellar Monster, So Appalled, Devil in a Blue Dress, and Power all appear on the record. But as good as My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is, let’s not act like Kanye just started making great music.

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