Let me start by saying I think that “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” is one of the greatest rap albums…scratch that…greatest ALBUMS ever created. So, the bar is set quite high. Labeling “To Pimp A Butterfly” as the best overall rap record since MBDTF is not at all controversial at this point. However, the question we’re posing is, does it surpass it?
The production on MBDTF wasn’t good, it was immaculate. The album exhibits a “best of” approach to Kanye’s production styles. We’re treated to everything from the sample-heavy soulful Kanye to the orchestral. Though, there’s plenty to be said about TPAB’s refreshing production. The album boasts an exceptional blend of Jazz, Funk and Hip-Hop. There’s always been a bit of a jazz element to Kendrick’s music but with this project he really let it take hold. That said, MBDTF takes the W here.
Both albums score pretty highly in this category. With just 13 tracks, MBDTF is a focused and well-structured album. There’s no throwaway tracks and nothing seems out of place. This is an album you can play on from start to finish. Even the “All of the Lights (Interlude)” instrumental seemed necessary to help shift the tone from “Power”. Though it is clear Kanye put in effort in arranging MBDTF, Kendrick attention to structure is masterful. Guided by two poems, TPAB contains a beautiful narrative both sonic and literal. This category goes to TPAB.
Kanye has never been considered particularly lyrical. He claims that he never wrote down his rhymes until he began working on MBDTF. If that is the case, it seems he should stick to the pen and the pad as the album is arguably his strongest effort. Despite this, there’s another clear winner here. As far as lyrical depth is concerned, there’s no question Kendrick brings it with TPAB. There’s storytelling, metaphors, symbolism and social/political commentary all rolled into one. If you were somehow unsure whether Kendrick deserves to be placed in the pantheon of great lyricists, he’s proven himself here. This is the kind of album that Lupe would have made if his music ever progressed beyond The Cool. It’s no coincidence Lupe announced he’s writing The Cool 2 very soon after TPAB leaked. Winner: TPAB.
With the exception of Nicki’s horrid British accent on “Twisted Fantasy” and Rick Ross’s pointless bars on “Monster”, there are some excellent features on MBDTF. Nicki Minaj delivers arguably the greatest verse she’s ever written with Kanye considering it “the best verse on the album”. Despite the silly ghouls and goblins line, Jay comes through with one of the most memorable guest verses we’ve heard from him in a long time. Pusha T’s “Runaway” verse fits perfectly with the theme of the record and is a highlight on the album. With TPAB, Kendrick reached out to some surprising but appropriate artists. George Clinton, Thundercat, Bilal and Anna Wise all add to the overall feel of the album. Although Kendrick brought in less unnecessary features, there’s more value brought to Kanye’s album through his collaborations. Take away the features on MBDTF and you lose some of album’s best verses. Winner: MBDTF
There’s something to be said about the ability to create a boundlessly affecting song. A song that is universally enjoyed regardless of race, age, or musical preference. One thing’s for certain, Kanye knows how to make those big rap records. There’s no “All Of the Lights” on Butterfly. The album has held up very well over time and with repeated listens. Though TPAB’s political and social significance is strong, it’s tough to say whether we’ll still be listening to the album 10 years from now. Winner: MBDTF
Upon first listen, I knew TPAB was an album I’d be repeating for multiple reasons. Weeks had past and I was still discovering new lyrical gems I hadn’t caught in previous listens. In most cases great art can’t always be fully digested in one sitting and such is true for TPAB. Though, Kanye seems to have the advantage in terms of versatility on MBDTF. There’s mellow introspective songs, dark and upbeat tracks alike. It’s broadness lends itself to being played in multiple settings and moods. Winner: MBDTF.
Both albums are two of the greatest rap releases in the last decade and change. To Pimp a Butterfly is a stronger album from a lyrical perspective but My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy comes out ahead sonically. In the end, the edge goes to Kanye. MBDTF is the culmination of the best of what Kanye has to offer as an artist. It’s tough to imagine him crafting an album that surpasses MBDTF. One can only hope for an album as good. Considering Kendrick is in the early stages of his career, I can envision him topping TPAB.
Nonetheless, I feel comfortable in predicting Butterly will be the Hip-Hop album of the year. Your move, Kanye.
Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments below!