West holds his own, thematically and lyrically. Twisted Fantasy is dark, moody and introspective, a sort of meeting-point for the different facets of his character revealed since 2003’s College Dropout. And these multiple personas are explored, with few exceptions, through sharp, clever rhymes.
For one, there’s the Kanye we first met and fell in love with; he’s conscious of social and racial politics, frustrated with being a black man in today’s America. This is West at his best; smart, witty, empowered, with rhymes like: “Face it, Jerome get more time than Brandon/And at the airport they check all through my bag and tell me that it’s random” and “I treat the cash the way the government treats AIDS/I won’t be satisfied till all my niggas get it/Get it?”
Still, he’s often self-indulgent and hedonistic, the Kanye the public quickly grew to despise. References to jewelry, fashion and women are abundant, and obnoxious, with rhymes like: “My furs is Mongolian/My ice brought the goalies in/Now I embody every characteristic of the egotistic” and “I admit it, my first watch was a Fossil/Now I’m in the Louvre, lookin’ for fossils.”
But it isn’t all platinum chains and supermodels; West is also gloomy and paranoid, much like he was on his last record, 2008’s 808s & Heartbreak. On “So Appalled,” he and Jay-Z and Pusha T and Prynce Cy Hi and Swizz Beatz and RZA assert that “the shit is fuckin’ ridiculous,” the shit in question being “champagne wishes, 30 white bitches”; “five-star dishes, different exotic fishes”; “cars for the misses, furs for the mistress.” Typical rapper stuff, but they collectively seem to be wondering if it’s worth it and shaking their heads inwardly, rather than boasting. The sentiment is reminiscent of 808s & Heartbreak’s “Welcome To Heartbreak,” where West sings: “My friend showed me pictures of his kids/And all I could show him was pictures of my cribs/He said his daughter got a brand-new report card/And all I got was a brand-new sports car.”
Mostly, though, West is the guy who has a million ways to say “kiss my ass.” For instance, “Kiss and hug my ass/X and Os”; “My presence is a present, kiss my ass”; “Tell ‘em Yeezy said they can kiss my whole ass/More specifically, they can kiss my asshole.” This is Kanye the jerk, the petulant egotist.
But he says it best himself: “Hard to be humble when you stuntin’ on a jumbotron.”