Pairing Music with Beer 2 – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye West 2010

Welcome to the second installment of Pairing Beer With Music. This article focuses on Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. I feel like there is some explaining to do. Kanye West is polarizing. Some people have already stopped reading because they saw that this was about Kanye. For those who’ve stuck with me this far and are still skeptical let me plead my case.

Kanye West has been the single biggest influence on pop music in the last decade. Each time one of his albums comes out soon after everyone is trying to emulate his sound. Kanye is to the 2004-2017 time period as the Beatles were to the 1960s-1970s. Each of his albums has a different feel and mature appropriately with him as he grows as an artist. In terms of album craft Kanye is better than anything you can find mainstream right now. My favorite album, and I would say the majority of Kanye’s fans favorite album is MBDTF. Kanye takes the sad soulless introspective feel from 808s and HeartBreak, and his experience with the limelight and his forceful techno pop production prowess that was observed on Graduation. In breaking away from his signature soul sampling that brought him so much recognition on his first two albums we see an evolution from the cheerier early Kanye to the introspective Kanye. Still grappling with the death of his mother, his public outburst at the VMAs, and much unwanted attention from the media. Kanye released this album that gives us direct insight into his beautiful, dark, twisted, fantastical mind.  

This Album Pairs best With Barley Wines. As mentioned it is a mature album. It is also an outburst of emotion. The general feeling is anger in this album. With anger comes reflection and reconciliation. Barley wines are generally going to be your highest alcohol beers. They are fermented a bit longer than your average beer paralleling the maturation of Kanye’s sound. Barley wines are aggressive on first taste the high, usually over 10% alcohol content is abnormal to the unaware and it will taste, well, alcoholy. That being said, the alcoholy taste is important to barley wines as it adds to the complexity of the flavor. Barley wines can have quite a range of flavor profiles, so I would suggest ones that hint on the more bitters side of things rather than some of the more sweet, fruity, or citrusy types available. This will be a complex and difficult listening and tasting.

Recommended Beers:

*Barleywines often come in 22oz bottles. I would suggest getting two. Try two different kinds, mix things up a bit.

Hog Heaven – Avery, CO || Olde GnarlyWine – Lagunitas, CA || Third Coast Old Ale – Bell’s, MI || Insanity – Weyerbacher, PA || Bigfoot – Sierra Nevada, CA || Old Guardian – Stone, CA || Old Crustacean – Rogue, OR


The album opens with Dark Fantasy. This Track sets the stage for the album nicely. As you pour you will hear Nicki Minaj narrating. Pay attention to how your beer pours the color, the head, the aroma. This is ritualistic pay attention to the pour. Once poured you will most likely be at the piano and vocal dubbing portion of the song. Take a sniff. What are you picking out? The most obvious will be the strong alcohol smell. Smell deeper. Sometimes you can get a rotting fruit smell, or maybe a chocolatey or carmely smell? Maybe citrus? Wheat? Take a small sip and see if you can pick out any of the scents. This song changes around a bit which will complement the sometimes contrary flavors presented in barley wines. Pay attention to the lyrics. This song on the surface seems to deal with Kanye’s success and celebrity. Imbedded in his ‘Bravado’ are some points of sadness. — ‘drink until the pain’s over’

When Gorgeous starts you should start to be getting acquainted with your beer, and album. Your beer is aggressive but has subtle notes. This track features Kid Cudi for the chorus. An artist known for his calm, chill vibe. This track is introspective and borderline philosophical. Kanye is discussing his career and his public persona. He is having a discussion with the listener. It is anecdotal and poses questions to the listener “is hip-hop just a euphemism for a new religion?” Imagine you are conversing with your beer. You’ve picked out the individual tastes, now put them together. Imagine they are individual words and together they form a sentence. What is this beer telling you? Each beer has an attitude.      

The song Power pours attitude. Many cite this as one of Kanye’s most lyrically proficient songs. Kanye is raging in this song. Gorgeous was the introspection, the rational. This song is pure angry emotion. It is a lashing out. Pay attention to how your barleywine is making you feel. Maybe a bit buzzed? Maybe you’re angry with the complex taste? Perhaps gleeful? There is an incredibly artistic point in the song where Kanye blends ‘so excited’ so that it sounds like ‘suicide.’ It parallels with the blending of the flavors in your barleywine.

All Of The Lights was one of the big singles to come from this album. It is a bit more upbeat sounding with the brass sampling. It features Rihanna, and Cudi. This is a song dealing with the pressure of being a celebrity. Kanye does this well by using lights and how different types of lights have different meanings, yet, light is light. ‘Cop lights, flash lights, spot lights, strobe lights, street lights.’ The imagery is vivid and deals with the sense of vision. Take another look at your beer. Notice the color. Barleywines can have a range in colors ranging from light amber to a dark black. How does the color affect the taste? Think about this. Vision plays a role in taste. Beer is often visually appealing. Notice the small bubbles of carbonation.

Monster Is another introspective track that lacks the somberness of gorgeous. Kanye has accepted his position as a villain in the media. You may not be a barleywine fan maybe you love barleywines. You have to accept them for what they are. Barleywines are for real beer snobs. They require attention and most of the time they are an investment. Some bottles can be more than an entire six-pack. You have to appreciate the craft though. They take time to make. The lyrics to this song are grotesque, but it is part of who kanye is.

So Appalled –  This is an interesting song. It is almost like a multigenerational family photo. Jay-Z brought up Kanye, Kanye brought up Pusha-T. Each of them have verses on this track. Kanye has made many up and coming rappers into very wealthy artists because of his features. Take a moment to appreciate your local craft brewery. The lyrics deal with the superficial nature in which you are treated when famous. That is sort of what mainstream big beers are. Superficial crap. They look good in the multimillion dollar commercials but that is it.    

Devil in a New Dress – I’m guessing you are probably done or maybe have been through with your beer so if you got another pour it up. Think about your lost love while you watch your beer fill the glass. It is good to do this sometimes. Don’t dwell because we have a few more songs to get through.

Runaway – This was another big single and a popular Kanye song. The melancholy piano is stunning when the beat drops in conjunction with it. If you got two of the same beer. You know what to look for. If you got a new beer start picking out those flavor notes. Enjoy this song. It is like a break. It is catchy and easy to listen to. Maybe set your beer down and relax a little. This does not mean there is any lost complexity in runaway, It is masterfully produced. If you were wondering this song has to do with the VMA spectacle with Taylor Swift.   

Hell of A Life laments on just how crazy it is to be a celebrity. Think about how crazy your beer is. All those flavors!

Blame Game is a love song/ comedic relief. Chris Rock has a bit in it that is comic in its absurdity. Kanye is genius for this. The song illustrates that yes there are sad moments, breakups and such, but there is always comedy in there somewhere. It is a maturation. It is not a wallowing it is an acceptance. So enjoy the aggressiveness of your beer.

 Lost in The World should sound familiar to Bon Iver fans. This is an interesting song with sort of a tribal feeling. It is almost like a physical force. It is an ode to Kanye’s mastery of production. Appreciate the craftsmanship that went into your beer. We’re almost done you can start dancing now. This is a good test to see how to beer has affected you physically.

Who Will Survive in America is essentially an extension of Lost in The World so finish off your beer and revel in your accomplishment of listening to one of the greatest hip-hop albums.

If you like this album I suggest you watch the runaway music video it is a 34 minute masterpiece.

-Sam Hill


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