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Faces & Places Behind Kanye West’s ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’
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Faces & Places Behind Kanye West’s ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’

Commemorating the 10th anniversary of Kanye West’s magnum opus, ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,’ this overview shines a light on some of the people behind the album. From main producers to the hidden ones to those with a smaller role in its creation. Connected through samples, nice-to-know facts & first-hand anecdotes.

By Tracklib

Donda West

Archive photo of Donda & Kanye West
Archive photo of Donda & Kanye West

Kanye West’s mother passed away three years before the release of MBDTF, but the spirit of her is present throughout the album’s deepest lows. So it’s only fitting to start with mentioning Donda West as a huge influence on Ye’s magnum opus. The original version of the Bon Iver-sampling and Justin Vernon collaboration “Lost In The Woods” actually was supposed to feature an interpolation of vocals of Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” to “mama-say, mama-sah, mama Donda’s son…”, as performed by Kanye West on Facebook before the release of MBDTF. But that ode to his mother didn’t make the final cut of the album.

Eric Weissman (Sample Clearance Executive)

Eric Weissman in session (source: Songtrust)
Eric Weissman in session (source: Songtrust)

The wide range of samples on MBDTF plays an essential role in what makes the album so rich and layered. Credit where credit’s due: Kanye for going all-out, and this guy for enabling him to. Eric Weissman was single-handedly responsible for clearing samples of music by James Brown, Aphex Twin, Gil Scott-Heron, Rick James, Black Sabbath, King Crimson & many more. One hell of a job.

No I.D. (Producer)

No I.D. in the studio with "old Kanye", 'College Dropout' era (photo: Angel Laws)
No I.D. in the studio with "old Kanye", 'College Dropout' era (photo: Angel Laws)

The man who famously introduced Kanye to hip-hop production, when he invited Kanye to recording sessions for Common’s Resurrection in 1994. A long-lasting relationship from mentoring a young Kanye then, to co-producing album opener "Dark Fantasy", "Gorgeous", "So Appalled" & "See Me Now" almost two decades later.

Mike Dean (Producer)

Mike Dean (photo: Moog)
Mike Dean (photo: Moog)

On top of co-producing Watch The Throne and various GOOD Music tracks, producer Mike Dean heavily contributed to MBDTF as well, with credits on most of the tracks on the album.

Symbolic One a.k.a. S1 (Producer)

Only one production credit on MBDTF for Symbolic One (S1), but arguably for the biggest (or at least most widely known and heard) track: “Power.”

Ian Allen, Uri Djemal, Wilson Christopher & Chris Soper (Handclapping)

All jokes aside on only getting credited for “handclapping” on an album: the use of Continent Number 6's Afromerica by producer Jean-Louis Detry on “Power” is extremely strong. The handclaps add to the strength and hypnotizing nature of the song… So yes, these four definitely deserve to be mentioned.

Fun Fact: Eddie Bo was a 60's singer and pianist of New Orleans whose track 'Hook and Sling - Part I' was sampled for 'Lost in the World' - the second part, 'Hook and Sling - Part 2' can now be sampled on Tracklib.

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Bink (Producer)

Bink (photo: BeatStars)
Bink (photo: BeatStars)

The producer behind the brilliant chops on “Devil In A New Dress”, sampling Smokey Robinson's 'Will You Love Me Tomorrow'.

Statik Selektah (Producer)

Statik Selektah (photo: Sarah Jacobs)
Statik Selektah (photo: Sarah Jacobs)

We all know jazz is not dead. But Kanye missed that memo. Statik Selektah’s jazz-heavy album What Goes Around was inspired by one particular moment during the MBDTF recording sessions on Hawaii: "The first beat I played him was the Nas one,” Statik Selektah told MTV back in 2014. “Kanye sat there and listened for like 10 seconds and he pressed stop and he was like: ‘It’s cool, but jazz is dead′. I was just happy to be there, but the way he said that to me always stuck in my mind. This album was definitely inspired by that."

Lex Luger (Producer)

Lex Luger (photo: The Fader)
Lex Luger (photo: The Fader)

“Lex Luger Can Write a Hit Rap Song in the Time It Takes to Read This,“ New York Times once headlined. Case in point: a year before he produced hit rap song “H.A.M.” by Kanye and Jay-Z for Watch The Throne, Lex Luger visited Kanye in the iconic Electric Lady Studios (the studio in New York commissioned by Jimi Hendrix) where he knocked out the drums for MBDTF bonus track “See Me Now.” He shortly left the studio space, and by the time he got back upstairs, the beat was used for vocals by Beyoncé, who was there in the room with Kanye and Jay-Z.

George Condo (Painter)

George Condo's portrait of Kanye West
George Condo's portrait of Kanye West

After Takashi Murakami (Graduation) and a photograph by Kristen Yiengst designed by Virgil Abloh and Willo Perron (and an alternate cover by street artist KAWS), it’s contemporary artist George Condo who is responsible for the memorable series of five MBDTF covers. Of which one (with the armless angel-slash-phoenix) got banned in the US close to the release. “The superimposition of people’s perceptions on a cartoon is shocking,” George Condo stated, “What’s happening in their minds should be banned. Not the painting.” Oddly fitting with the album title - and actually, a publicity stunt, as shared by Condo in 2011 as part of a New Yorker profile.

Island Sound Studios (previously known as Avex Honolulu Studio)

Island Sound Studios founder Gaylord Holomalia (photo: Aaron K. Yoshino)
Island Sound Studios founder Gaylord Holomalia (photo: Aaron K. Yoshino)

The place where most of the enigmatic “Rap Camp” recording sessions took place “That’s a really nice studio: on the marina, in this massive house…,” Roger Bong of Hawaii-based label Aloha Got Soul told us in an interview. “I think that studio was set up by a wealthy Japanese guy who envisioned a studio in Hawaii where all his artists and so-and-so can come for vacation. Jetskis on the waters and all... [Laughs]

The in-house chefs

RZA
RZA

Gotta shout-out the guys who kept the producers cooking and emcees blazing... Just picture this setting, as narrated in a Complex cover story by editor-in-chief Noah Callahan-Bever: “Pusha, Tip, RZA, Cudi, Cons, and Kanye’s crew slowly assemble to enjoy the absurdly tasty cooking of Kanye’s in-house chefs. If you’re smart, you order the French toast with the flambéed banana. An hour later, Kanye pulls up in his Porsche Panamera, fresh from the studio. That’s right, from the studio. During my five days in Hawaii, Kanye never slept at his house, or even in a bed.”

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