At 23, I'm discovering what it means to be a fan. Sure, I've enjoyed various different things intensely before, but I've never had that singlemindedness that attends the fan's relationship to his object of obsession. That object, of course, being none other than the work and persona of Kanye West. I've been doing all those things a fan does with his favourite texts - endless repetition ('Kanye megamix' playlist is on constant rotation), contextual research ("what the hell is 'Chi-town'?"), continual discussion with fellow converts (happily, my housemate - with whom I watch the 'Runaway' video every couple of days with), etc.
And of course this has gotten out of control in the past week or so with the release of Yeezy's masterwork - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. It's getting perfect scores in reviews all over the place, and I'm not sure I'd go that far, but at the least it's the most ambitious, voracious, egotistic, political and emotional thing he has done yet - and all that is saying something. I've been devouring these reviews, desperately longing to add my own voice to the tidal wave of acclaim and discussion, but up until now I simply haven't been able to muster the courage or even barest ability.
At first I thought this was because the album was so colossal, so definitive and defining of such big things - art, pop, celebrity, hip-hop, relationships, distortion - that I just wasn't up to the task. Where would one begin? How could I possibly even hope to do justice to this beast? To match up to even it's weaker moments (which it has, of course, but that's one of the things that makes Kanye so great - his brilliance and his inexactitude are mutually defining)?
(I could say many things for sure, most of them disconnected tidbits - about how the production on the album shows evidence that he just couldn't help himself, his maximalist tendencies swallowing up every possible voice and sample he could find, adding more and more even after the completely acceptable cuts of the tracks we heard on the Runaway video (the 'so high' of Dark Fantasy case in point, shoved in between another vocal itself). About it's intense black consciousness, evident at every turn, moreso than ever before in West's rapping - as a unifying thread through the album, right up to the Gil Scott Heron sample that closes it off, 'Who Will Survive in America?' About it's incessant thematising of failure, musically and lyrically - how he feeds off the fuck ups in his own story to fabricate an epic tragedy, how he pushes his voice through filters and modulators til it's past the brink of legibility, as a statement of emotion, how everything breaks down but then just builds itself up even higher on the rubble. These are all interesting points, but they are not well-made, and they have been made better by others.)
But then I realised why I couldn't talk, also why I will try again but probably fail - because that's what being a fan is. Being a fan deadens your critical faculties when it comes to the object of your fandom. 'But doesn't fandom make you want to understand more the thing?', you might argue - and of course it does, but what I've found is that this desire for understanding is matched at every point by being overwhelmed by the thing itself. Fuck it, by the music - by these songs, whose titles I just want to start typing out as if they possessed some kind of incantatory force, as if you would just feel the same way that I feel when I hear this shit. But they don't, you won't (you might?), and what one can't speak about, one must pass over in silence - and it's a kind of relief, a bliss. I've submitted myself to this album, and I'd be damned if I would even try to put into words just how this music makes me feel.