Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy vs. Outkast’s Stankonia. Which Is Better?
One year ago, Ambrosia For Heads launched a debate among its readers seeking to answer one of Hip-Hop’s most hotly-contested questions: who is the greatest MC of all time? “Finding The GOAT MC” lasted between September 2014 and May 2015, engaging millions of readers and ultimately producing its winner, as determined by hundreds of thousands of voters. Now, “Finding The GOAT” returns to ask a new question: what is the greatest of all time Hip-Hop album?
“Finding The GOAT Album” will consider 120 albums from three individual eras (40 in each), with options for wild card and write-in candidates. You and your vote will decide which album goes forward, and which one leaves the conversation. While there will no doubt be conversation between family and friends (virtual and real), only votes cast in the voting tool below will be counted, so use the power of your click.
Days after Andre 3000 joined Kanye West in the studio for alleged contributions to Waves, two of the highest-regarded albums by West and Outkast face off. 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and 2000’s Stankonia are both sprawling studio creations, dictated by guests, vibes, and cohesive themes. Both platinum efforts, these albums were big on restoring hard-nosed Rap deliveries alongside melody and courageous moments of singing. Notably, both of these works advanced to Round 2 with very tight margins. In the case of Kanye, a single tenth of a percent allowed him to best The Roots’ Phrenology (the narrowest margin in this year’s “Finding The GOAT” thus far). For Big Boi and 3 Stacks, the pair narrowly escaped another duo in Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek, toppling Train Of Thought by less than 5%. Against each other, the votes could also come down to the wire (click one then click “vote”).
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West
- First Round Winner (against The Roots’ Phrenology, 50.1% to 49.9%)
In 2010, Kanye West was a man apart. Two years prior, ‘Ye lamented his woes on arguably Hip-Hop’s most influential album of the last decade: 808s & Heartbreak. Now, he wanted to get back to rapping, but strictly on his terms. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was largely made on a Hawaiian isle. There, Kanye invited muses and collaborators across the genres for an onslaught of regimented living, playing, and diligent creating. What resulted was a 13-track album that was as ensemble as anything West had ever done. However, while a litany of creatives contributed, it was Kanye’s life and times they were channeling. This game-changing album is inspired by lust, intoxication, ego, and the desire to keep pushing art forward. At a time when the media portrayed West as one of the most self-centered celebrities of all times, he made an album that was built around externalized character. The transgressions (adultery, violent outbursts, incessant complaining) played as autobiographical, but the ultra-expensive LP did not appear to simply be a mogul’s self-discovery. Instead, Kanye held up a mirror to his listeners, and showed that even amidst all his superficial grandeur, he could still relate and listen. With full creative control, this decadent work was a baron’s fantasy camp: complete with RZA, No I.D., and Mike Dean on assistance, and relegating multiple diamond-certified singers to over-dubbed background vocals. Put simply, M.B.D.T.F. is a musical monstrosity in the best possible fashion.
Just as Kanye West did so amazingly on his College Dropout debut, his fifth album played god with casting. “Monster” was the latest and boldest in the power-cypher revival. The explosive lineup of Rick Ross, Jay Z, and ‘Ye returned the rapper to his MC status. However, all knowingly, West gave way to Nicki Minaj, who stole the show in one of her breakthrough lyric-benders. The hardcore Hip-Hop sound was at play on this album, even if West outsourced a lot of the duties from Nicki, Raekwon, Pusha T, and others. “Runaway” welcomed King Push to G.O.O.D. with a melancholic tale about taking the blame for failed relationships. Kanye built the track with a far-reaching Pete Rock drum riff, adding his own evocative pianos and effects. Moments later, “Hell Of A Life” took a shot of vodka and turned the page, looking for the next fling. West masterfully balanced rapping with some of the style he etched on 808s. ‘Ye blurred the lines of rough sex with racism in 2010s America. These confusing messages were never disjointed. M.B.D.T.F. was a lost weekend. At times, it was sophomoric. In other places, deeply profound. “Lost In The World” was a loner’s croon. “All Of The Lights” did the same, walking the line of sanity in unreasonable times. “Power” was a cortisone shot of courage. West’s verses were smart bombs exploding all over the world around him, as the producer returned to sampling in the most exciting way possible. While the fifth album was a giant step forward in West’s directive, he did a fantastic job of pulling his roots with him. Although a challenging listen, “Fantasy” contends as Kanye West’s best, most complete, and most original album. No longer in anybody’s shadow, void of anything to prove, the G.O.O.D. Music founder lost himself in the possibility of his “power” and found his future.
Album Number: 5
Released: November 22, 2010
Label: Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #1 (certified gold, January 2011; certified platinum, January 2011)
Song Guests: Jay Z, Rick Ross, Raekwon, RZA, Kid Cudi, Rihanna, CyHi The Prince, Pusha T, Nicki Minaj, Bon Iver, Gil Scott Heron, Swizz Beatz, Alicia Keys, Fergie, Elton John, Drake, The-Dream, Dwele, Elly Jackson, Tony Williams, Amber Rose, Teyana Taylor, Chris Rock, John Legend, Ryan Leslie, Charlie Wilson, Ian Allen, Tim Anderson, Richard Ashton, Chris “Hitchcock” Chorney, Wilson Christopher, Rosie Danvers, Uri Djemal, Alvin Fields, Simon Finch, Danny Flam, Kay Fox, Andrew Gathercole, Mark Frost, Tony Gorruso, Philip Judge, Salma Kenas, Ken Lewis, Mike Lovatt, Chloe Mitchell, Rachel Robson, Tom Rumsby, Jenny Sacha, Kotono Sato, Chris Soper, Chloe Vincent, Brent Kolatalo
Song Producers: (self), Mike Dean, RZA, Jeff Bhasker, No I.D., Mike Caren, Andrew Dawson, S1, Tommy D, DJ Frank E, Emile, Noah Goldstein, Plain Pat, Peter Bischoff, Alex Graupera, Phil Joy, Gaylord Holomalia, Brent Kolatalo, Christian Mochizuki
Stankonia by Outkast
- First Round Winner (against Reflection Eternal’s Train Of Thought, 53% to 47%)
After three arguably flawless albums, how could Outkast possibly follow? In the 2000s, what could Andre 3000 and Big Boi say and do to push the envelope? For the first time in their careers, Outkast released an album into an era when Southern Hip-Hop was dominating radio and video—thanks to Cash Money, No Limit, and other burgeoning movements. Outkast’s Stankonia came at the perfect time—although there truly is no clock for music like this. In a year that desperately sought out new narratives, booming beats, and the complete package, ‘Kast’s fourth album collected big. The world, or those holding the spotlights, finally realized that the Dungeon may be the most interesting lair in music, as Outkast made a charged, fiery, and highly-produced album that reached several generations. Becoming more of their own producers (as Earthtone III), Outkast knew just how to navigate the spaceship.
Courtesy of “B.O.B.,” Outkast led a Southern marching band, with a call to action in the space for rappers to “be about it” once more. ‘Dre and Big proved to be conductors—of the creative train, of a Hip-Hop symphony, and of perhaps the illest drum line ever captured on a Rap record. In a completely different tempo, “Ms. Jackson” defined “baby mama” into the mainstream lexicon. The smash single was slow, melodic, and harmonized. Outkast redefined their roles on records in what is a sung chorus—10 years before Thank Me Later. For as much as the group channeled Parliament-Funkadelic (“Stankonia (Stanklove)”) and Sly & The Family Stone (“Gasoline Dreams”) in places, this was their slow-cooked R&B/Rap masterpiece. What’s more, even in heavily caricatured lyrics and a music video, the song was also personal to the experiences of the band. Although they had seemingly tickled a pop pocket, Stankonia refused to shake the trademark ‘Kast flare. “We Luv Deez Hoes” was a raunchy, torrid (and cautionary) account of money-shots in the Cadillac. However, the album cut was made with the same care as multi-platinum singles, and just as sincere. In Y2K, Big Boi and 3 Stacks had not let the platinum and praise change their lives. This album portrayed two Seville-driving MCs who liked to rhyme about race relations in the South, avoiding scandalous women, and searching for peace of mind. In a decade where Hip-Hop’s interests would look south of the Mason-Dixon, Outkast’s Stankonia immediately stepped up to show their consistency, creativity, and courage.
Album Number: 4
Released: October 31, 2000
Label: LaFace/Arista Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #2 (certified gold, November 2000; certified platinum, November 2000; certified 4x platinum, November 2003)
Song Guests: Erykah Badu, Khujo Goodie, Gangsta Boo, Killer Mike, J-Sweet, B-Real, Eco, Backbone, Big Gipp, Slimm Calhoun, T-Mo, Blackowned C-Bone, Joi, Cee-Lo Green, Big Rube, Sleepy Brown, Donnie Mathis, David “Whild” Brown, Jason Freeman, Jerry Freeman, Marvin “Chanz” Parkman, Preston Crump, Aaron Mills, Robert Gristler, Dookie Blossumgame, Victor Alexander, Myrna “Screechy Peach” Crenshaw, Rosalin Heard, Paul Douglass-Fedon, Cutmaster Swiff
Song Producers: (self), Organized Noize (Ray Murray, Sleepy Brown, & Rico Wade), Mr. DJ
So which is the better album? Make sure you vote above.
Related: Finding The GOAT: The Albums.