Baker's Dozen

Artists discuss the 13 records that shaped their lives

9. Kanye WestMy Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

I slept on this a while, listened to it, put it away. Then I heard a podcast where Kanye dissects the album – I was listening thinking ‘Are we talking about the same fuckin’ album?’. I listened to what he was saying, listened to the tracks and I was still like, ‘Did I fucking miss something here?’ So I went back and gave it a proper listen, left it on constantly for a week and… I got it. Such an epic journey, mad construction on the arrangements, on the lyrics. Previous to this album, sure of course I liked ‘Gold Digger’ but I’d thought Kanye wasn’t for me, I was firmly in my Wu-Tang era at the point when Kanye first came out. But when I came back to this album and listened to it with the depth and intensity I would have listened to the Wu with. I immediately became obsessed.

I’ve found it difficult to listen to Kanye in the past few years. How do you feel about him as a figurehead beyond the music?

Well, I did a deep dive into Kanye’s motivations for every aspect of this record and it blew my mind. I realised, this isn’t an ordinary guy making an album, this is a serious creator, who is conceptualising a project – himself – that just happens to be musically based! Kanye’s got a phenomenal way of thinking about and articulating his subject matters, in a way that alters, not just ‘content’, not just ‘culture’, but consciousness. He’s been able to do – with barely any resources – what most people with massive organizations behind them still today struggle to achieve. For me it was a big moment to step back and study how he went about his art, his project and think how do you accomplish something like that? We forget how marginalised Kanye was – he’s from Chicago, not the coasts, he’s been told he’s never been a good rapper, he’s continually had the finger pointed at him and told what he can achieve and not achieve, but he’s been able to put the blinkers on and channel his own uniqueness and achieve what he’s been able to do today, which is nothing short of phenomenal with all of those restraints. How is the guy from his background from a single mother, this guy who dropped out of school after a car crash and sat in a room making beats all day – how’s he going from that to this massive mogul today? When he’s good, he’s very, very good – he could have just stayed some obscure bedroom producer. His ascendancy to international superstar wouldn’t have happened without the internet or if he would have had sort of gone through official normal traditional music business structures. Signing to Roc was such a massive moment and by the time he’s making something like ‘Black Skinhead’… he’s outgrown all his masters, gone past everybody, left everybody behind. Hugely inspirational to me, that sheer force of will, this kind of multi-dimensional chess he plays. He reminds me of Michael Jackson because he turned his weirdness into superstardom but where Michael built a funfair and a zoo, Kanye built a fashion brand instead!

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