MBDTF is the album that sees Kanye West most convincingly graduate from rapper to artist. Despite the standard talk of money, women and success, it’s riddled with neurosis and self doubt and delivered with humbling honesty.
At the fault line between Kanye’s artistic aspirations and man-on-the-edge lunacy is the front cover. The artistic credentials are all here as the portrait (we’re talking about the original Phoenix one) is by acclaimed painter George Condo.
However the madness is here too. The portrait shows Kanye West holding a beer and ‘getting jiggy’ with a paraplegic Phoenix (magical bird/woman thing). The portrait challenges hip-hop conventions while using them; it represents a very dark fantasy and is a succinct expression of Kanye’s vision for the album.