I successfully have listened to MBDTF today in a sporadic set of 5 different attempts as I drove around Albuquerque doing various errands mixed in with some meandering down streets around my parents house, all filled with hundreds of stories. Above all else, this album is encased in memories. Those memories have become the essence of the album to me. More than the musical genius, more than the way it changed rap and music and more than how it influenced pop culture and life, this album is first and foremost the album that changed my own life and helped me become the person I am today. It’s become almost impossible to write about the musical brilliance of this album without repeating something that has been said countless times. Almost immediately, MBDTF was embraced as a game changer and even 5 years later it has kept its place in music history as the album of the millennium. I gave it an attempt though and only a couple months after its initial release I decided to wax poetically about the album. Looking back on it, I clearly was still maturing mentally and with my writing, but I also knew even then the simple magnitude of the album.
As I listened today though, I was impressed with the ability I had to recall specific instances in my life that involved the album. From the first time I listened to it, driving around in David’s car going to pick up Ruben from the airport to every instance I blasted the opening notes to “All of the Lights” on my baritone in band, the album worked its way into my life and never let go. I remember the listening party we had at 5109 with us all jumping around screaming the lyrics and I remember the first time I hear “Runaway” on a bus ride home from Grants on a cross country trip. There were the times I would listen to “Blame Game” when I was dejected thinking about some crush and how I would never know love and the times I would listen to “Monster” when I needed to scream a lot of obscenities as loud as I could. All together, most important parts of my high school life had a theme track almost solely filled with tracks off of MBDTF. As I grew a bit older though I noticed I stopped listening as much, stopped obsessing as much. Kendrick Lamar took my heart and for most of my college days, I strongly considered good kid m.A.A.d city a close second and To Pimp A Butterfly a stronger album. I seemed to have forgotten that without MBDTF neither of those albums exists. Hip-hop as we know it doesn’t exist. But, on a more personal note, I don’t think I would exist in my current form without this album.
So as I attempted to get the album played at the Birdhouse right as midnight struck on 11/22, I began to finally reminisce about the album. I realized I never really had, I had just accepted it as a part of my life and took for granted the power it had and still has over the musical world. It’s power started to be reinforced as I watched the entire room light up at the sound of Niki Minaj’s voice at the beginning of “Dark Fantasy.” Thinking about it though, the amount of people that feel as strongly about MBDTF is a number that will never be reached again. The people I know all needed an album like this to help shape their lives and I would be willing to bet, any millennial has a story at the tip of their tongue regarding this masterpiece and some moment in their adolescent lives.
MBDTF opened my eyes to so many things, starting with what the music world held outside of rock’ n roll. I started to heavily care about the new age of music thanks to this album and the more I paid attention, the more obvious it became to me that this album truly changed everything. From production, to genre mixing to overall feel, MBDTF brought together so many aspects of music into one being. MBDTF also helped me through turmoil and it helped me celebrate life. Its hard to find an album that does both so well and I would argue not a single album does it better.
Five years is a long time in the life of a millennial. So much has changed for me while this album has just aged like fine wine, improving with every listen. When this was first released, I was a junior in high school, inexperienced with the ways of the world, still a tad bit awkward and of course, ready to see what life had in store for me. It’s been five years and that part hasn’t really changed. I am about to graduate from college, but I still have little idea where my life is headed and thinking about the parallelism between today and five years ago was a little inspiring. Even though I am going to be done with school for the first time in 17 years and will move away from home come May, I felt a lot less anxiety after listening to MBDTF today because, if 11th grade Joe could make it this far, then why can’t 21-year-old Joe make it another 5 years guided by the genius of Kanye?