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Ranking Kanye West’s Solo Albums
August 28, 2018
One of the most polarizing figures in the history of music is Kanye West. Throughout his career, the Chicago-born emcee has made headlines with both his revolutionary music and his much maligned actions. Whether it be his interrupting of Taylor Swift at the 2009 Video Music Awards or his recent comments about slavery, Kanye has a knack of being smack dab in the middle of the headlines. While some no longer like Kanye like they once did, people cannot discredit his discography, with his collective body of work being one of the most impressive of any artist.
- My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye West
Kanye’s fourth studio album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, is the culmination of what makes Kanye unique as an artist. Whether it be the soothing background vocals on the intro track, “Dark Fantasy,” or the electric guitar on “Gorgeous,” which features Kid Cudi, Kanye crafted a masterpiece of the different sounds that he made throughout his early career. This album features standout hits such as “POWER” and “All of the Lights,” as well as one of the best Rick Ross guest verses on “Devil in a New Dress.” This album is an album for those who love music, not just hip hop, and that’s what makes it special.
- Graduation, Kanye West
A mix of house rock, hip hop and many other musical stylings, Graduation represented a changing in the hip hop genre. West’s album released on the same day as 50 Cent’s album, Curtis, which represented the gangster rap genre that dominated the early 2000’s. While being an underdog, West managed to outsell 50 Cent, signaling a shift in culture. Kanye’s third studio album contains radio hits such as “Stronger” and, to a lesser extent, “Flashing Lights.” Also on this great album are “I Wonder,” an emotional track where Kanye says, “I’ve been waiting on this my whole life/These dreams be waking me up at night,” and “Homecoming,” an ode to his hometown of Chicago. On one of the slower and most beautiful songs on the album, “Everything I Am,” Kanye raps about his personality and how what he’s been through shaped him.
- The College Dropout, Kanye West
His debut album, The College Dropout, introduced the world to the sample-flipping, genre-bending mastermind that is Kanye West. Prior to releasing this album, he worked mainly as a producer for stars such as Jay-Z and Ludacris. After a while, he finally decided to make his own music and made this album. Tracks like “All Falls Down,” featuring the powerful vocals of Syleena Johnson, and “Breathe in Breathe Out,” a Southern sounding song featuring Ludacris, are solid. “Jesus Walks,” where ‘Ye raps about his faith, showed that Kanye would not conform to the standards of music. It also showed the music world that he belonged and was destined for great things. Other great songs off this album include “Slow Jamz,” featuring an intro from Jamie Foxx and a ridiculously fast verse from Twista, and “Family Business,” where West sings about family values.
- ye, Kanye West
His most recent solo project, West showed that while he has changed as an artist, he’s still got it on ye. His decision to tackle the issue of mental health by delving into his own personal problems showed great maturity as an artist. Throughout the album, West touches on his relationship with his wife, Kim Kardashian West, the mistakes he has made throughout the years and how she has assisted him through them. On the last track, “Violent Crimes,” Kanye gets very personal by explaining that he wants his daughter to grow up and be safe and happy. He recognizes that as a man, he understands the desires of men, and doesn’t want his daughter to be subjected to the heartbreak and changes that come with growing up.
- Late Registration, Kanye West
This soul-inspired album was Kanye’s second studio album. The follow up to The College Dropout and precursor to Graduation, Kanye managed to ride the momentum coming off of his first album to make another great piece of work. This album showed a progression in Kanye’s lyrical ability, along with a change in musical styling. The three-song stretch of “Heard ‘Em Say,” featuring Maroon 5 star Adam Levine; “Touch the Sky,” featuring Lupe Fiasco; and hit “Gold Digger,” featuring Jamie Foxx, makes Kanye’s talent apparent. “We Major,” featuring Nas, is another standout.
- 808’s & Heartbreak, Kanye West
Following stressful events in his life, Kanye dropped 808’s & Heartbreak and introduced the music world to a whole new Kanye. He had a heavy use of auto-tune, the 808 drum kit and more electric sound. Radio hit “Heartless” is a good example of what this album is, from a lyrical standpoint to the all-around sound and vibe of the song. “I know I did some things, but that’s the old me,” raps the auto-tuned West. “Amazing,” which features an instrumental sprinkled with drum, guitar and Jeezy, is another example of how Kanye changed direction on this album. This piece of work is widely considered an album that changed music by introducing these new sounds, especially the heavily auto-tune that West used on it.
- The Life of Pablo, Kanye West
The seventh studio album of West, The Life of Pablo, can be described as rough around the edges. While there are moments of less-than perfection, the entire culmination of this album is still very good, but different. Songs like “I Love Kanye,” where ‘Ye talks about how people currently perceive him and miss the old him over no instrumental, shows how this album is kind of experimental in a way. For every weird, out of place song, however, there are two great songs. Songs like “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1,” which features a chilling intro of synth and a perfectly placed Future callout of Metro Boomin’s tagline, as well as “Ultralight Beam,” on which Kanye talks about important topics such as the terrorists attacks that happened in Paris in 2015 and features one of Chance the Rapper’s best verses, are two of the better songs. Chris Brown’s hook on “Waves” and a Kanye and Kendrick Lamar collab on “No More Parties in LA” make this album special, although it was messy at points.
- Yeezus, Kanye West
Like 808’s & Heartbreak, Kanye’s 2013 album Yeezus was different. This album’s sound is experimental and harsher sounding than many previous Kanye albums, exemplifying his unpredictability as an artist. The intro, “On Sight,” set the tone for the album with it’s techno beat. On “Hold My Liquor,” Kanye sings about his late night escapades and the impact it’s had on his relationships. A Chief Keef chorus, where he talks about how he can’t be handled, over a pulsating beat and guitar rift makes this song special. Other standouts include “Blood on the Leaves” and “Bound 2,” where ‘Ye raps about his bad reputation is, especially when it comes to women. “But hey, admittin’ is the first step/And hey, you know ain’t nobody perfect,” raps West.