Among hip hop fans, there’s always plenty of ever changing evolution when it comes to being a hit maker. Some play and safe and still do great, but others push the bounds of what is considered hip hop or rap. Among the best, or as he would say, “The Best,” is Kanye West. since breaking out in the early aughts, West has continually used his beat making and vast musical knowledge to make some of the most forward thinking hip hop of all time. Today we’ll be starting a series of top five lists from an array of artist covering music that has a certain sound, but also artists who naturally grow and extend themselves outside of their respective genres. Here’s my list of the top five Albums by Kanye West.Dig it!
5. The College Dropout, 2004
As soon as you heard the mouthshut vocal range West produced on the breakout track “Through the wire” you knew this was something special. It’s not often a man that committed to a vision sees the light out day, especially when his back is up against the wall and he feels like he has to break through. Multiple tracks have since become legendary among music fans. Standouts like the melody driven “All Falls Down,” or the in your face aggression of “Jesus Walks” converted naysayers into believers, but Jesus is a statement that finds West exploring topics that are rarely breached in hip hop culture. One of the best songs not heavily mentioned are the “New Workout Plan” which depicts various slouches following the training to make themselves new and improved. It’s a brilliant first album in a discography that unfolds in unexpected and rewarding ways.
4. Graduation, 2007
By this point in his still early career, West was sky high surrounded by the flashing lights of media everywhere. Yet on this blockbuster album he easily expelled rumors that he couldn’t keep the winning streak up, which is to say one of his biggest accomplishments. He’s always put himself in vulnerable places, but with each step he cements himself as an artist worth watching. A song like “Can’t tell me Nothing” is a perfect example of where his mind was, but it also doesn’t hurt when he can puncture that sense of attitude with a genuinely upbeat, fun track like “Good Life,” which has the ability to do a feel good rap song better than nearly anyone, even if he’s known for being a provocateur. Let’s also not forget the colossal hit that was the Daft Punk inspired “Stronger,” which led him to increase his fan base two fold at least, by bringing in the legendary robots to a new fan base but also getting electronic nerds into the mix for something they might not normally try.
3. Late Registration, 2005
“Diamonds from Sierra Leone” may have been the first introduction to Kanye’s second album, and while it’s a great song featuring another stellar collaboration with Jay Z, that was all but forgotten when the world first heard the words “She take my money, when I’m in need,” which of course is the opening to the year’s biggest hit “Golddigger.”to say the song is infectious is a vast understatement. I remember not being able to go anywhere and not hear this song and everyone seemingly enjoying it. The rhythms on the track are a blistering critique of lazy woman everywhere who expect something back, but at its core “Golddigger” is also an incredible song. It also doesn’t hurt that with an opening skit from Bernie Mac and songs that follow like “Heard Em Say” and “Touch the sky” all coming before “Gold” which is is the fourth track, it’s hard not to reel from the track list and the momentum. It’s likely one of the best three song movements every committed to a record, and that’s a huge reason why this album is so Fucking good all these years later. He captures your attention early and doesn’t release it until he’s said all he needs.
2. Yeezus, 2013
After “MBDTF” sent everyone into a tailspin, Yeezus was a complete flip of the script in how West compelled and produced an album. Rumors swirled for months that the production of the record was a mess, but after getting much needed guidance from the incomparable Rick Rubin and slimming the album down drastically to the ten songs that formed the album, it’s hard to say it wasn’t worth it. From the early moments of tracks like “Black Skinhead,” which finds West again working with Daft Punk and putting white people on notice for practices that we as a people might not even know is wrong. It’s a great mindset though when an artist is angry but also willing to not shy away from difficult issues. The whole album is easily the most aggressive and angry of his catalogue, but it’s also his most potent in terms of originality. “Yeezus” also shows that he can carry an album with minimal guests(unlike the other records, not to say it’s a bad thing) as he circumvents his critiques of culture with unrelenting songs like “New Slaves” and the eye opening sincerity and pain behind “Blood on the Leaves.” Personally I can’t wait for another record like this to explode from his brain. Angry Kanye is the best Kanye.
1. My Beautiful Dark twisted Fantasy, 2010
This album man is so strong from start to finish that is damn near impossible to truncate it into a post that’s not an in depth look at every song. I’ll try my best though. Let’s start with the multitude of guests on this record. It’s staggering and the various voices force West not only to bring his A game, but it also sets the tone of of unpredictably that finds the listener at every song. Guests like Jay, Rhianna, Raekwon from the 36 Chambers respectfully shows up, as do Rick Ross, Kid Cudi, Nicki Minaj, John Legend, and dark horses like Chris Rock(who’s monologue at the end Blame Game is hilarious and dirty) and Bon Iver's Justin Vernon all show up and give their best in function of West’s vision. An early cut like “All of the Lights” is a triumph of hip hop history, and while I rarely like solo Rhianna, this is another example of how great she is as a guest star. But then you have a song like “Runaway,” which is a nine minute monolith of artist is displays that blows away anything he’s done before or since. The way the track uses the minimal beats early on and grows and build from their is quite simply brilliant musicianship 10. Is recommended listening to this record all the way to fully immerse yourself in the darkness West has composed for us, because it works best as one singular piece as opposed to different tracks for different days. It runs the gamut of musical imagination, and it’s for that reason this stands as the best work of Mr. West's career, so far at least.
I'd also like to announce that starting next week I'll be posting my TOP 100 SONGS SINCE 2000. It will be massive ten part post. Hope you enjoy!
Some bands you listen to and enjoy but they never seem to latch on to you in a personal way. Tame Impala is not one those bands. Since arriving on the scene in 2009 with “Innerspeaker,” the band, which is to say Parker himself, have gradually changed our perceptions of psyche rock and lovelorn melodies that can be at times infectious and daunting in terms of musical I.Q. Today we deliver the ten best tracks from the first three impeccable Tame Impala albums.
10. YES I’M CHANGING, CURRENTS
This track here is the dozy of the whole album. It’s so emotionally open and vulnerable it’s hard not to relate to it merit and depth. For someone going through a devastating end of a relationship (like I was at the time), “Yes I’m Changing” meant the world to me, and was a source of deep comfort, hoping that it would be alright in the end. The story of the song is a familiar one, which helps with relatability. It’s brutally cold and sober, depicting various frames of mind, encompassing the myriad of feelings you go through during a difficult emotional time. The best song off the new album, and the fourth spot on our Best Tame Impala Songs,”Yes I’m Changing.”
9. CAUSE I’M A MAN, CURRENTS
On “Currents” Parker is able to make what’s essentially a psych R&B record, and this is no more obvious than on “Cause I’m a Man.” It’s a slow, tense song about shortcomings, but it’s also one of the more pretty sounding tracks on the entire album. Parker’s voice is raspy yet open and clear, and his production skills on the instrumentation side are at peak conditioning here. It’s a song where his troubles are laid out in clear and concise patterns, and while he mostly takes his actions and consequences seriously, he also has the ability to not let himself take anymore of the blame than he feels responsible for.
8. IT IS NOT MEANT TO BE, INNERSPEAKER
Many songs depict the beach, but few do so in the way Tame Impala manages to convey it in the mind blowing spectrum of noises Parker is able to conjure. Chosen as the first song on the first album, “It’s Not Meant to Be,” feels like you’re on a beach, but not a beautiful beach with the one you love. Rather, this is a song about disagreements. Such disagreements about the pros and cons of sand on your feet, or smoking pot all day. The song, clocking in at nearly five and a half minutes, wilds through lush guitar work, and the drumming is elegant and low key, never willing to overtake the song, but rather nudging the song slightly to perfection.
7. APOCALYPSE DREAMS, LONERISM
Like a sun suddenly appearing in the sky at full strength, “Apocalypse Dreams,” roars into ears and explores the mind of Kevin Parker, and what he’s capable of. The track has this frollicking aspect to it that also renders the song in the best way possible. The lyrics, as well as the vocal harmony Kevin engages evoke some of the best moments of the record, but the real prize doesn’t hit until second half of the song. After the slow strung guitars comes and goes, the track is propelled by the drums, all leading to a bright explosion of energy as the song heads quickly into a sundrenched, mind altering field of sound.
6. ALTER EGO, INNERSPEAKER On early records Parker had to do more with less in terms of production quality, however, that doesn’t stop him from executing a song that can still draw you in. The song itself relies more on the vast musical labyrinth of styles and less of the lyrical aspects, but this is still something Tame can do very well. The lyrics are important, but by the time Parker’s voice comes in you’re already hooked in by the majestic nature of the dense, all surrounding instrumentation. It’s an early sign of what he’s capable of, and thankfully for us he hasn’t lost a single step on subsequent releases.
5. LET IT HAPPEN, CURRENTS
When I first heard this song, honestly, I was not a fan. The music didn’t remind of what had come before, and more dancey, electronic vibe turned me off. Not that it was bad, but it wasn't the Tame I had fallen in love with on the previous two albums. But, after multiple listens, and hearing the album presented in full, it suddenly made sense. This album, and this track especially was Tame Impala opening themselves up and rising in the world of thought provoking music. The success of the albums rides on the popularity of the first track, and “Let it Happen,” with all of its meandering and chasing of holes, comes through in a big way, and shows the band is capable of so much more.
4. MIND MISCHIEF, LONERISM
One of the most polarizing moments for my upon the first listens of this landmark creatively full record was this song, found in the early moments of the album. The music is winding and carefree, but it’s very obvious how much thought went into the process. The lyrics are also cognisant of past loves and the trials of feeling attached to a person who might not even know you exist. It’s my suspicion that Parker is a deep romantic who has struggled with this before and since. It’s a wonderful mid tempo song, and for that reason, it’s included on this countdown.
3. ELEPHANT, LONERISM
There’s so so so much amazing happening in this song it’s hard to figure out a starting point. Obviously, a big part of the song is the fact that it very much lives up to its title. As a track,”Elephant” hurdles through the wild, violently and strongly pushing limits, with full sets of lumbering giants pummeling through whatever gets in its way. The live version also has a wicked cool instrumental section that only elevates the energy of the song. The drum roll through the verses is also brilliantly laid out, while Kevin’s vocals sound as pure and fun as they ever get. The best lines though come toward the end of the bridge, making its way to the song conclusion. The word pay during the segment about pulling off the mirrors of his Cadillac (YEAH!), are some of the best lines in any song I’ve ever heard.
2. FEELS LIKE WE ONLY GO BACKWARDS, LONERISM
For many people, this was the song where they suddenly became aware of the majestic mode of storytelling that Impala lays out. The dinging opening, the lush overlaid guitars and bass, and the minimal but effectiveness of the drumming all make the song one of the best by the band. When Parker bellows the chorus, and various other sections you can grasp and understand the weariness permanent in the song structure. So many of their songs go hand in hand with raw emotion, of guilt, second thoughts, and other feelings that it eventually becomes your song too. It’s amazing, and it’s a song that still gets all the love it deserves.
1. THE LESS I KNOW THE BETTER, CURRENTS
The argument could be made that without this song this record wouldn’t have been nearly the juggernaut it was, and while that may be slightly true, “Current is full to the brim with incredible songs.” However, this song has so much working for it that it’s nearly impossible to ignore. Let’s start with the 70’s stylings on guitar as the depth of the song opens up into a strange disco vibe, but it’s the lyrics that pull you in and embrace you. It’s a sad song that we all can relate to, the moment when your brain syncs in with your heart and you’re aware that the end of whatever you had with a person is over. It’s important to stress that anxiety but also to embrace it in hopes of getting better. Parker’s voice is top notch 100% here, and with this gorgeous balance among his word play and juxtaposition between trying to be free of the pain but also to learn from it, the song is able to transcend all modern music and make a song that you can feel as part of your soul. Thanks for reading!
Landon Murray is a New Orleans native, who thrives on painting the world he interprets through the useful forms of all types of art he feels connected to. He's seen over 1000 bands, and had loved mostly every minute of it. He has an amazing 10 year old dog, and is loving life.
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