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!
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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