I grew up listening to hip-hop in the mid-to-late 2000s meaning Kanye West played a huge part in my appreciation for music. I am aware his image has somewhat been tarnished over the past few years as people see him as more of a personality than an artist. This has always disappointed me as I always have found Kanye to be one of the best that mainstream music has to offer. Now that his new album, which still does not seem to have a title, is coming out I figured it be the perfect time to highlight his work. So without further ado, here is how I rank all of Kanye West’s albums. Enjoy.
8. Cruel Summer
I honestly did not know whether I should even include this since it really is not a Kanye West album, but considering he was in charge of this project and appears on and produces most of these tracks I figured I might as well. This is the only album on this list I dislike at times, with tracks like “Clique” and “Mercy” seeming below Kanye’s abilities. Some of the several artists on this have nice moments but this is definitely Kanye’s weakest moment as a rapper. He just lacks in the personality that he has on his better albums.
7. Watch the Throne
It’s not that I find this album bad at all, I just do not take it as seriously as I would like to. Kanye finally got to do a collaboration with his mentor Jay-Z, something people had been dreaming about. The end result was a collection of tracks mostly about how successful Kanye and Jay-Z are that are fun and would work well at a party. I really liked the use of samples of classic artists like Otis Redding, James Brown, and Nina Simone which help elevate the importance of these two greats.
Yeezus was a huge disappointment for me considering it was following an album we will get to latter on the list. It just felt overproduced and seemed to exist just to create more bangers. After listening to this for a couple years it has grown on me and I appreciate it for what it is but I do not see it on the same level of his other solo efforts. It’s a fun and interesting album for Kanye with plenty of tracks that work very well. “Bound 2” is a surprisingly great love song, “Black Skinhead” is impossible to be still during, and “I am a God” always makes me smile, assuming it is actually a joke.
This is probably Kanye’s most commercial album but that does not stop Graduation from being a very good record. The skits that were in his first two releases are gone, making this a smoother, more traditional hip-hop album. While it is the weakest of his original trilogy of albums, it is one that defines my middle school years and got me into West’s music.
4. 808s & Heartbreak
I am aware this is an album that many people dislike and I totally understand why. It really is not a hip-hop album, considering Kanye spends so much of this singing. I appreciate and love this album for how different it is compared to the rest of Kanye’s discography. Being that it is a breakup album, it shows us a very vulnerable side of someone that we all see as an arrogant man who thinks they are a deity. The autotune will definitely turn many people off as well but it works well with the robotic production. Definitely not my first recommendation for people trying to get into Kanye West’s music but still a great album in my eyes.
3. Late Registration
This is where the list starts getting into the albums I would consider to be classic. Kanye’s second album was sonically diverse and loaded with excellent guest features, something that tends to elevate Kanye’s work. While fun, pop friendly songs like “Touch the Sky” and especially “Gold Digger” are still enjoyable after over a decade, it is the sentimental moments that make this a phenomenal record. Even if it might be seen as a rip-off of Tupac’s “Dear Mama” I still love the track “Hey Mama” as well as “Roses” which might just be my favorite song on here. It might be a little long, keeping it from being higher, it is undeniably essentially in Kanye’s catalog.
2. The College Dropout
This is how you kick off a career. It is so weird to listen back to this record and think about a time where Kanye is not super arrogant and confident in his abilities. The album makes bold statements with its politically charged messaging and is probably the most thought-provoking of Kanye’s work. While listening to this album you can tell Kanye knows that this is his big break and he puts all he has into it. His verses hit hard as does his production and to end it all he speaks on the closing track “Last Call” where he tells us about his journey getting to this point. He seems truly grateful for getting the chance to rap and even now it makes me happy to think how this producer was able to do what he wanted to do.
1. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
I am almost positive that Kanye will not be able to top this album. This is truly his magnum opus. After the whole VMA incident with Taylor Swift, Kanye needed this to restore faith in his fans. What we get is a look into the mind of someone has achieved superstar status and has an ego too big for comfort. The sonic scope of this album feels huge thanks to amazing production and a great variety of guests who all deliver some of their work. An album that features artists like Nicki Minaj, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, and Elton John just to list a few and is still able to flow flawlessly from track to track is worthy of praise. It disappoints me that Kanye has not been able to come close to this and as much as I am hoping his new album delivers, it will be hard to top this. This is not only one of my favorite hip-hop records but one of my favorite records period. I have been listening to this album for over five years now and I am still not bored of it.