The 7 LP’s of the ‘biggest rock star in the world’ from worst to best
Kanye West has had one of the most decorated careers of any hip-hop artist, holding to his name 21 Grammy awards, and with good reason. Since his first full-length solo project in 2004, he’s been a household name that has come into conversation time and time again, whether it be for something he’s said, something he’s done or he’s simply dropped a new song. It’s such a common post across the internet I know, but a man like Kanye and the influence he’s had (especially in light of his recent album release) should have his work listened to, scrutinized and in the end; ranked.
(P.S I’m only counting solo projects, so no ‘Watch The Throne’ to be found here.)
7. Yeezus (2013)
Arguably the most experimental album that Kanye has ever made, his 3 year-long absence was ended by this project. It split fans, not only through the music that could be found across the 10 tracks (his shortest album to date), but with the persona that Kanye was putting across on the record. By this point we knew he had a rather large ego, but this was something else. He literally had a track on here called ‘I Am A God‘ (featuring none other than ‘God’ of course). His narcissistic attitude was amplified a thousand times throughout the LP and to be honest, the music itself suffered because of it. Yeezus was weirdly paced and had some clearly bad decisions here and there, with the man himself just spurting out sycophantic praise for both himself and his love of sex wherever he could. It wasn’t terrible; it had its moments (‘New Slaves‘/’Blood on the Leaves‘/’Black Skinhead‘) but overall it was him at his weakest.
6. 808s and Heartbreaks (2008)
I don’t know what it was about ‘808s and Heartbreaks‘ (shortened to 808s) that I didn’t like. It certainly had heart and some fantastic production, even some classics that Kanye still performs live today, but I guess I just couldn’t ever dig auto tune Kanye, and of course that was what the entirety of 808s was made up of. Another step away from the signature Kanye sound, this album dropped after Kanye lost his mother Donda and broke up with his fiancée Alexis Phifer, and he portrays his loneliness and a longing for a sense of normality throughout. Despite the LP being incredibly ground-breaking, influencing artists for years to come, I personally just couldn’t get with the sound and the minimalistic detraction from hip-hop into R&B. The constant tribal drums and electro-pop melodies were things I couldn’t get to grips with, and for that I have to give it the one-but-last worst spot.
5. The Life of Pablo (2016)
The most recent release from ‘Ye West was highly anticipated after much talk and hype by the man himself on Twitter, bigging it up to be not just the album of the year, but “the album of the life“. While it was definitely an enjoyable project after another 3 year break, it just wasn’t cohesive enough and a lacked a real sense of consistency, even for a Kanye album. There’s some superb production on this thing, as well as some memorable lines from the MC, but in the end it felt like a bunch of good-to-half-decent songs had just been thrown together to make a satisfying (but hashed-together) record.
4. Graduation (2007)
What many would consider to be the last project from the ‘Old Kanye‘, the final part of the ‘bear’ trilogy was a Pop-rap triumph. ‘Ye takes samples from his collection of Jazz/Motown records but combines them with more electrical sounds than his first two albums, inspired to make something that would suit arenas more. There’s a constant anthemic sound to LP, with the tracks constantly having this grand scale to them. It featured slower production and more self-obsessed lyrics on which Kanye discusses his fame in relation to the theme of learning (something his first trilogy held throughout). It had more Pop appeal with fewer tracks and skits peppering the list, instead going for a more concise record (something that he would stick to after this). It may not have had the true heart and soul behind it that his previous records had, but it’s certainly one of his more accessible releases, one I believe any new fan should explore first.
3. The College Dropout (2004)
The very first Kanye West album took the world by storm. After doing so much production work for the likes of Jay-Z, it must have been strange to see him attempt to break into being an MC himself. But it worked. His genius instrumentals took R&B/Soul tracks and ‘chipmunked‘ them (pitch-shifting and speeding them up), pairing them up with strings and gospel choirs. This, accompanied with his self-conscious and introspective lyricism, made Roc-A-Fella Records’s investment a worthy one, with the album nowadays widely regarded as a classic. It may seem strange that an LP held in such high regard by so many people would only be in third place, but despite all of its incredible sounds and unique ideas, I believe that Kanye still ‘one-upped’ his game with his following records. That being said, it can’t be understated how much ‘The College Dropout‘ paved the way for the artist we know and love today to gain a platform to express himself on.
2. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)
What many consider to be Kanye’s personal masterpiece and one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time; ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ came out following the MC’s 2 year ‘self-exile’ in Hawaii. Amid the media controversy surrounding him after the 2009 MTV music awards incident (the Taylor Swift one) he escaped to the world-famous island in search of both his retribution and his revenge. In 2010 he released the much-anticipated project (formerly known as ‘Good Ass Job‘) and it was met by universal acclaim, both critically and commercially. Kanye ventured deeper into topics like race, consumer culture and the plight of a tarnished image. The production is some of the best ‘Ye’s ever put on a record, with tracks like ‘Power‘ and ‘All of the Lights‘ assimilate all of the symphonic, electro and soul aspects of his previous work to culminate in what turned out to be an expert lesson in how to make a modern, forward-thinking hip-hop album.
1. Late Registration (2005)
When Kanye mimicked his long-time, die-hard fans on his latest album, repeating their favourite phrase “I miss the old Kanye“, it wasn’t out of nothing. This is the Kanye said fans were talking about. This is the quintessential Yeezy. This is ‘Late Registration‘. The hotly-anticipated sequel to his first LP encapsulates everything that made Kanye such an important player in the game and a household name across the states. It did everything a sequel should; taking his original formula and making it bigger, better and a hell of a lot more fun. It perfectly blends his man-on-a-mission attitude and braggadocio with soul samples and a host boom bap instrumentals, creating one of the most consistent-sounding albums in its genre. From ‘Touch the Sky‘ to ‘We Can Make It Better‘, ‘Ye takes everything that made him so likeable in his freshman album and evolved it into something that every rapper post-2005 wishes they could do. It’s been criminally overlooked over the years; considered a solid addition to his roster, but nothing more. To me though, it was everything anyone could’ve ever wanted from the young Mr. West at the time and it remains as one of the most enjoyable records I’ve had the pleasure of listening to.