Opinions about Kanye West aren’t hard to come by in 2021. Between his half-serious presidential campaign in 2020 to patented concert rants airing out multiple grievances or even his infamous, “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people” line during a Hurricane Katrina telethon; it is nearly impossible to not have a thought on what to make of Kanye as a person and an artist. Most would readily admit that the enigmatic superstar has had an unprecedented career and his generational talent is probably the reason he has any leash left with those that have not fully abandoned him.
Without further ado, Kanye West’s nine studio albums ranked from WORST to BEST. Let us know your thoughts on the socials…
Jesus Is King
“Top Tracks: Selah, Everything We Need, Water”
Religious Kanye to the fullest here. Not that that’s a bad thing, I just feel like he’s done a better job of portraying his beliefs on other albums. This is more serious than other albums Kanye has produced. Bottom line: it’s Kanye’s journey with God. There are likable things about this project. I love the instrumental and choir on the song “Selah.” It’s a very powerful ballad. I personally love Ty Dolla Sign’s singing on “Everything We Need”. I love the upbeat, catchy vocals on “Water” as well. All that said, the replay value of this album is horrible. Hence it coming in as his weakest output on this list. When listening to Kanye, the only time any song from Jesus Is King will get played is if it’s on shuffle. Outside of Sunday, I have no real desire to listen to this in my free time.
“Top Tracks: Bound 2, New Slaves, Black Skinhead”
I will admit I hated this project when it dropped in 2013. I felt like this album was incredibly rushed and, frankly, on the bad side of experimental. However, I will admit, this album has grown on me over time. There are some solid tracks on here. I like the message that “New Slaves” touches on dealing with racism, segregation, and materialism. I love the sample from “Bound 2.” That “uh-huh honey” is one of the most recognizable samples in hip-hop. But with all the good, comes some bad. He has a song featuring God on this project which has an annoying, sharp yelling sound in the last minute of the song. The retro video game-like beats and simplistic lyrics like “keep it 300, like the Romans” on “Black Skinhead”, brings Yeezus down to number 8 on the list.
“Top Tracks: Ghost Town, Wouldn’t Leave”
This album has a very raw, uncut, IDGAF nature to it. This album brings is a deep look into psyche of Kanye at this time and the kind of person he is. My top tracks on this album feature PARTYNEXTDOOR, who does a great job on both songs. This is one of Kanye’s shorter projects lasting roughly 20 minutes and only having 7 tracks. In “Wouldn’t Leave”, Kanye speaks about the many problems he goes through in life but his wife, Kim Kardashian, refuses to give up on him. On “Ghost Town”, I love Kanye’s singing personally and also really like the guitar and organ in the background. There are no overly horrible songs on this good but not great project.
“Top Tracks: Saint Pablo, No More Parties in LA, Ultralight Beam”
This album was all over the place but in a good way. It was a huge bounceback from Yeezus. Kanye has a great sense of self-awareness on this album. For example, “I Love Kanye”, Kanye addresses what all of his fans are thinking: how much his fans long for his older music and style. “Ultralight Beam” and “Father, Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” are both very positive and uplifting tracks. The latter will definitely get a laugh out of you when you get to the “model line.” On “Saint Pablo”, you see a different side of Kanye that radiates confidence. He tells you about his insecurities as well as the fact that he’s badly in debt. Sampha does a great job singing on the chorus as well.
808S AND HEARTBREAK
“Top Tracks: Say You Will, Heartless, Street Lights”
This was autotune Kanye to the max. Kanye was going through so many personal issues at the time and you can tell from this project: from the death of his mother to relationship failures, Kanye is at his most vulnerable here. This album also features a lot more singing from Kanye. On “Welcome to Heartbreak”, Kanye really breaks down how unhappy he is knowing that his friends are enjoying life with their kids and family while all he has is money. Lines such as “He showed me pictures of his kids, I could only show him pictures of my cribs” and “He told a joke and they all laughed but I couldn’t hear up in 1st class” really show you that money isn’t everything. Kid Cudi also does a great job on the hook. The autotune works really well on tracks such as “Amazing” and “Heartless”, making for some of Kanye’s most memorable hooks of all time. Songs like “Love Lockdown” and “Paranoid” are more upbeat love songs. “Say You Will” is one of my favorite tracks on the album, the only issue is the song is 6 minutes long. Kanye raps for about 3 minutes and then the instrumental plays for the last three—like he fell asleep in the booth and forgot to turn the beat off. The last two minutes of “Bad News” is the same way. A great album but not his best, in my opinion.
“Top Tracks: I Wonder, Can’t Tell Me Nothing, Good Life”
This album is loaded with bangers. This was a nice change of pace from Kanye’s soulful body of work. With Lil Wayne and 50 Cent at the top of the rap game at the time, this album gave us an alternative sound to the typical gangsta rap popular in more mainstream avenues of hip-hop at the time. In the song, “Homecoming”, Kanye does a beautiful job showing love for his hometown of Chicago by an excellent use of personification comparing the city to a girl he met when he was younger. In “Good Life”, Kanye raps about finally being able to live the life he’s dreamt about. Both “Champion” and “Stronger” provide upbeat, catchy hooks that puts you in a good mood. “Can’t Tell Me Nothing”, in my opinion, is Kanye dealing with his newfound fame and accepting the fact that people will hate no matter what he is or who he is. Kanye also has a beautiful sample on “I Wonder.” This classic of an album showed us Kanye is here to stay.
THE COLLEGE DROPOUT
“Top Tracks: Spaceship, All Falls Down, Through The Wire”
The OG. The one that started everything. I love this album dearly. I feel like Kanye is at his most relatable on this project. On the song “Spaceship”, Kanye sings of working at a dead end job that you hate but you do it to pay the bills. The song, which features guest verses from GLC and Consequence, also has a beautiful blues-inspired sound to it. On “All Falls Down”, he talks not only about being materialistic but about being lost in the college experience. The line “sophomore three years ain’t picked a career” could apply to most, if not all, college students at one point or another. Kanye mentions every organization in the Divine 9 in the song, “School Spirit”, which was a nice college feel. On “Through the Wire”, Kanye is literally rapping with his jaw WIRED SHUT, showcasing his determination to get this project out. The skits on the album were absolutely hilarious. You have a man speaking on “Intro” and “Graduation Day” that sounds like Bernie Mac, poking fun at the idea of college being the only way to be successful. “Jesus Walks” is a GREAT way of Kanye showcasing his passion for Christianity. If Jesus Is King sounded like this, it wouldn’t have been the worst project on this list. This project was socially conscious but also very enjoyable to listen to.
“Top Tracks: Bring Me Down, Hey Mama, Gold Digger”
The production and beat selection on this project was absolutely FANTASTIC. There’s a reason this album won Kanye a Grammy. The overall sound of this project was a refreshing twist to the sound that was popular at the time—featuring many jazzy, funk, and soul-inspired layers. If you want an orchestral masterpiece, look no further than the song “Bring Me Down.” Brandy’s vocals on the hook sound absolutely lovely and there’s a dramatic, yet motivational sound to the instrumental. I would’ve loved a little more energy from Kanye personally but he did a good job nevertheless. I love Kanye’s energy on “Touch The Sky”. It has a very upbeat, anthemic sound to it and I love the trumpets on this song. On “Gold Digger”, Kanye speaks on the dangers of manipulative women in a very entertaining way and Jamie Foxx has great background vocals. Kanye sounds a lot more somber on “Roses” but I love the message behind it—as Kanye is trying to take care of his sick grandmother while the nurse is more worried about getting an autograph. Kanye’s love for his mother is on full display on “Hey Mama.” He sings a beautiful hook and tells a great story about how he can finally give his mother everything he dreamed about due to her constant love and support of him. This is on constant repeat on Mother’s Day. While I like the skits on this project—with Kanye introducing us to “Broke Phi Broke”, a fraternity-like group who pride themselves on having nothing—I feel like they would’ve been better served on The College Dropout. In fact, on the very last skit, Kanye actually gets kicked out of the fraternity when they find out he’s doing better for himself. This could be a metaphor for how your friends change up on you when you start doing better. “Crack Music” is another great hit, getting just enough of The Game without overdoing it. The James Bond sample on “Diamonds From Sierra Leone” was a nice touch as well. This album is instrumentally immaculate. But there’s one project I love more than this classic…
MY BEAUTIFUL DARK TWISTED FANTASY
“Top Tracks: Gorgeous, Runaway, Devil In A New Dress”
Where do I even begin with this one? This album is a bonafide masterpiece. This was directly after 808s and Heartbreak so for something like this to come about is just amazing. Kanye is constantly reinventing himself but this album was a million steps in the right direction. With production from people like No I.D, RZA, and Mike Dean, MBDTF is a diverse project—arguably the most diverse project in his discography. There are some pop elements, some electro-style elements, and some rock elements. The features on this project, are some of the best you’ll ever hear: Rick Ross on “Devil In A New Dress”, Pusha T on “Runaway”, Nicki Minaj on “Monster”, Kid Cudi and Raekwon on “Gorgeous”, Rihanna on “All Of The Lights”, the list goes on. On the song “Gorgeous”, you get a beautiful Kid Cudi hook over an electric guitar while Kanye speaks of social injustices. This is my favorite track on the album and it boasts one of my favorite lines in rap history, “This pimp is, at the top of Mount Olympus, ready for the world’s games, this is my Olympics.” On “Power”, Kanye reaches the peak of his egotistical nature, really bringing out his God complex; embracing his inner asshole with the lines, “it would be a beautiful death, jumping out the window”, meaning the only one who could cost him his power is himself. “Devil In A New Dress” does a beautiful job sampling Smokey Robinson, with Rick Ross spitting one of the hardest verses you’ll ever hear from him. On “Monster”, you get a look into the alter ego of an up-and-coming, Nicki Minaj. She brings a weird but energetic verse with multiple voice inflections. The whole song brings this creepy, horror-based element to the album. On “Hell of A Life”, you get kind of a pre-Yeezus Kanye; rock elements and a gruff beat in the background over some drums. On the track “Runaway”, Kanye does a wonderful job singing on the chorus, giving a toast for some of the most deplorable people. This album has no skips and gives you a little bit of everything being the peak of Kanye’s creativity. This album reminds me of when Michael Jordan came back to the NBA in 1995; Kanye’s return to rap full time—and he did not disappoint.