Music Mondays, Case #1: Ranking Kanye West’s Bests

Plain and simple, I have loved every album that Kanye West has released. Late Registration and College Dropout introduced me to the legend, while 808s and Heartbreak got me through tougher times, and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was just awe-inspiring.

What’s even more impressive than Kanye as an MC, is Kanye as a producer, just look at Jay-Z’s Blueprint. Yeezy’s ability to collaborate with so many different artists has really helped him solidify himself as the greatest of his generation.

Recently, Complex ranked  the top 100 Kanye West songs. While I don’t want to dedicate that much space to ‘Ye, I find it appropriate to correct Complex’s list.

Forget his ego, forget Kim Kardashian, these are Kanye West’s Top 25 Songs.

Criteria:

Lyrics – This means 808s won’t be in the same league as College Dropout.

Beats – Kanye’s soulful samples make this a tough category

Pop Cultural Significance – Was the song top in the charts, bars, and…hearts?

Personal Significance – My blog, my rules.

When appropriate, Features – Did he play well with others?

25. Power – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Lyrics – 3. Just read them. “Tell ‘em Yeezy said they can kiss my whole ass / More specifically they can kiss my asshole / I’m an asshole? You niggas got jugs.”

Beat – 5. This beat is huge. Its Greek-epic-esque music video is a perfect match for its angelic choir.

Pop – 5. A hugely successful first single off the album. The teaser video garnered over 34 million views.

Personal – 4. This song was played to death and I rank many of the other songs on the album above it (including some that did not make the list).

24. Hey Mama – Late Registration

Lyrics – 5. Nice, personal dedication to his mother, who was there for him on from humbler times to…well, The Throne. Awwww.

Beat – 5. A great soft, non-imposing beat that perfectly matches its subject matter.

Pop – 3.5. Some success, but not as much as actual singles from Late Registration.

Personal – 4. A late discovery and respected song, but not a first choice in defining Kanye’s career.

23. Otis – Watch the Throne

Lyrics – 3.5. Boastful lyricism at it’s biggest: introducing Kanye’s “other other Benz.”

Beat – 4.5. It’s occasionally clunky, but it’s an Otis Redding sample for cryin’ out loud.

Pop – 5. Meet The Throne.

Personal – 4. Wasn’t huge on “Otis” when it first came out, but it grew on me and I acknowledge its role in Kanye’s career. Plus, Aziz Ansari is in the music video.

Features – N/A. I wouldn’t call Jay-Z a feature, I mean the two are The Throne after all.

22. Get ‘Em High (feat. Talib Kweli and Common) – The College Dropout

Lyrics – 5. Classic Kanye, especially those first lines that hit the song hard.

Beat – 4. I rate this lower than it deserves, but that’s only because the Ratatat version was better.

Pop – 4. Surprisingly did not get that much success, maybe because the song was called “Get ‘Em High…” or probably because it wasn’t a single.

Personal – 4. Again, the Ratatat version really improved this song for me, making it average in its original form.

Features – 5. Talib Kweli and Common are doing what they do best on this. Kweli’s intro from Kanye is one of the best entrances by a rapper in a song ever. I know, very specific.

21. Homecoming (feat. Chris Martin) – Graduation

Lyrics – 4.5. Not his most impressive, but a nice love story…about Chi city.

Beats – 4.5. Chris Martin’s piano gets a 5, but overall, it doesn’t sync too well with Kanye’s rapping.

Pop – 4. WHY DID RICK REILLY HAVE TO PLAY THIS ON HIS SHOW!?! Could have been bigger for the people involved.

Personal – 4. Nothing too special, but hey, it was another reason to break out the keyboard…

Features – 5. I don’t care what people have to say about Coldplay. Chris Martin is great on this song and I think it was a really cool pairing.

20. Blame Game (feat. John Legend and Chris Rock) – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Lyrics – 4.5. Something we’ve seen before from Kanye – talking about relationship issues. But there are some serious complexities to this one, and his delivery makes us feel them.

Beat – 4. Yes, more piano,  and while it’s a great touch on this song, it doesn’t receive much support.

Pop – 4. Despite John Legend and Chris Rock appearing on this track, it didn’t really take off. Perhaps it’s too slow for casual Kanye listeners.

Personal – 4. A little boring the first few listens, but the features got me to appreciate it…

Features – 5. John Legend really takes this song up a notch, the chorus is as beautiful as it is upsetting. The skit at the end is just hilarious and vintage Chris Rock.

19. Touch The Sky (feat. Lupe Fiasco) – Late Registration

Lyrics – 5. A reward for rap fans with many references to its culture. Chosen lyric:

“Guess who’s on third / Lupe steal like Lupin the Third.”

Beat – 5. This is so jazzy and upbeat. Just a lively, fun song.

Pop – 4.5. It didn’t blow up, but this song has been remixed like crazy and still catches some plays today.

Personal – 4.5. While it didn’t have that great of sticking power, it did introduce me to Lupe.

Feature – 5. Welcome to the world of hip-hop, Lupe. He sounds so young on his verse, but shines on this big feature from Ye.

18. Amazing (feat. Young Jeezy) – 808s and Heartbreak

Lyrics – 4. Not horrible by 808s standards, but repeating “it’s amazing” a bunch of times doesn’t help its case either.

Beat – 4.5. The slow 808 beat combined with some light piano make this a solid production.

Pop – 5. Played to death when it first came out – a near permanent death because it hasn’t had much exposure since, but it’s impossible to ignore its popularity after the immediate release.

Personal – 4.5. It was another likeable song off the guilty pleasure that 808s is. Nothing more, nothing less.

Features – 3. Jeezy growling through his verses doesn’t mix well with Kanye’s darker themes.

17.  So Appalled (feat. Jay-Z, Pusha T, Prynce Cy Hi, and Swizz) – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Lyrics – 4. More people, more boasts. And more Dark Knight quotes.

Beat – 5. I love this beat for one reason and one reason only: it reminds me of the music from the N64 classic Goldeneye.

Pop – 3.5. Another case of a bunch of great people on a track that didn’t gain much public attention.

Personal – 5. If you refer to the “beats” section and played N64, you’ll understand why this song gets a 5.

Features – 4.5. A lot of good stuff here, not the best lyricism but Pusha T and Prynce Cy Hi’s distinct voices add some freshness to the song.

16. Stronger – Graduation

Lyrics – 4. Nothing too special here, and a sign of more bragging to come.

Beats – 5.  Fantastic sample of “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger,” that was a departure from funk and R&B sampling that appeared on The College Dropout and Late Registration.

Pop – 5. This song, like most Kanye singles, was everywhere. It had some lasting pop cultural impression, including making Daft Punk’s song even more popular.

Personal – 4. One of the better songs off the album, but it grew old for me with its constant airplay.

15. Roses – Late Registration

Lyrics – 5. Real personal, dramatic stuff from Kanye here. Choice selection:

“If Magic Johnson got a cure for AIDS / And all the broke muthafuckers past away / You tellin me if my grandma was in the NBA / Right now she’d be ok?”

Beats – 5.  Borrowing from Bill Withers and a classy piano? A+++ would listen to again.

Pop – 3.5. Not a single and not terribly popular. Doesn’t help when Andre 3000 drops his “Roses” two years earlier.

Personal – 4.5. I love Bill Withers, so that gives this a .5 boost, otherwise it’s not the song I think of first when it comes to Late Registration.

14. Lost in the World (feat. Bon Iver) – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Lyrics – 4. It depends where you cut this song off, but I consider this song to be independent of “Who Will Survive in America,” which would obviously make this a 5 with Gil-Scott Heron’s contribution.

Beats – 5. Some great drum work here builds up and concludes My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy perfectly.

Pop – 4. This song got some recognition, and sampling Bon Iver’s “Woods” helped a bit as well.

Personal – 5. One of those songs that can help me through the not-so-good times, a West specialty.

Features – 5. Well, it’s a sample, but it’s a great sample that deserves the “featuring” label.

13. No Church in the Wild  (feat. Frank Ocean) – Watch the Throne

Lyrics – 5. Probably would have gotten a 6, but Kanye’s verse has some weak lines. Aside from that, The Throne and Frank Ocean have some really great lyrics covering the battle of the haves and have-nots.

Beat – 4.5.  A catchy, repeating hook that really can do some good filler work when no one’s rapping over it.

Pop – 4.5. If it wasn’t for Safe House and The Great Gatsby trailer, this might not have gotten as much exposure, as the beat is somewhat atypical.

Personal – 5. This song helped further my liking of Frank Ocean and the music video will always stick with me.

Features – 5. Thanks to his chorus,  along with his work with Beyonce, Frank Ocean began receiving widespread praise. He totally deserved it too, because the lyricism and flow of the chorus is the best part of this song.

12. Good Morning – Graduation

Lyrics – 5. Solid lyricism with some similar themes leaking over from his earlier work.

Beats – 5. A great minimalist beat with some gorgeous soulful vocals. Perfect example of when keeping it simple works best.

Pop – 3. By far not the most popular song of this album with “Stronger,” “Good Life,” and “Barry Bonds” taking the spotlight.

Personal – 4.5. I hold this song in high regard because of its simplicity relative to the following songs on the album. It also continued the trend of memorable Kanye album intros.

11. Addiction – Late Registration

Lyrics – 5. Some real honest, personal lyricism. And not in an 808s way. His delivery is original and perfect.

Beats – 6. The sampling of Etta James’ “My Funny Valentine” is haunting and really sets this song’s dark tone.

Pop – 3. Let’s face it: this is not among Kanye’s most well-known songs.

Personal – 4.5. It had to grow on me, but it has become one of my favorite songs off this album and out of his entire catalogue.

10. Love Lockdown – 808s and Heartbreak

Lyrics – 3.5  A lot of repetition here, certainly not his best.

Beats – 5. The legendary Roland 808! Nothing like a smooth, full synthesizer beat.

Pop – 4.5. May not have been as big as “Heartless,” but it was certainly its better foil.

Personal – 5. My favorite song of the album, I was always soothed by that 808 intro.

9. Runaway (feat. Pusha T) – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Lyrics – 4. Almost slips into 808s territory while serving as a precursor for Watch the Throne terrirory. Still love that chorus.

Beats – 6. That piano! That synth! Even that auto-tune! Gorgeous, absolutely stunning.

Pop – 4.5. Not as big as other singles, but still had a lot of influence and was huge at the VMAs.

Personal – 4.5. Not my favorite off of the album, but the video and that one note on the ivories have stuck with me.

Features – 5. Pusha T provides a great change of pace. Welcome to GOOD Music.

8.  Niggas in Paris – Watch the Throne

Lyrics – 3.5. Let’s face it, they’re not the deepest of lyrics, it’s just some fun boastful rapping.

Beats – 5. Some great, energetic music that, well, gets the people going.

Pop – 5. For lasting impression, this is incomplete, but it’s been around for about a year, and it is still as popular as ever.

Personal – 5. This and “No Church in the Wild” really stuck with me on this album, and showed that I could get into Ye’s pop side.

7. Jesus Walks – The College Dropout

Lyrics – 5. “Ya’ll eat pieces of shit? What’s the basis!?” Kanye just brings it.

Beats – 5. The male vocals turn this beat into a march, to a wonderful effect.

Pop – 5. This song made Jarhead. It made it.

Personal – 4. Not my favorite Kanye song. But I respect it. Respect.

6. All of the Lights (feat. John Legend, The-Dream, Elly Jackson, Alicia Keys, Fergie, Kid Cudi, Elton John, and Rihanna) – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Lyrics – 4. Kanye’s out of his prime here, but still love “had to take him to that ghetto university.”

Beats – 5. This betat is fantastic in all ways. It’s big, hard-hitting, has some nice horn use, and features several different sections and changes of pace. Perfect.

Pop – 5.  A song with this many big names got people’s attention.

Personal – 5. This and “Monster” were the first two songs I heard from the album, and got me thinking that Kanye was back to his auto-tune-less form.

Features – Incomplete. The people who I can hear get a 5, because they bring it. But with the insane number of features, not everyone shines through.

5. Diamonds from Sierra Leone (Remix) (feat. Jay-Z) – Late Registration

Lyrics – 5. Wordplay with diamonds is plain fantastic. Plus, this is some real conscious rap.

Beats – 5. Larger-than-life. The “Diamonds are Forever” hook makes this a blockbuster of a beat.

Pop – 4.5. This song was a remix of a song that didn’t crack the Billboard Top 10. But forget about “The Bounce,” this was a sign of things to come.

Personal – 4.5. A big song for me. Jay-Z brought out a different side of Kanye, a side perhaps not seen in The College Dropout…

Features – 5. …and oh, how great of indicator this was for things to come…

4. Through the Wire – The College Dropout

The criteria need not apply. With his jaw wired shut, Kanye managed to spit some fantastic verses over a (what I consider annoying) innovative beat that somehow turned a chipmunked-out Chaka Kan into a great sample. This song really introduced the world to Kanye West as an MC, and it’s amazing to see how far he has come since this song. Though not one of my favorites, I have tremendous respect for its impact on the Yeezy legend and what he went through while recording.

3. Monster (feat. Rick Ross, Jay-Z, and Nicki Minaj) – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Lyrics – 5. Everyone kills it on this song. Credit to Rick Ross calling himself a “fat motherfucker.”

Beats – 4. Nothing too special on this track in terms of beat, but seeing as how everyone manhandles it, it gets a 4.

Pop – 5. Introduced everyone to Nicki Minaj’s vivacity and reintroduced the critics to the Kanye West they thought had disappeared during 808s and Heartbreak.

Personal – 5.  As aforementioned, “Monster” was a preview as to what was to come and had me reciting a female rapper’s lyrics for once.

Features – 6. This honestly could be considered low. Many consider this to be “Nicki Minaj’s song” because she absolutely destroys her split-personality verse. Rick Ross manages to have me like him for once, and Jay-Z’s verse has some awesome horror-themed lyricism.

2. Gold Digger (feat. Jamie Foxx) – Late Registration

Lyrics – 5. These aren’t the most insightful lyrics, but damn do they flow well.

Beats – 5. So. Much. Kick. What really makes this beat is looping Foxx’s voice and the changing the synthesizer during Kanye’s final verse.

Pop – 6. This breaks the scale. This song was and is everywhere, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Triple platinum is a helluva thing.

Personal – 4. To me, this was just a great early Kanye song that everyone else could like too.

Features – 5. Coming off winning an Oscar Ray, Foxx was just on fire. This song proves it and then some.

1. All Falls Down (feat. Syleena Johnson) – The College Dropout

Lyrics – 6. “She couldn’t afford a car so she name her daughter Alexis.” Kanye at his best.

Beats – 5. For me, that guitar is what makes this song, it’s a gorgeous little riff with a nice supporting bass line.

Pop – 4. Not one of Kanye’s ultimate chart-toppers, “Jesus Walks” and “Through the Wire” compete with this song for popularity off the album.

Personal – 5. One of my first Kanye songs. ‘Nuff said.

Features – 5. Syleena Johnson’s chorus is gorgeous, she somehow brings meaning into repeating the same phrase over and over.

Whether I left something out, am completely wrong, or absolutely nailed it, this blog always encourages debate. So bring it.

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