Kanye West’s albums ranked
By Joshua Toevs, Contributor
This is a continuation of last week’s article about Kanye West’s top albums. Check the previous issue of the Other Press for the rest of the list.
3) Late Registration (2005)
Late Registration is Kanye’s sophomore album and in a lot of ways it sounds like its predecessor, The College Dropout, but with a lot more of a financial backing behind it. Kanye struck while the iron was hot and released an album chock-full of beautiful melodies, catchy hooks, amazing use of samples, and an overall mastery of song-creation. Kanye smartly used high-profile singers like Adam Levine (Maroon 5), Chris Martin (Coldplay), and Jamie Foxx on hooks as opposed to relying on his average singing.
From a commercial standpoint, Late Registration produced West’s first number one record in “Gold Digger,” a song with an in-your-face kick drum, ’80s inspired sampling, and a very catchy key melody. The song is about a woman who only dates rich men (Usher, Busta Rhymes, et cetera) and is executed playfully allowing for repeat listens. For every fun record there is an equally dense social song, like the issue of blood diamonds on “Diamonds from Sierra Leone.”
There are so many good cuts on the record. The chopped and screwed instrumental of “Drive Slow” leads to a true southern anthem, while “Touch the Sky” is every bit as egotistical and grandiose as Kanye West’s ego. The missteps are few and far between. The album loses a bit of momentum towards the end if only because the first two thirds of this record are near flawless, and tracks with a more New York boom bap flavor (“We Major”) feel out of place. An overall fantastic record that is close to perfect.
2) The College Dropout (2004)
This album revolutionized what a hip-hop record could sound like as it is heavily influenced by soul music, which was foreign for the most part before this record. Kanye is very socially aware on this album. For example, on the track “All Falls Down,” he speaks about the need for material things to represent worth in the world while also noting how material goods illuminate how self-conscious we are as a society.
One of his more controversial records, “Jesus Walks” looks at the idea of speaking about God on a mainstream level and why it can be looked down upon in comparison to drugs and sex. This theme is done in an explanative way as opposed to forcing religion and God upon the listener. Kanye also speaks about his struggles to become recognized as a rapper due to his legendary status as a producer before trying to make it on his own. The specific song dealing with this, “Last Call” is half-song, half-story as West speaks about his time before getting a rapper deal.
The deep cuts on this record are also tremendous. “Spaceship” sees West rap about being treated like crap at his job, unless black people were in the store. “Never Let Me Down” is my personal favourite song of all time. With its knocking drum loop and a sped-up vocal performance by Tarrey Torae, the song sees Kanye, Jay-Z, and J. Ivy speaking about who they are doing this music for and how they will never let them down. J. Ivy steals the show with his spoken-word piece and it is worth the admission alone. It is goose-bump-inducing and adds a lot to an already perfect song.
In general, this record announced that Kanye West is not just a producer but also a rapper. As history as shown, Kanye made the right move to jump onto the mic.
1) My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)
I have been writing about music in different spaces for the better part of seven years now, and this record always finds a way to be talked about.
There are so many things to unpack about this album. All the songs bring something different to the table, from the politically-charged “Gorgeous,” to the emergence of Nicki Minaj on “Monster,” this album blends so many different sounds. There are so many little things that Kanye does that keep you coming back. From the spoken-word piece on “Blame Game,” to the transitioning from “All of the Lights” to “Monster” with a simple line (“I shoot the lights out”). This album plays out as a three-act play with aggressive Kanye leading the first act. He is defiant, cocky, and sometimes too smart for his own good. The second act (“All of the Lights” to “Runaway”) shows the downfall of the ego as Kanye shows restraint, humility, and self-realization of his demons. Then the last act presents a full circle to West as he blends both versions of himself into the one that make him the mortal that he is.
The production on this record is futuristic, aggressive, and complex. It incorporates choirs, string quartets, electric guitars, and live drums, all of which lead to a satisfying experience. The features are stellar: From Nicki on “Monster,” to Justin Vernon on multiple songs. Overall, this record blends genres and redefines them, and is a forefather to the current rap sphere. It is a perfect album and my favourite of all time.