Kanye West’s albums ranked
By Joshua Toevs, Contributor
7) 808s & Heartbreak (2008)
808s is not a bad album per se but it certainly falls short of the standards that Kanye had set with previous records. West is at his most experimental on this record, incorporating hollow, cold production with Auto-Tune vocals. His emotional fragility at the time is very evident, having recently lost his mother and breaking up with his long-term fiancée, and it shows on this record. He constantly speaks on loss with this record, from the loss of love on “Heartless” and “Coldest Winter” to the loss of his freedom in life on the Kid Cudi-assisted “Welcome to Heartbreak.” The production on “Amazing,” with the tribal drums and the dark atmosphere that surrounds them, provides a very anthematic song.
There are some big blunders on this record, though. The over-reliance on Auto-Tune is grating at points, especially when he attempts to swoon on a record. In addition, the writing is mediocre at best, which only accentuates the annoyance of Kanye’s vocals, while a lot of the album sounds terribly mastered, providing for some bad listening experiences.
6) Graduation (2007)
Having Graduation this low may ruffle some feathers, but there are valid reasons as to why this one of Kanye’s weaker albums. First, the positives. The anthems on this record are massive, boisterous, and encapsulating, with songs like “Good Life” audibly representing the idea of good vibes only. That particular song is highly quotable and a perfect song to throw on in a club or at a house party. “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” with its shimmering, slowed-down soul beat allows Kanye to address his detractors while also announcing to the world that he is one of the best in the game.
The reason why this album is so low on the list is because it is his only effort that sounds terribly dated. The production, the flows, and the features sound like 2007, which makes it a lot harder to listen to 10 years later. As well, songs like “Drunk and Hot Girls” and “Everything I Am” are some of Kanye’s worst songs he has ever released.
5) The Life of Pablo (2016)
His most recent project is certainly an interesting one. There is a sonic mishmash with the mixture of trap, EDM, pop, and soul all melded into one succinct record. The album’s best points are definitely strong, from the Nina Simone sample on the Taylor Swift diss track, “Famous,” to the dark and somber revelations on “FML” featuring The Weeknd. Kanye is very reflective about his love for his family (“FML”), his struggles with fame (“Father Stretch My Hands”), his footing in the fashion world (“Facts”), and the need for love (“Ultralight Beam”). The latter song in particular is the standout record. It starts with a young girl talking about the Lord and then we get these light and ethereal guitar riffs mixed with that trap sound that Kanye has become accustomed to using since Cruel Summer.
The biggest problem with the record is that the features on the album outshine Kanye himself. Overall the album is great musically. The beats are varied and lush. The features are all great and everything feels layered. However, the biggest problem with the album is sadly Kanye himself. Kanye sounds lost most of the time and jumps from thought to thought without letting any ideas breathe. It also feels very short and disjointed. Kanye dropped arguably his worst album lyrically since 808s but thankfully the music makes it an enjoyable listen. Great attempt at the music but a letdown lyrically.
4) Yeezus (2013)
An album created at Kanye’s most broken. If you watched any interviews during the leadup to the album or the interviews that followed its release, you would have seen the pain and anger that Kanye was experiencing. He wasn’t being taken seriously in the fashion world and that angst was definitely transposed into Yeezus. It is his shortest and most experimental album ever: Ten tracks featuring minimalist production, braggadocios lyrics, and angry flows. Kanye touches on a number issues including racism at length. This is best shown on the aptly titled “New Slaves:”
My momma was raised in an era when / Clean water was only served to the fairer skin
Doing clothes you would have thought I had help / But they wasn’t satisfied unless I picked the Cotton myself.
Kanye talks about his love of Kim Kardashian on “Bound 2,” a record that features an angelic vocal performance by Charlie Wilson in front of an ethereal beat that is tied together by a perfectly integrated sample of Brenda Lee’s “Sweet Nothin’s.” There are funny moments with the dirty and overtly sexual “I’m In It,” as well as dark moments on the grime-inspired “Hold My Liquor.” The standout track on the album is “Blood on the Leaves” featuring a sample of Nina Simone’s “Strange Fruit.” The horns are vibrant and punchy, the strings raw, and Kanye is poignant and emotional. Overall Yeezus is the first of four great records in Kanye’s vault.
Tune in next week for the rest of this list!