My Presence is a Present.
Kanye West. Just saying his name can bring up the cries of overrated pop music or lyrical genius. I am not sure if there has been a more polarizing figure in recent years, apart from maybe Justin Beiber. Ye is seen as a sad genius who pours his soul into his music and as an asshole who flies off the handle and interrupts award shows.
But we aren’t looking at Kanye, the man today. We are looking at Kanye, the music. There is a lot of debate amongst people on which of his albums are better than other albums. Today, I will be ranking them based off of re-listening to the albums and reading through the lyrics on genius.com. I will be saying what I see as hits from each album, as well as songs I saw as mixed and songs I saw as misses. My favorite song from each album I will also be bolding in that section.
8. 808’s and Heartbreak (2008)
Kanye West definitely took some artistic risks with this album, going for a more mechanical and cold feel to the music present. I feel as though this is a welcome sight when it appears maybe once or twice through an album, but not as much when it is an entire album of it. While I was listening, I didn’t feel like I was listening to a Kanye West album. Seriously, most of the music feels like it more belongs in some PlayStation-era game where the villain is the head of a corporation or something. There are definitely high spots on this album (Heartless, Love Lockdown) but most of it falls flat.
Hits: Love Lockdown, Welcome to Heartbreak, Heartless
Mixed: Amazing, See You In My Nightmares, Say You Will, Coldest Winter
Misses: Robocop, Street Lights, Bad News, Pinnochio Story, Paranoid
7. Yeezus (2013)
Let me start off by saying that I listened to this album a TON in college. While I was listening through again, I was filled with nostalgia of listening to it at my old apartment. But the things that torpedoed 808’s were present again here, and I couldn’t justify placing it much higher than this spot. Some of the songs are REALLY good (Black Skinhead, New Slaves, Bound 2). But there are songs present where the music is just grating on the ears (Blood on the Leaves, On Sight). The good, unfortunately, does not outweigh the bad on this album and that is why I placed it near the bottom. Yeezus is the last album that I would categorize as not good. The rest of the albums here are all good in my opinion and I could see any one being higher than another at any point.
Hits: Black Skinhead, New Slaves, Bound 2
Mixed: I Am A God, I’m In It, Send It Up
Misses: Blood On The Leaves, Hold My Liquor, On Sight, Guilt Trip
6. Graduation (2007)
Oh man here we go. This was the one album that I didn’t listen to when it originally came out in 2007. I don’t know if I just wasn’t paying attention to music or if I just was paying attention to something else. It was VERY hard to place this album. It has very good songs on it (Stronger, Good Life, I Wonder). But while listening through, nothing really stuck with me. I remember saying, “That’s it?” after the album was completed. You can see that he took what he learned from College Dropout and Late Registration and put it towards Graduation, but it left me feeling like I was missing something.
Hits: Good Morning, Stronger, Good Life, Can’t Tell Me Nothing, Champion, Homecoming, I Wonder
Mixed: Barry Bonds, Flashing Lights, The Glory, Big Brother, Everything I Am, Good Night
Misses: Drunk and Hot Girls
5. Late Registration (2005)
This was much harder than I thought it was going to be, honestly. I flipped back and forth from this album and Graduation for this spot for hours before writing this. But in the end, I had to go with my gut response, which was that I preferred Late Registration. There is a sort of slower period in the middle of the album (Drive Slow to Crack Music) but everything before and after really blew me out of the water. Heard Em Say, Gold Digger, and Diamonds from Sierra Leone are all phenomenal tracks that really showed off why I started listening to Kanye in the first place. A bunch of good things add up here to give us a very solid album.
Hits: Heard ‘Em Say, Touch The Sky, Gold Digger, Roses, Addiction, Diamonds From Sierra Leone, We Major, Hey Mama, Celebration
Mixed: Bring Me Down, Gone, Late
Misses: Drive Slow, My Way Home, Crack Music
4. The Life of Pablo (2016)
The Life of Pablo was the first album that I felt I listened to really intently when it first came out. When I was younger, I used music as background music for video games or studying. Now, I feel as though I have a greater appreciation for the art of music. Listening through all these albums again really showed me that. Anyway, I was a huge fan of TLOP when I first gave it a listen. It was the first album where I really liked all of the songs present; from top to bottom, a very good album. However, nothing really stands out to separate it from the albums higher above it on this list. Everything was good, but nothing was particularly great. The only songs that really stand out for me are the first and last (Ultralight Beam and Saint Pablo). Sure, there’s pretty good songs (Highlights, 30 Hours, No More Parties in LA) but they all kind of blend together on a relisten. That being said, I would take an album of good songs over an album with a mix of amazing songs and bad songs.
Hits: Ultralight Beam, Father Stretch My Hands II, Famous, Feedback, Highlights, Freestyle 4, I Love Kanye, Waves, FML, 30 Hours, No More Parties in LA, Fade, Saint Pablo
Misses: Father Stretch My Hands I, Real Friends, Wolves, Frank’s Track, Facts
Misses: Low Lights
3. The College Dropout (2004)
Kanye really hit it out of the park with his first at-bat. I absolutely love the unapologetic look at people doing shady things to get by (We Don’t Care, Jesus Walks). I love the hard look at race relations in America (All Falls Down, Spaceship). I love the hard line stance against going to college (School Spirit). And Kanye tops it off with Through the Wire, in which he proved that nothing would stop his passion and drive to create music. Not even having his jaw wired shut. That’s amazing to me. Everything about this album is great, but I feel as though two other albums are ever better.
Hits: We Don’t Care, All Falls Down, Spaceship, Jesus Walks, Never Let Me Down, The New Workout Plan, Slow Jamz, School Spirit, Through The Wire
Mixed: Get Em High, Breathe In Breathe Out, Two Words, Family Business, Last Call
2. Watch The Throne (2011)
I’m not sure how fair it really is to include this album, since it was a collab album with Jay-Z, but I feel like it still has a lot of the Kanye feel that we are used to. This album has not only some of my favorite Kanye songs, but some of my favorite songs of all time. N***** in Paris, Otis, Who Gon Stop Me are all on my all time favorite lists. Jay-Z and Kanye are two of the best in the business and it really shows here. The music is catchy and flows well, the lyrics are crisp and well thought out, and the use of one of my favorite artists, Frank Ocean, was just the cherry on top of a great album. However, it still loses to one other.
Hits: No Church In The Wild, Lift Off, N***** in Paris, Otis, Gotta Have It, New Day, Who Gon Stop Me, Murder To Excellence, Made in America
Mixed: That’s My Bitch, Welcome To The Jungle, Why I Love You
1. My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy (2010)
I am a big believer in there not being perfect 10/10’s in terms of music, games, or books. But if there are no 10’s then this album is 9.99/10. Everything just works. The features really bring it every track they rap over. The music is amazing in every sense of the word. If Graduation built off the previous albums, then MBDTF perfected everything that came before it. Kanye throws it right at us with Dark Fantasy then just keeps it up with Power then All of the Lights then Runaway then Lost in the World. The hits just don’t stop. The energy promised to us at the beginning is really kept up all throughout. The cream of the crop right here.
Hits: Dark Fantasy, Gorgeous, Power, All of The Lights, Monster, So Appalled, Runaway, Hell of a Life, Blame Game, Lost in the World,
Mixed: Devil in a New Dress, See Me Now
All of the album artworks are property of Roc-A-Fella records.