Every Kanye West Album: Ranked

With Kanye West announcing that his new album, will be released on September 27, why not take a look back at the career of one of the most influential and controversial rappers of this generation.

8. Yeezus

The industrial vibe Kanye goes for on Yeezus doesn’t work at all which makes some music on this album tough to listen to. However, he does a great job of being both intimidating and catchy simultaneously with tracks like “Black Skinhead” and “Blood on the Leaves”. The aggressive and impending bass drop that comes down on “Blood on the Leaves” feels like an avalanche coming down a mountain you are at the bottom of, one of Kanye’s greatest moments ever. He finishes the album with the antithesis of everything he produced in the first 35 minutes of the album, a cheery, instrumental dominant “Bound 2” which somehow fits in well. 

7. Late Registration

Released in August 2005, Kanye’s second full-length album is his reserved album to date. This holds the project back and it never reaches the same heights as any of his other projects. He relies on features on nearly every track. Late Registration is by no means a bad album, it even won a Grammy for Best Rap Album in 2006. Standout tracks include “Roses,” “We Major,” and of course “Gold Digger.” There are some great moments on Late Registration, but I think of The College Dropout Lite, but we’ll get to that later. 

6. 808s and Heartbreak

808s is definitely the biggest outlier in Kanye’s discography. It is unlike anything else he has released, littered with autotune electro-pop beats. A lot of it just isn’t for me. In this format, Kanye doesn’t play to his strengths. There is not nearly enough rapping on this record for me to put it any higher than seventh. While Kanye may not be playing to his strengths on 808s, I wouldn’t say he is playing to his weaknesses. “Amazing” is one of Kanye’s greatest tracks to this day. “Love Lockdown” and “Heartless” prove Kanye’s versatility and show that he can succeed in any stylistic setting.

5. The Life of Pablo

The Life of Pablo has a little bit of everything for everyone. There are experimental tracks such as “Father Stretch My Hands” and “Wolves” but also tracks that showcase retro Kanye like “Real Friends” and “No More Parties in LA.” This is both a strength and weakness for Pablo. While the diversity makes for an interesting project, it is a bit of a mess. While there is a good amount of favorable tracks, but there are also some that completely miss the mark like “Facts,” “30 Hours,” “Feedback,” and a few more. “Ultralight Beam” itself makes up for a few of those tracks and that’s why Pablo ranks fifth for me. 

4. Ye 

Ye makes up for its lack of length with a remarkable amount of substance. Ye includes some of Kanye’s heaviest lyricism to date. He goes in depth about his struggles with bipolar disorder throughout the album and it gets pretty intense. Musically, there’s a little bit of everything in these 24 minutes. “Yikes” showcases Kanye’s remarkably steady and smooth flow. “Ghost Town” is a work of art and the most complete song on the album. The track is mixed superbly with each feature melting into the next seamlessly. My biggest problem with Ye is its length, 24 minutes is just not long enough for me to rank it any higher. 

3. Graduation

When Graduation was released, people saw it as Kanye’s departure from classical rap. Instead, he was creating an entire subgenre. With songs like “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” and “Stronger” he provides hooks where he sings and verses where he raps, something that artists like Drake have made a career off. There are still quite a few tracks on Graduation that wouldn’t be out of place on some of his early projects, such as “Everything I Am” where he is able to sit back and deliver bars. The variety of styles Kanye features on Graduation is why I ranked it so high on my list. 

2. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Now, I know this is Kanye’s most celebrated album and considered one of the greatest records of the millenium. It is a great project and one includes many of Kanye’s best songs, but I think the last half of the album is a bit of a jumble. “Dark Fantasy” will always be known as one of the best intros in rap history, as it perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the album. The next five songs are nearly perfect too, consisting of hits “Power” and “All of the Lights,'' which I think is Kanye’s best song of all time and one of the best modern rap songs of all time. However, tracks 9-13 are the reason this album isn’t ranked first. They don’t have the same luster as the first 8 tracks off the album, which is why I had to rank it second. 

1. The College Dropout 

Ironically, it is Kanye’s first album, released in 2004, that is his most complete and impressive to date. The College Dropout is a breathtaking project from front to back. It was an insightful Kanye that delivered The College Dropout, a version of Kanye before the fame that has a perspective obscured by fame. Kanye was young and fresh off the streets of Chicago at the time of The College Dropout, which is what makes it so special and unique. The instrumentals Kanye uses on this album aren’t too gaudy and allow him to do what he does best: rap. “Jesus Walks” is a great example of this. The beat gives you the feeling of an oppressed people rising up to overtake its rulers. The levity of Kanye’s lyrics make you feel like he is gathering an army to go to war with him. The College Dropout is without a doubt his most important and powerful work. 

Max SmithComment