As you may have seen already, last week Complex ranked all of Chicago rap icon Kanye West’s albums from best to worst and it caused plenty of discussion points, so much so that fellow Chicago rapper and the man often described as Kanye’s next prodigy, Chance The Rapper, had his say on the list and created his own. Now you all know me well enough by now, if there is Kanye news floating around it is usually me that is sharing it onto your timeline so this seemed like a great opportunity for me to share with you perhaps the most difficult decision I will ever have to make in my journalistic life; ranking my favourite artist’s albums from worst to best when I absolutely adore every last one of them. With eight projects to his name, (well technically nine but I count ‘Cruel Summer’ as a collaborative album and not a Kanye project) the list could go in literally any order whatsoever without any blatant wrong judgements, well here goes nothing.

First of all I better give you Complex and Chance’s lists to see what I am up against.

Complex

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  1. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
  2. Graduation
  3. Watch The Throne
  4. Yeezus
  5. The College Dropout
  6. The Life Of Pablo
  7. 808’s & Heartbreak
  8. Late Registration

 

Chance The Rapper

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  1. Late Registration
  2. The College Dropout
  3. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
  4. Graduation
  5. Watch The Throne
  6. The Life Of Pablo
  7. Yeezus
  8. 808’s & Heartbreak

 

The moment of truth, here is my list.

8: Watch The Throne (Released August 8th 2011)

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The collaborative project with Jay Z may well be last on this list, but that by no means places it as a poor album, in fact it is a very good album that you would have to describe as a celebration of black history and success, from the sounds of Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye to the protesters all across America who fight for their civil rights. As well as these deep cultural understandings, there is an awful lot of banging tunes on this project, most notably the club banger that will live on in relevancy for eternity ‘N****s In Paris’. Other anthems include ‘No Church In The Wild’ with the man of the hour Frank Ocean, and ‘Otis’ which samples, quite brilliantly, the famous Otis Redding song ‘Try A Little Tenderness’ and makes it a modern hip-hop classic. Above all, this album was an opportunity for Jay and Ye to show off their talents and the chemistry they share on a track together. Rumours have been frequent about ‘Watch The Throne 2’ but given Kanye’s current state I think we might have to put the burners on those dreams. One day, though.

7: The Life Of Pablo (Released February 14th 2016)

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His most recent release and this may well have been his most anticipated given the amount of delays he put on it’s release date. I am viewing this as the 20 track project it has now become, with all the relevant changes and additions that have been made over the time it has taken for this to become the finished article. First played at his Yeezy Season 3 fashion show at Madison Square Garden, Kanye perfectly conjoined the two cultures of fashion and music to create a beautiful harmony and have both sides of his supporters tuning in. The album itself was fantastic and made it very high on most people’s albums of the year list, coming in the top five of my own one and deservedly so. Tracks like ‘Real Friends’ and ‘Ultralight Beam’ gave us a nostalgia moment of the way Kanye used to be with his spoken words, but then we also had the likes of ‘Famous’ and ‘Father Stretch My Hands’ which showed us how Kanye sounds today and the direction he has taken. As well as that we had a Yeezus feel on songs like ‘Freestyle 4’ and ‘Feedback’ while his ‘Dark Fantasy’ days were on show with club hits like ‘Waves’ and ‘Fade’. An extravagant feature list, masterful production and lots of Kanye West, what more could you want?

6: Yeezus (Released June 18th 2013)

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Not to everyone’s taste but you can’t deny how big of a risk Kanye took producing an album this derailed and unorthodox. Critics loved it, fans enjoyed it and haters loved to hate it because it gave them another excuse to scapegoat him and claim he was evil, this album was a statement and the character of ‘Yeezus’ that came with this album was staggering as we saw record sales on merchandise and we saw a passionate Kanye trying to explain to others his thought process without any real reason to. We could all hear his thoughts and emotions within this album, it must have been such a burden off his shoulders to release songs like ‘New Slaves’ and ‘Blood On The Leaves’ and have them so well received by those that matter to him. We all know that ‘Black Skinhead’ has one of the best hip-hop beats of the decade and his flow on it is bordering on lunacy. ‘Hold My Liquor’ with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon is just as crazy yet brilliant as the combination of the two artists would suggest. Of course it isn’t perfect, it is barely cohesive but that is the point, it’s like Kanye released this in one deep breath to tell the world how he feels.

5: Late Registration (Released August 30th 2005)

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An album full of confidence bordering on arrogance, talent bordering on genius and fame bordering on superstardom. This is a track list which boasts some of Ye’s biggest and best tracks, including the Ray Charles sampled, Jamie Foxx featuring chart topper ‘Gold Digger’ and the Grammy Award winner for Best Rap Song that year, the Shirley Bassey sampled ‘Diamonds From Sierra Leone’. As well as his chart hits, Kanye also showed a softer side on this with his celebratory ‘Hey Mama’ track which was a complete shrine to his mother and, due to circumstances, it became one of the most emotionally-fuelled songs he will ever write and perform. As well as that side of emotion, we also got the cheeky comedic side of Ye with those unforgettable skits about his school life, particularly ‘Wake Up Mr. West’ which fades brilliantly into ‘Heard Em Say’ with Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine. This really should be labelled as the album which soared Kanye into the public eye and made him one of the globe’s biggest names and that alone is enough to call it a classic.

4: 808’s & Heartbreak (Released November 24th 2008)

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Less than a year after the tragic loss of his mother and his break-up with fiancee model Alexis Phifer, this groundbreaking project was brought to us. It is an album that Kanye himself said “redefined the sound of radio” and although it sounds incredibly egotistical, he probably has a point. The lead singles (‘Heartless’ and ‘Love Lockdown’) became chart-topping phenomenons and endorsed a completely new sound of autotuned singing/rapping, something which many who don’t know what they’re talking about can be very critical of. The way Kanye uses autotune here is to bend the limits of not just his voice, but the human voice as a whole and create an instrument-styled sound using only his vocal chords and computers, hence the use of ‘808’s’ in the album title. The sound is gorgeous and it proved once and for all that Kanye truly has no limits and will never release the same album twice, he always has something new up his sleeve and this is a prime example of that fact.

3: The College Dropout (Released February 10th 2004)

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The art of sampling was often viewed as a dying breed before this album came along and Kanye resurrected it, adding completely new twists on the music that influenced him to become an artist, this was just one of the many things Kanye boasted with his debut album ‘The College Dropout’ alongside an infectious confidence which gave his music an image and a personality, as well as his phenomenal production skills and his desire to succeed. ‘Through The Wire’ was rapped with his mouth wired after a car accident and it became one of his most iconic tracks, he could have just packed it in and gave up on his dream; but Kanye West isn’t the kind to quit. ‘Jesus Walks’ was a gospel hit that made the radio, despite an obvious dig at radio companies within it, the man was barely known and he was doing things on his terms. As we are approaching it’s 13th year on the shelves, ‘The College Dropout’ still sounds as revolutionary as it always has and it was sure-fire evidence that Chicago had itself a star in the making.

2: Graduation (Released September 11th 2007)

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The album which crushed gangsta rap. In a very well publicised feud with 50 Cent, a man who many considered the genre’s top dog at the time, Kanye said that his music was the real future of hip-hop and challenged 50 on album sales. Everyone knew ‘Graduation’ would sell,  but nobody expected it to sell like it did, with nearly a million copies going in the first week alone, completely destroying the competition and proving to 50 Cent and all others that there was a new king in the hip-hop genre and he was re-defining the way people listened to it. Songs like ‘Good Life’, ‘Stronger’ and ‘Homecoming’ with Coldplay frontman Chris Martin gave us the answer to what the future really was, a chart topping sensation that rap has never seen since. This was his third album and at the point it was the best one he released, completing this trilogy he created of the bear’s rise through school life and his ‘Graduation’ of the rap game. The first two made people notice, this one made him untouchable.

1: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Released November 22nd 2010)

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This album is a rival for the absolute greatest of all time in the hip-hop industry, it is the project that put him in the discussion for the greatest ever and it was what many considered his bounce back after a year full of controversy after the infamous Taylor Swift incident at the 2009 VMA’s and his very strange relationship with model Amber Rose. It is also around the time he met his current wife Kim Kardashian and that is what the verse in ‘Lost In The World’ is about, his description of her when he first met her. With features including the likes of Jay Z, Kid Cudi, Nicki Minaj, Pusha T, Rick Ross and even Bon Iver, this album was always destined for great things, but it is the Midas touch of our own Mr. West which makes this album so special. There is absolutely zero weakness in this from front to back, it’s all just flawless and contains anthems that will stand the test of time such as ‘All Of The Lights’ and of course ‘Power’ where he samples King Crimson, yep you read that right, KING CRIMSON. As well as them there is the soft broken aspect to his personality which we hear elegantly in ‘Runaway’ and ‘Blame Game’ along with the unsung heroes of the record like ‘Devil In A New Dress’ or ‘Gorgeous’. An album for the ages and the only choice in this list I was 100% sure on from the start, he will never do an album that tops this and in all honesty I can’t see somebody making a mainstream classic this good for a very long time.

 

So there you have it, my ranking of Kanye West’s albums from worst to best. Do you agree or disagree? Why not give me yours and see how we compare seeing as it is such a hotly contested topic.

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