MusicMuted: Kanye West – Worst to Best

A look at Ye’s entire discography

If you were to listen to Kanye West’s Discography, you would experience a progressive change in style, saturated with genre defining lyrics, producing and sound. But is it all good?

8. 808’s & Heartbreaks

To start off with the worst of Kanye’s eight solo projects, ‘808’s & Heartbreaks’. 

This album is better known as ‘Auto-tuned Kanye’, and for good reason. Almost every word that is spoken, or sung by Kanye, is auto-tuned. It is almost the death of the album itself. But the actual death of the album comes in the form of the lack of vision and direction that Kanye seems to be aiming for. Lyrics that don’t hit any kind of cord really bogs down this project and makes it a bit of a tough listen. With exception to the track ‘Amazing’, I really struggle to listen to ‘808’s’. 

Although, I can see how much this album did for the auto-tuned sub-genre of hip-hop, I can’t get past the mundane topics woven into the almost non-existent theme of this album. This is why I would class this as the worst Kanye West project to date.

7. Graduation

‘Graduation’ is the last of Kanye’s three college themed albums, and is definitely the weaker of the three.

Admittedly, I have not listened to ‘Graduation’ as much as I should have. This is mainly because there are other Kanye albums I would much prefer to listen to. Despite the standout tracks such as the commercially successful ‘Stronger’ and a personal favourite of mine, ‘Drunk and Hot Girls’ (mainly because of the Mos Def feature), the album doesn’t really have the consistency the previous two albums in his discography. This is probably because of the change in direction that West went with ‘Graduation’ in comparison to ‘College Dropout’ and ‘Late Registration’. It shows how he was still trying to find his feet within this new style he was searching for, and although it was still a commercial success, it wasn’t on par with his two projects released prior to ‘Graduation’.

6. Yeezuz

‘Yeezuz’ is a strange one, as it signified the beginning of a ‘new’ Kanye, but still sticking to his roots of the college themed era. 

There are some songs on ‘Yeezuz’ that I cannot stop listening to. Songs such as ‘Black Skinhead’, ‘Blood on the Leaves’, ‘Bound 2’ and ‘Send it Up’. These are songs that almost push this album past the number 5 spot. The only thing that’s stopping it from doing so is that those four songs completely overshadow any other track on the album, meaning that they fall into the background and bring the overall appeal of this album down. This also isn’t helped by how short this project is as well, only 10 songs long. Although this can help bring great songs to light, but it also sometimes will force the less impactful tracks to the sideline. This unfortunately happens in ‘Yeezuz’ and therefore sits at 6th on this list.

5. Ye

Much like ‘Yeezuz’, ‘Ye’ is a strange one. The 7 song EP-like project is both intriguing and disappointing at the same time.

To start, ‘I Though About Killing You’ is one of Kanye’s most impressive tracks in recent years. The self-acknowledgement and openness that is conveyed in the first half of the track is refreshing and actually interesting to listen to from Kanye. The second half of the track is just a production masterclass, with sounds that flow so well together and tension that builds within the song, starting with the dull bass, and eventually ending in a full overload of noise that is so satisfying to listen to. Tracks like ‘All Mine’, ‘Yikes’ and ‘Ghost Town’ also show off this production value but not on the same level as ‘Thought About Killing You’. Despite this, ‘Ye’ is a joy to listen to, apart from maybe ‘No Mistakes’, it is a very good album. Even though this is the case, there are a lot better Kanye projects that rank higher than ‘Ye’ on this list.

4. The College Dropout

‘The College Dropout’ was Kanye West’s first solo project and is widely considered one of his best. However, I do not.

Although this album was West’s breakout, it is not his full potential. Tracks such as ‘Slow Jamz’ and ‘Spaceship’ truly show what Kanye is capable of, and overall, the album is a triumph of a first go, but the production is just not as good as his later projects, meaning this falls down the list slightly as a result. Of course Kanye used the momentum of a more gangster rap style to get his foot in the door in order to transition to what he truly wanted to make, but this therefore makes it hard to compare to his later albums as they are so different.

3. Late Registration

This album shows just how much Kanye grew in the time between ‘The College Dropout’ and the time of this release. 

This growth was not only lyrical or in production, but it shows his growth within the industry. Sprinkling some high-profile features such as The Game, Nas, Jay Z and Jamie Foxx, Kanye proved that he wasn’t just going to sit on his first release and be content, he went out there and made a record that he knew would grab people’s attention. This also led to his most commercially successful tracks at the time with ‘Touch the Sky’ and ‘Gold Digger’ leading to mainstream popularity and high chart placings. These songs are probably what got most people into Kanye and his style, and it is a testament to how good those songs actually are. What I like about this album, though, is how consistent it is. Almost from start to finish, there is something in each song that makes you want to listen. That’s what sets it apart from ‘College Dropout’ in my opinion.

2. The Life of Pablo

This, in my opinion, is my favourite album to listen to, but I recognise that it is not as good as the number one spot on this list

The opening track, ‘Ultralight Beam’, just sets the tone perfectly. Gospel and almost flawless rap from all parties involved. Chance the Rapper’s verse is something that I can listen to by itself on repeat for hours, it is so perfectly worded and flows so effortlessly, and even fits with the whole theme of the song, Kanye’s verses and the gospel choir producing some breathtaking sound. ‘Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 1’ and ‘Pt. 2’ are incredibly produced tracks. Again, with gospel vocals and features that you can appreciate (Kid Cudi & Desiigner), these two tracks are the perfect follow up to ‘Ultralight Beam’ as they hype you up for the rest of the album. ‘Famous’ is also a very noteworthy track, with Rhianna making an appearance, adding to the hype from the previous two tracks. ‘Highlights’ and ‘No More Parties in LA’ are both tracks that add to the prowess of the album as a whole, with Kendrick Lamar performing with an incredible verse on ‘No More Parties in LA’. But for me, my favourite two tracks on this album are ‘Waves’ and ‘Fade’. ‘Waves’ is a song that I can listen to constantly without getting bored of that ‘Turn it up!’ sample and the amazing chorus from the controversial Chris Brown. ‘Fade’ is also a track that uses samples to its best, with ‘Your love is fadin” repeating throughout the song. But the main reason why I love this song so much is the fact that Kanye takes a back seat and allows people like Rare Earth, TY Dolla $ign and Post Malone take the stage, and they absolutely kill it, especially Post Malone.

‘The Life of Pablo’ just stands out to me as such an impressive project that so much time and effort and scrutiny went into the making of it, and I really can appreciate it.

1. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

This is by far the most critically acclaimed album from Kanye West, and it definitely deserves the high praises people sing.

There are so many great songs on this album, and the ones that aren’t as great as the others, still add to the overall sound of the album. Songs like ‘Gorgeous’, ‘Power’, ‘All of the Lights’, ‘Monster’, ‘So Appalled’, ‘Devil in a New Dress’ and ‘Runaway’ are all tracks that add so much to this project in terms of lyrical impressiveness and the incredible production of this project. My favourite track is ‘Devil in a New Dress’ as it build so perfectly and gradually, that you almost don’t want the song to end. Especially when the guitar solo starts between Kanye’s and Rick Ross’ verses, it sends you right into the heart of the song and makes you want to listen to it on repeat for hours on end. ‘All of the Lights’ has both Rhianna and Elton John featured on it, again, adding to the star power of this album. But it is not only those reasons that make this the best Kanye West project, it is Kanye himself that make this the best. He is at the peak of his production game. Flawless transitions between themes and beats make it such a beautiful album to listen to. Kanye is at his best lyrically. Every word he says keeps you wanting more and more and keeps you hooked until the very end.

So in conclusion, Kanye has a varied and diverse discography that has its moments of genius and its moments of disappointment. But if you are looking to get into hip-hop music, look no further than Kanye West.

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