By Austin P.
If you’re on twitter, you should’ve been aware of the Kanye Madness Bracket that was floating around. If you didn’t know, similar to NCAA’s March Madness tournament, someone created a bracket filled with 64 of Kanye’s most popular songs. As a HUGE Yeezy fan, I immediately dove right in to see which songs would make it to my Final Four. This process quickly became stressful as the difficulty of choosing certain songs increased. Deciding between “Ultralight Beam & I Wonder” or “Gold Digger & Slow Jamz” was nearly impossible. This was just a simple reminder of how amazing of a musical catalog Mr. West has. I don’t really think there’s any other artist that can boast a catalog of 5 or more albums and 1 or less perceived “duds” as Kanye. All in all, choosing an official winner for the Kanye Madness Bracket didn’t really happen for me. However, ranking his 8 albums (Not including Cruel Summer) look as if it’s a more manageable task.
#8 – The Life of Pablo
Kanye’s most recent endeavor is not nearly his best. Pablo is not a bad album by any means. The bar has been set so high however, that anything less than groundbreaking or innovative is deemed subpar. This album was subpar…for Kanye. There are amazing songs on the album. Ultralight Beam is one of his best period! Father I Stretch My Hands Pt. 1, Fade, 30 Hours, Real Friends, I Love Kanye…all amazing songs. What makes Kanye albums so special though, is that they usually don’t feel like a grouping of dope songs. Pablo felt that way. There wasn’t a real cohesiveness to this album. It didn’t flow as well as I believe it could have. It was more of him getting his groove back from his venture off into Yeezus. Dope album, just the worst of his.
#7 – College Dropout
RELAX! Take a breath. Give me a moment to speak my peace. So, I love College Dropout. Some of my favorite songs are on this album. Jesus Walks, Through the Wire, & All Falls Down are easily three of the best hip-hop songs ever made. I completely understand the gravity, the influence and the importance of this album. If we’re talking about important Hip-Hop albums, Dropout would be top 15 easily, and more than likely top 10. This is just comparing Kanye to Kanye though. Compared to his other albums, in totality, it’s not his best. And it shouldn’t be if you think about it. If your first album is your best, that just means you declined your entire career (unless your first album is Illmatic)! Nobody wants that. No one likes artists who peak at the beginning. College Dropout isn’t Kanye’s peak, and that’s a good thing.
#6 – Yeezus
Yes, I think Yeezus is better than College Dropout. The influence, the creativity, the emotion of this album was ahead of its time. Yeezus created a sound shift in music. No, it wasn’t as ground breaking as other albums. Although there are some songs that you still may skip, I guaranty that the album is not nearly as bad as you thought it was in 2013. As a Kanye fan, it took me months to really like it. It wasn’t until the Yeezus concert that I appreciated it. Even before then, I knew it wasn’t going to be enjoyed at that moment, that it would take years for it to be recognized for its greatness. Yeezus is an album that must grow on you and you should sit with it to really grasp the diary and ventilation of anger that it was. It was an opening for a lot of new artists. We just didn’t know it at the time.
#5 – Graduation
This might be my personal favorite album of his. From this album forward, there really aren’t too many songs that you can or should skip. Graduation is easily his most popular album when it comes to crossover/mainstream audiences. He sold just under a million in the first week a year before Wayne did it with Tha Carter III. He outsold 50 Cent by 200k when 50 Cent was THE guy. The music itself was one of his brightest and most fun albums that he’s put out. The production, the flow, the mood of the album was flawless. It was a perfect blend of mainstream appeal without being Hip-Pop. There’s not a lot of negative things I can say about the album, other than I’ve heard some people dislike it because it was a little corny to them. They didn’t like the deviation from the sound he gave on College Dropout & Late Registration. It’s a fair argument, and that’s why it only lands at number 5 and not higher on the list.
#4 – Watch the Throne
There’s not much that needs to be said about Watch the Throne. This was the start of this new wave of black excellence, and black ownership in Hip-Hop. Kanye spit some of his best bars. This might have been Kanye at his rapping peak. WTT is a perfect example of iron sharpening iron. The chemistry between Kanye & Jay-Z, at the time, was unmatched! As far as collaboration albums go, there’s not too many, if any at all, that are better than this one. The production, the flow, the subject matter, the lyrics…all of it joined together to create a masterpiece.
#3 – 808s & Heartbreak
The most groundbreaking album of All-Time, according to Rolling Stone. This is the album that gave us Drake, Kid Cudi, Childish Gambino, Frank Ocean and so many others. One of the most influential albums ever made, and probably the most influential album for Hip-Hop. This was something new. 808s was unexpected. Kanye went from Graduation, to Heartbreak within a year. That musical progression is unbelievable when you think about it. Those two albums sound NOTHING alike. If you played both albums for aliens, they’d think it was two completely different artists. This is the album that gave us stadium filling anthems like Love Lockdown and Heartless. Streetlights, although it’s extremely repetitive, is one of the most beloved tracks on the album. The production, sonically, was otherworldly. Jesus must have mixed this album Himself! No skips. No bad tracks. Made feelings acceptable. Made emotions cool. 808s could come out today and have the same impact that it did a decade ago. A truly classic album.
#2 – Late Registration
Arguably Kanye’s most beloved album. When people say they “miss the old Kanye” this is the album they’re probably referring to. Late registration is backpack & polo Kanye fully realized. He wasn’t super stunting like he was on Graduation. He wasn’t the wannabe rap star from College Dropout. Late Registration is the middle of the venn diagram that personifies “Old Kanye”. The soul beats, the subject matter, the broke phi broke skits. Everything about this album was perfect. Even songs I use to skip when I first heard it grew on me as I grew with the album.
He introduced most of us to Lupe Fiasco on Touch the Sky (Amazing video too). Not to mention it provided one of Jay-Z’s best guest verses ever on Diamonds Remix! Gold Digger, Drive Slow, We Major, Gone, Crack Music, Hey Mama, Addiction. The list goes on and on for this album. The only negative thing that I can conjure up is that the beats for a couple of the songs don’t hold up as well. Like if Late or Celebration came out in 2018, or even 2015, they may be considered wack. That’s really a Space Jam reach though.
#1 – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
A perfect Hip-Hop album. The ONLY thing that doesn’t allow it to be a perfect album regardless of genre is the beat for one track…Gorgeous. The beat is underwhelming. Literally that’s it. The track isn’t trash, the song itself is dope, Raekwon did what the Chef does. The fact that it followed Dark Fantasy, which is an outstanding opening song for an album, diminished the enjoyment of the beat. That’s the only flaw. MBDTF is one of the best albums ever put out. The rollout was innovative and new. Everyone remembered G.O.O.D. Fridays. We waited till 2 a.m. at times for the new G.O.O.D. Friday song to drop. All this after a complete hiatus following the Taylor Swift mic snatch situation. Power, which should’ve made it to the Final Four in most of our Kanye Madness Brackets, was the first song released off the album.
I remember where I was and how I felt the first time I heard it. The features on the album were magnificent. Rick Ross spit the best verse of his life on Devil in a New Dress. Nicki went to another level after her Monster verse. CyHi the Prince made a grand entrance on So Appalled, while Hov bodied his verse! Pusha T on Runaway was at his best. Hell of A Life was fun. The Chris Rock monologue was genius and hilarious. There’s no low point to the album. And of course, All of the Lights. One of the most intricate, beautifully produced songs ever recorded. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is the best combination of cohesiveness, innovation, production, flow, crossover appeal, lyrics, content, quality, mixing, influence, and structure that Kanye’s put out so far. Honestly, maybe only 10 other Hip-Hop albums come close. In his Zane Lowe interview, Kanye even said that he made this album to show us that he could make the perfect album. That’s what this is. And that’s why it’s unquestionably ranked number one.