Monster or Gorgeous? A Kanye West Discography Review Series

Monster+or+Gorgeous%3F+A+Kanye+West+Discography+Review+Series

Sam Richardson '22, Editor-in-Chief

Kanye West, ever since his debut studio album in 2004, has been a widely recognized and often controversial artist within the music industry. Even if one has never heard his music, he will still be recognized due to his arrogant antics, marriage to Kim Kardashian, successful fashion line Yeezy, the Taylor Swift incident at the 2009 VMAs, and most recently, his bid for President of the United States. Aside from some of this potentially disputable– or possibly visionary– behavior, his music has grossed billions of streams, and he is widely known as one of the best artists of the 2000s, from critics to common listeners. Personally, I have over 5,000 plays of Kanye West on Spotify, which qualifies me for top 20 in the world according to Last.fm. 

Although his albums are all unique, special, and beautiful in their own way, they can surely be ranked based off production, lyrics, features, and their overall impact on me. Obviously, these are all my personal opinions, and I know many of my friends have drastically different opinions (many of which I find preposterous). I will only be ranking his nine solo studio albums, which means leaked mixtapes such as Yandhi and Donda, and collaboration albums Kids See Ghosts, Watch the Throne, and GOOD Music CRUEL Summer will not be ranked.  

Additionally, I will be ranking these nine albums from worst to best over the course of a four-part series of reviews. Feel free to post your thoughts in the comments section!

  1. Ye

When this album originally came out, I was elated to say the least. I was expecting another Life of Pablo or Yeezus, a dramatic, deep, complex full length album from the best artist in the world. However, what the fans got was a 7 song mix of great and terrible, an album which contained one of the my favorite Kanye West songs, but also one of, if not the, worst. “Songs like Violent Crimes,” “No Mistakes,” and “Ghost Town” are all wonderful. The first of which tackles an important issue in today’s society– sexism– and Kanye throws his heart and soul into both his wife and the misogyny of many other hip-hop artists. From his 2009 VMA incident, it was clear Kanye had matured greatly since his arrogant days. His daughter played an especially important role in this, and his parenthood made him an entirely different man. However, like many critics noted, this cry of love for his daughters was nowhere near perfect, and by doing this he seemed as if he wanted them to restrict their femininity to avoid male attention. For me, the intention was there, and with further education and reflection, I believe Kanye is definitely embarking down the difficult path of empathy, one not always taken by rappers in the modern age. Musically, at its best, this album is also very solid. The vocals in “Violent Crimes,” “PARTYNEXTDOOR on Ghost Town,” and “Wouldn’t Leave” use choir-like components to implement an upbeat, pop-natured aspect to complement Kanye’s rapping. For me, “Ghost Town” is a top 10 Kanye song, a pop song which is both fun to listen to and suitable to many different audiences. However, what really brings this album down is its length and lack of consistency. While “Ghost Town” is a great song, “All Mine” and “I Thought About Killing You” are borderline terrible, and are sad in comparison to Kanye’s previous work. Although his previous albums had some duds, nothing was as bad as these two colossal fails, and to me, this inconsistent nature is what defines my opinion on Ye. In my opinion, this would have been far better if Kanye simply released two or three singles instead of a full studio album.

Ye Song Rankings:

  1. Ghost Town
  2. No Mistakes
  3. Yikes
  4. Violent Crimes
  5. Wouldn’t Leave
  6. All Mine
  7. I Thought About Killing You
  1. Jesus is King

While many believe this is Kanye’s worst album, I personally really enjoyed it. If someone told me Kanye was making a gospel album in 2016, I would have called them crazy, but alas, he actually did it. To be honest, it was far better than I expected. To preface this, however, it is necessary to point out that this is not a true gospel album, but nevertheless it is close enough to call it one. Like Ye, Jesus Is King was inconsistent, both in production and lyricism, but the poor songs were outweighed by the unexpected gems. Songs like “Closed on Sunday” and “Water” surely underperformed, but others such as “Use This Gospel,” “Selah,” and “Hands On” shined. The Kenny G saxophone solo could easily be one of my favorite moments on a Kanye West album, and the fact that Kanye went from Yeezus to a saxophone solo within six years is astonishing. Also, the incorporation of the Sunday Service Choir created a serious church vibe within the album, and it felt like a Kanye led church service, which was odd but refreshing at the same time. The choir itself also performed wonderfully musically, and like he originally did with 70s soul samples on College Dropout, Kanye was able to utilize choir vocals to bring his music to an entire new level. 

The album also compounded the transformation of West originally seen in Ye. He was no longer his old self, but now he had become a self-proclaimed man of God, and his actions reflected this. He was no longer the brash, chaotic Trump supporter he was in 2016, or the arrogant West at the 2009 VMAs, but he was now a rapper the world had never seen before, one who had gone from mainstream hip hop to rapping about God.

The features Kanye was able to cull on this album were wonderful to say the least. “Use This Gospel” incorporates two of Kanye’s greatest features ever, with Pusha T and the aforementioned Kenny G saxophone solo. It’s especially enjoyable that he was able to get Pusha T, a former drug dealer, to participate on this gospel album. Ty Dolla Sign, the Sunday Service Choir, and the Sunday Service Choir also provided important vocals to the album, and helped this album feel more like classic Kanye with a modern spin on it. The most remarkable part of this album was that Kanye was able to recreate the classic Kanye feeling without profanity and while focusing on the gospel. He continued to use obscure samples and scintillating beats, and if one placed a song off JIK on an album like College Dropout, it would sound incredibly similar. 

Jesus is King Song Rankings:

  1. Use This Gospel
  2. Selah
  3. Everything We Need
  4. Hands On
  5. Follow God
  6. God Is
  7. Every Hour
  8. Water
  9. Closed on Sunday
  10. On God

Parts 2, 3, and 4 of this album review series will be published throughout this next week. Engage the comments!