Monster or Gorgeous? A Kanye West Discography Review (Part 2)


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

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 GhostsWatch 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. Check out album rankings #9 and #8 here:

Feel free to post your thoughts in the comments section!

7. Graduation

   Graduation, Kanye’s third and final album in the “College” Trilogy, is the most mainstream of any Kanye West album. Its quality was overshadowed by its musical impact, and it furthered the genre of pop rap into the ears of hip-hop listeners. With the astounding success of Graduation, many saw the downfall of gangster rap, and today, this same theme continues, with pop rap holding the vast majority of market share in the hip hop industry. To me, this is the first Kanye West album with a genuinely bad song–“Drunk and Hot Girls”– but this single bad song was far outweighed by the numerous great songs on this album. Unlike many other Kanye albums, this album was largely radio-friendly, with “Flashing Lights” and “Stronger” being played millions of times by mainstream radio stations and even on sports networks. “Homecoming” even utilized the vocals of Chris Martin, the lead singer of Coldplay, which furthered this album’s appeal to the general public who would not have considered Kanye’s first two albums. The pop-rap nature of this album expanded its audience, but it did not take away what made Kanye West. He still utilized the human voice, and used brash, arrogant tones, just all in a different, more appealing manner. This is especially seen on “Stronger,” where his verses are still in your face, but at the same times more acceptable by the general public. My main complaint with this album is its lack of meaningful content. While Kanye is able to make musically fun, fresh, and enjoyable songs, he fails to rap about the same deep subject matter he had on many of his other albums. To me, this is his most empty album content-wise, and he mostly raps about relationships and stereotypical modern pop subjects, which means very little to me on a personal level. However, despite the lack of deep subject matter, this album remains extremely influential within the music industry, and by doing so has created modern rappers like Post Malone. Also, these songs are very fun to listen to mindlessly, and they require very little emotional and mental input to extract their full value. While some people enjoy this mindless listening, it personally does not satisfy me. 

Graduation Song Rankings:

  1. I Wonder
  2. Homecoming
  3. Flashing Lights
  4. Stronger
  5. Champion
  6. Can’t Tell Me Nothing
  7. Big Brother
  8. The Glory
  9. Good Life
  10. Good Morning
  11. Everything I Am
  12. Barry Bonds
  13. Drunk and Hot Girls

6. Yeezus

   Musically, Yeezus is the most controversial Kanye West album among his fanbase. To many, you either love it or hate it, and it has created a schism within the hip-hop community unlike any other album. Personally, I love this album when it does what it’s meant to, but at the same time, there are a couple songs which are absolute misses on this album, namely “I’m In It” and “Send It Up.”

   Like 808s, Yeezus has a unique sound which has not been replicated since. In fact, West scrapped sounds that sounded too melodic beforehand, and his goal of an album no one had ever heard the likes of before was achieved. It is the antithesis to the maximalist My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and it incorporates very little aside from its bare necessities. In making this album, Kanye utilized many industrial, abrasive, raw, and non-melodic sounds for production. The production was supposed to be experimental and brash, and every song on it has a prominent grinding electro beat, which is unrefined and ultra-minimalistic. Essentially, he shedded his music down to its bare essentials, an electric beat and his voice, and from there made both of these as aggressive as possible. In fact, days before the album released, he stripped nearly half the production from the album, and even took two songs out. He never really rapped on this album, but instead he seemed to be shouting and at times screaming into the mic. This went especially well with the bare, industrial beat, and to me, made for an amazing album. However, it does require some getting used to. It is so different to modern music, and its lack of melody and style contrasts greatly with every other album he has made. This is especially true on “Blood on the Leaves,” where there are entire sections where the song is entirely Kanye’s screaming and an extremely loud electric beat which sounds like a loud, grinding trombone. 

   While the production itself is unrefined, the lyrics and themes are. In “New Slaves,” he discusses systemic racism and materialism, referring to the black community as mega corporation’s “new slaves.” This common theme of materialism continues through many of his albums, and Kanye did not become a mere in your face experimental rapper, but instead combined this with the deep themes he incorporates into his music time and time again. However, in “Bound 2,” Kanye presents a positive outlook for the first time since Graduation, where he expressed his love for Kim Kardashian. With this, his cycle of fame, money, and material finally ended, and one could finally see his dreams of family portrayed in Welcome to Heartbreak come about. He was finally able to achieve the semi-normal life he had always dreamed of, and from this point on, Kanye’s music took a more cheerful route.

Yeezus Song Rankings:

  1. New Slaves
  2. Hold My Liquor
  3. Bound 2
  4. Black Skinhead
  5. Blood On The Leaves
  6. I Am A God
  7. Guilt Trip
  8. On Sight
  9. Send It Up
  10. I’m In It