Monster or Gorgeous? A Kanye West Discography Review (Part 3)


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

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 – 6 here: and

Feel free to post your thoughts in the comments section!

5. 808s and Heartbreaks

808s and Heartbreaks is easily Kanye West’s most influential album of his career.  By utilizing heavy autotune and bass, he created an entire new genre of rap: auto-tune rap. Today, this genre has reached mainstream pop and hip-hop audiences mainly through Travis Scott, the bona fide face of auto-tune rap. 

However, the album itself, aside from its influence in future hip-hop, remains a true gem of Kanye West. In stark contrast to his college trilogy, this album utilized bare auto-tuned vocals, heavy-bass, and as the name suggests, 808 drums. He created an entire new level of his work, and this album is miles different from any other Kanye West album. Not only was this a new side of Kanye music, it also introduced a new side of Kanye’s emotional and personal state. Before, all he was seen as was a confident, in your face, musical genius, but after his mother died, he threw his grief into his music. In songs such as “Welcome to Heartbreak,” his sadness and grief is almost tangible, as he reflects on the fact that all he now had was fame, money, and luxuries. While he had many material possessions, he paints his life as a desolate landscape, lacking family and emotional connection after the death of his mother. While many people are jealous of celebrities, albums like this remind us that no one is exempt from sadness and grief, and that maybe the normal life is better than being internationally recognized. Like MBDTF, he humanized his emotions through this album, and many of its listeners can relate to the themes of sadness that it exudes. 

Often, I see this album being slandered both by friends and strangers on social media. To me, while this album is not grandiloquent and its beats and autotune are not palatable to some listeners, its themes are easily the most personally relatable of any Kanye albums. He is not rapping about fame or his grand lifestyle, but instead about sadness and grief, something any listener can relate to.

The songs themselves are wonderful as well. The incorporation of heavy bass lines and 808s drums compounds the sad themes through deep bass and a lack of diverse musical instruments being used. The autotune itself enhances the music, as one is able to tell that Kanye is not the same man he was when he made Graduation. Instead, he had evolved with the death of his mother, and he lost his signature arrogance for a short time. 

808s and Heartbreaks Song Rankings:

  1. Welcome To Heartbreak
  2. See You in My Nightmares
  3. Paranoid
  4. Streetlights
  5. Coldest Winter
  6. Heartless
  7. Amazing
  8. Love Lockdown
  9. Bad News
  10. RoboCop
  11. Say You Will
  12. Pinocchio Story

4. Life of Pablo

When this album came out in 2016, it was an incomplete album, full of holes like a modern video game. However, by the time it was completed, it became one of the most controversial, and in my opinion, best, Kanye West albums. This album contained the infamous song “Famous,” which held the lines about Taylor Swift which I am sure many of us know at this point. “Famous” was also accompanied by the music video with the wax models in bed, which I also assume is well known enough to not explain. However, past this controversy, this album, although somewhat disliked by critics, remains one of my and many other Kanye fan’s favorite albums. While this album is not technically masterful, like MBDTF, the songs within it hold a special place in his discography for me. 

To me, this album would be Kanye West in album form: full of personality, controversial, and most importantly, fun. Every song within this album is an experience to listen to, from the heavy “Saint Pablo” to the extremely light hearted “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1.” The production is very fast-paced, and enjoyable to listen to. Unlike his other albums, this album is a very easy listen, and can even be appealing for a mumble rap listener who does not care for the lyrical aspect of music. However, if one truly dives into these songs, an entirely deeper meaning arises. This album is essentially a dive into the mind of Kanye West, whose mind is split between hedonistic desires and faith. The album itself is opened by a gospel song, which is then followed by a song so chaotic and meaningless that it is almost funny. 

Like the album art, it creates a dichotomy between hedonism and faith, and even within a single song he is able to do this. In addition, Kanye’s rapping skills are on full display in “Saint Pablo” and “No More Parties in LA,” and it makes me want Kanye to rap more. His flow is amazing, and his pure lyricism is better than it had ever been before on “Saint Pablo.” This vibe he had created with his rapping was then compounded by a feature with Kendrick Lamar, and these two songs have risen to some of my favorite songs ever. The experience of a full listen through of Life of Pablo is a roller coaster ride of emotion, and one can truly begin to appreciate the versatility of Kanye West. 

Life of Pablo Song Rankings:

  1. Saint Pablo
  2. Ultralight Beam
  3. No More Parties in LA
  4. Famous
  5. Waves
  6. FML
  7. Father Stretch My Hands Part 1
  8. Highlights
  9. Facts
  10. Wolves
  11. Real Friends
  12. 30 Hours
  13. Pt. 2
  14. Feedback
  15. Freestyle 4
  16. Low Lights