Complex: Ranking Kanye's Albums

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 4 years ago '12        #1
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CosbySweater 297 heat pts297
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Complex: Ranking Kanye's Albums
 

 
visit this link http://www.complexmag.ca/ .. t/cruel-summer

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8. Cruel Summer (2012)

The best teams are said to be greater than the sum of their parts. Cruel Summer actually feels lesser than the sum of its parts. Released on September 14, just six days before the end of Summer 2012, the G.O.O.D. Music collective album is widely considered a flop, despite the fact that it boasts two smash hit singles in "Mercy" and "Clique," two legitimate bangers in "Cold" and "New God Flow" as well as an all-star remix to Chief Keef's massive "I Don't Like." Cruel Summer's undoing is its grandiosity, from the R. Kelly album opener to that unbearable "Sin City" spoken word interlude. It also suffers from lack of focus. Who exactly is part of the G.O.O.D. Music crew? One of the most prominently featured artists on the album, 2 Chainz, is not. Nor are Ma$e, Ghostface, Raekwon, Marsha Ambrosius. You know who is a part of the crew? Kanye West. Guess who we wish was on the album more? —Rob Kenner



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7. Late Registration (2005)

Generally, people who love Late Registration more than any other Kanye album rank Graduation at the opposite end of the list. People who think Graduation is peak-Kanye think Late Registration is the weakest of the solo releases. But the first time I heard Late Registration, I heard the Kanye West album I'd wanted to hear since before College Dropout arrived: A lush, beautiful hip-hop chamber pop album, chock full of brilliant hooks and train-stopping lines that could vacillate from hilarious ("Gold Digger") to serious ("Diamonds") to poignant ("Heard 'Em Say") and double-back again, into expertly distilled Kanye braggadocio.

The best part about revisiting Late Registration—an album that ages beautifully, and doesn't date itself at every possible juncture (hello, Graduation, with your Daft Punk and your Chris Martin and your painful Weezy verse)—being reminded of all the album's contributors that everyone often forgets. Sure, you've got Adam Levine doing the opening hook, Jay-Z throwing up the Roc, and Jamie Foxx doing his Ray Charles schtick on "Gold Digger," but what about Nas, on "We Major," on the same album as Jay, at the height of their feud?! Or k!lla Cam's knock-knock verse on "Gone"? Brandy? Lupe Fiasco's career-launching verse on "Touch The Sky"? And, most notably, the presence of producer Jon Brion throughout this entire album, lending Kanye a level of technical expertise and pop mastery that he had yet to achieve on his own. Clearly, this album was crucial in terms of Kanye's career development. Is it perfect, though?

No. Hell no. The Paul Wall/Common/Game midsection suite is a trifecta of clunker beats and clunker guest verses. [ed note.: This is insane. "Drive Slow," "My Way Home" and "Crack Music" are as strong a string of songs as Kanye has ever recorded. But I'mma let Foster finish.] And do us Late Registration fans really think that any of these songs match up to the sheer genius of "Can't Tell Me Nothing" or "Champion," or that "Heard 'Em Say" compares to "Good Morning"? Of course not. But that's also why we love Late Registration: It's imperfect. It's flawed. In a lot of ways, it's quaint.

It's the last Kanye album to follow any kind of conventions (like skits, or Cam'Ron verses, both of which now seem downright precious). It's too long by at least five tracks. But it's also the last time we heard the mortal, rapper-Kanye on the mic, as opposed to stadium-status Kanye, broken-hearted-robot Kanye, outcast monster-Kanye ("KanYeti"?) or demon-deity Kanye. And the socially consciousness Kanye raps—from the "Allah-u Akbar and throw 'em some hot cars" bars that start the album, to the first verse of "Roses," to "Diamonds," and so on—are as contradictory and nuanced as they'd ever be, at least until the extremist reckoning that is Yeezus. But the reason we really love this album is best summed up by the album's closer, "Gone." It's odd. Why put Cam'ron on a closing track? Or let Consequence deliver a filler verse? Especially on this, the original Kanye-Otis Redding sample song, that already has so much going on?

Kanye's resounding response is Why not? In many ways, it's just another solid rap song, and yet, it transcends another-solid-rap-song norms, with Kanye slapping together bars too clever for their own good, and overindulging his guests. But at the end of the track, he runs through a theoretical scenario in which he abandons rap and imagines what that would be like for us, the listeners. Given the drastic tidal shift Graduation represents, the foreshadowing couldn't have been more prescient. Because that Kanye, the mortal rapper Kanye, did basically disappear after that. Years later, it still stands out as one his best verses. And it's been forgotten by many, too. "Gone" in its own way. But it's representative of the smallest (but a key) reason why we love Late Registration: Because you don't know how to. And that's fine by us. —Foster Kame




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6. 808s & Heartbreak (2008)

In one of the most fan-challenging moves since Neil Young recorded a vocodered version of his folky 1960's classic "Mr. Soul" for his proto-electronica 1982 album Trans, Kanye scrapped rap for his fourth album. Relying heavily on the 21st-century version of the vocoder, Autotune, he sang his songs this time—fully realized melodies, emotive torch songs, over a cool, futuristic backdrop of all-synth R&B arrangements.

It was shocking at the time; some people thought it was a joke. But the melodies are very strong, the pain Kanye was in is tangible and moving, and as you look around today's musical landscape, 808s & Heartbreak stands as the most prominent blueprint for what's happened in the five years since it came out. —Dave Bry




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5. The College Dropout (2004)

Say what you will about the skits, about Kanye's drums, about the "New Workout Plan." The College Dropout was a great album. It wasn't just that Kanye West proved himself as a solo artist with the vision to become a major star. It was the moment of impact that would create a sea change in hip-hop and open the floodgates for entirely new approaches to what rappers rapped about.

He'd already shifted the sound of hip-hop on The Blueprint, blending soul music history with contemporary pop instincts; now it was time to rewrite the rules of lyrical content in hip-hop, reaching the intersection of the streets and the classrooms, the backpackers and the ballers, the underground and the pop charts. As he said on "Family Business," "A creative way to rhyme without using nines and guns."

Many of his followers focus on the latter part, but the first part—creativity—was key, too. In retrospect, it's harder to see how radical his first record really was; The College Dropout opened up a number of lanes that artists rushed to fill, and as a result, its thematic novelty is harder to see through the thicket of history. But it remains a startlingly unique, diverse record, and one of the most relatable records ever made. Funny, flawed, and emphatically human, The College Dropout may not have fully expressed what made Kanye who he was. But it created the space for him to do it. —David Drake




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4. Yeezus (2013)

Yeezus might not go down as Kanye West's most popular album—if anything, it seems explicitly designed to alienate all kinds of fans, some of whom have run this week to J. Cole's more traditional (read: inspired by The College Dropout) approach to hip-hop, or Mac Miller's streamlined product of the dorm room canon. Rap has changed a lot since Kanye first broke out of the gate as a solo artist nearly a decade ago; back then, no major hip-hop artist would make an album about the humble beginnings of a College Dropout, and make his struggle to break into the music industry the central drama of his album. Today, those everyman stories are commonplace, so of course Kanye's taking a different tack. Where he began his career desperate for approval, he's now seemingly looking to p!ss fans off. No one at his level of success would think of releasing a record as confrontational and divisive as Yeezus. These days, the rappers we celebrate are successful by consensus. Kanye breaks the mold of what rap today sounds like, intending to provoke rather than soothe. The album also shows just how much he's mastered the art of bridging—or in this case, aggravating—the underlying seams of conflict between his audiences.

As time unfolds, this record will be accepted as one of his best records; despite its flawed, grotesque structure, its abrasive, brusque mood, and its unrepentant anger, there is something substantial here. It is a wholly unique album that seems to take up physical space. It won't be what you spend your summer hearing at the club (although "Send It Up" has a shot) and it isn't—thankfully—the righteous political rage many expected on the release of "New Slaves." But his lyrics will sustain, even the corny ones. Sure to be a favorite of critics ("abrasive" is critical manna, word to death Grips), in the real world, Yeezus will divide his audience. But everyone will remember it. —David Drake




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3. Watch The Throne (2011)

Two years ago, when Kanye and Jay-Z's Watch the Throne came out, and the Internet jerked its collective knee, it was one of those times when I hated everybody. (Not like, hated hated, but, y'know.) Post after post, some by writers and critics who I really liked and respect, slammed the album for its materialist bent. It was the summer of Occupy Wall Street, and the super-rich rappers' relentless flossing rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. Hua Hsu dismissed the album as "an hour-long quest for the authority to rule from above, a justification to luxuriate." The thing that rubbed me the wrong way was the relentless focusing on the lyrics and the lyrics alone, and the the refusal to see beyond thematics—"They're just rapping about how rich they are," to paraphrase the general complaint—and see just how well they're rapping about how rich they are. And the fistful of politics inherent in the fact that two black millionaires were doing so in 2011. And, most of all, how just drop-dead awesome the music was. Funky, glittery, soulful, gorgeous, the album sounds as good as anything recorded in the past five years. Pure, exhilarating fun, front-to-back. You're not supposed to listen to music with your knees, jerks. You use your ears. —Dave Bry



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2. Graduation (2007)

If Ye's third album can be best described in one word it would be "aspirational." What makes it so special is that here was an artist who was on top of his game and on top of the game, an artist who, by any measure, was peaking in his artistic prowess, an artist who had by all means "arrived," yet he dreamed of more. It wasn't "Look at me, I've got my money right." It was, "Wait till I get my money right." The common man dreamed of being like Kanye, yet Kanye treated himself like a common man striving for perfection.

"Stronger" gave him another Billboard smash, "Can't Tell Me Nothing" was a sorely needed street anthem, and the release-day showdown with 50 Cent was the promotional spotlight to highlight his achievement. Kanye's career can often be described as inspirational, but Graduation's stadium-status hugeness stand as a lesson in never settling with good—because it's simply not good enough. The album's sound was inspired by Kanye touring with stadium-rock acts like U2, which helped him realize that intricate lyrics don't translate well to crowds of ten thousand, so he adjusted his lyrical style and added synthesizers to the production fill up the space.

The album's effect was best exemplified on the album closer "Big Brother." The song served as an ode to Jay-Z, one that cast Hov in the highest light. In truth, at that point, Kanye wasn't Jay's underachieving underling anymore, he was his peer—accomplishing in three albums what it took Jay six to do. But placing Jay on a mantle made perfect sense for Kanye; he's always needed something to strive for, a greater goal to achieve. The day Graduation was released was the day Kanye had been waiting on his whole life: It was the day he became legendary. But it wasn't a victory lap, it was the dawn of a new day where Kanye would shine on a whole new level. It was, "Good Morning." —Insanul Ahmed



Last edited by CosbySweater; 06-21-2013 at 11:42 PM..

96 comments for "Complex: Ranking Kanye's Albums"

 4 years ago '12        #2
CosbySweater 297 heat pts297 OP
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1. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)

When Kanye West delivered Graduation, it felt as though we were witnessing an artist at his zenith. His musicianship was polished, his rapping vastly improved, his vision clear and (relatively) concise, his aesthetic dialed and sharp. But the reality is, Graduation was his Rubber Soul. And as all true Beatles fans know, that album is simply where things started to get interesting; that’s where things started to get weird.

The turmoil and pain that Kanye would endure in the following year, with the death his mother and end of his engagement, would fuel 18 months of touring and the production of 808s & Heartbreak, an album of singing which alienated his rap base, but still scored massive radio hits like “Heartless,” and a tumultuous relationship with Amber Rose.

However, neither the masochistic schedule nor the gut wrenching album nor charged romance salved his wounds. And his unwinding came to it’s head in a drunken, if totally awesome, interruption of Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the 2009 MTV Music Awards. Perhaps by accident, or perhaps as an unconscious machination, Kanye had created a situation where for the first time he was embattled by both the mainstream, livid over Swift-gate, and his core hip-hop fans who felt abandoned by 808s autotuned stylings. And so he absconded.

Holed up in a Hawaii recording studio—surrounded by the hip hop legends who had inspired him, like RZA, Q-Tip, Pete Rock, and his most compelling contemporaries, like Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj and even Jay-Z—Kanye poured himself, with complete abandon, into the music. His aim: An undeniable piece of art, so compelling it would eclipse all his perceived missteps and reassert his prominence in, his absolute necessity to, the culture. And he was successful. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy articulates his gnarled narrative, lining up and addressing all his detractors and distractors in short form. The album’s overtly triumphant lead single “Power” lets it be known in no uncertain terms that his is a talent that must be dealt with, a talent we must cherish and be grateful for. He delves deeper into his feelings of abandonment and alienation from America on “Gorgeous” and “Lost In a World" (and its outro) reflecting further, and less specifically, on the social climate that cast him out, before careening back to the self; to his personal life. Songs like “Runaway” and “Blame Game” walk thin lines between the raw and the refined, the candid and the grotesque, humanizing Kanye’s most inhumane impulses as he works out his love with Ms. Rose.

By the album’s conclusion it’s quite clear that while Graduation was certainly an exquisitely-cut jewel—so precious in it’s tidy perfection—it only scratched the surface of what Kanye West can create. Off-kilter and uncomfortable, and created under a unique duress, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is a messy masterpiece, far more interesting and involved than anything Kanye had done prior. And it set the tone for everything that would follow. —Noah Callahan-Bever
 06-21-2013, 11:33 PM         #3
Nasty Neighbor 
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:p achah:
 4 years ago '09        #4
thegoldenhero 3 heat pts
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Yeezus and Watch the Throne over Late Registration and College Dropout


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 4 years ago '12        #5
CosbySweater 297 heat pts297 OP
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Welp, at least they got #1 correct
 06-21-2013, 11:35 PM         #6
DoubleX 
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 4 years ago '11        #7
Jaymalls 58 heat pts58
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So Many Great Albums.... A Few Classics In There...
 4 years ago '09        #8
thegoldenhero 3 heat pts
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At least Complex is consistent with the trash


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 4 years ago '12        #9
Socialconscious 1 heat pts
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 4 years ago '12        #10
CosbySweater 297 heat pts297 OP
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 Jaymalls said:
So Many Great Albums.... A Few Classics In There...
I count 5.... but that's just me
 4 years ago '12        #11
King Jaffe Joe 23 heat pts23
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thats fu*king horrible

they only got #8 right
 4 years ago '11        #12
Retro 83 heat pts83
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 thegoldenhero said:
At least Complex is consistent with the trash


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I seriously can't fathom how they manage to fu*k up literally every single thing they do with regards to hip-hop
 4 years ago '07        #13
Sleazy 2 heat pts
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MDBTF at 1?!?!?!?


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 4 years ago '11        #14
Norcal 78 heat pts78
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7. Late Registration (2005)

Stopped reading right there.

If you don't have LR in ur top 3 Kanye albums i can't take ur opinion on Hip Hop serious.
 4 years ago '09        #15
thegoldenhero 3 heat pts
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 Retro said:
I seriously can't fathom how they manage to fu*k up literally every single thing they do with regards to hip-hop
They should just stop doing hip hop...they just embarrass themselves over and over again and it'll stop me from having this reaction everytime i see a complex hip hop list.


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 4 years ago '04        #16
psylence2k 58 heat pts58
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If yall haven't noticed yet, Complex has taken on a Trolling agenda to generate hype around their articles and lists and it works every time.
 4 years ago '07        #17
KnicksLost 17 heat pts17
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LMfaooooooo @ late registration 7th....complex at it again.
 06-22-2013, 12:21 AM         #18
SOD RG 
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Honestly I'm surprised they didn't put Cruel Summer in the top 3
 4 years ago '11        #19
pbballin 20 heat pts20
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LR at 7?



 4 years ago '05        #20
white-chocolate 124 heat pts124
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 MichaelKnight said:
CD
LR
Grad
808
WTT
MBDF


the rest dont matter to me
fixed IMO
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