1. Through The Wire – College Dropout
Ignore the fact that Kanye West sounds a little weird on the beat – the man wouldn’t let reconstructive jaw surgery bring him down. Kanye’s persistence and desire to rise to the top shines throughout the track. He recounts life before and after sustaining injuries in a car accident in 2002 with a jaw that was wired shut. He doesn’t cower, but instead rises to the occasion and looks more like a boxer claiming victory in a heavyweight fight.
2. Jesus Walks – College Dropout
Kanye burst through with a song that placed Christianity at its focal point and was one of his first songs to break into the public sphere. It wasn’t just a good song, it allowed listeners to ponder how Kanye was able to make such a successful song using Jesus Christ and religion as the subject matter.
3. Diamonds From Sierra Leone/Diamonds From Sierra Leone [Remix ft. Jay Z] – Late Registration
The imagery depicted from the opening line of the original song makes it arguably one of Kanye’s greatest. West takes the original and transforms it into a track that is equally as good. In the remix, Kanye goes political, addressing the conflict diamonds being mined in countries such as Sierra Leone.
4. Touch The Sky (ft. Lupe Fiasco) – Late Registration
Kanye’s bravado, and taste for expensive brands, is on full display in “Touch The Sky.” Swag level, awesome level, his ego, whatever level you would want to judge Kanye on, is looking to go over 9000. The song features a show-stopping verse from a young Lupe Fiasco and a slowed down Curtis Mayfield sample.
5. Can’t Tell Me Nothing – Graduation
Whether it’s through its visuals or its lyrics, “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” was strikingly more brash and displayed more bravado from Kanye than on any of his previous material. The chorus itself, perhaps foreshadowing the paparazzi and haters, was a precursor to a more audacious Kanye West, setting the tone for the most boastful album in his catalogue, Graduation.
6. Stronger – Graduation
Graduation featured synths and electronic influences, which explains the outstanding meshing of Kanye West lyrics and Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.” The booming drums from super producer Timbaland complete the electronic/hip-hop masterpiece.
7. Welcome to Heartbreak (ft. Kid Cudi) – 808’s & Heartbreak
808’s & Heartbreak delivered West at his most vulnerable, and his most imperfect. Despite the tracks dripping with Auto-Tune, the album is the first indication that there are in fact chinks in Kanye’s armour. Depression sets in on the track, as Kanye sounds empty and hollow while everyone else seems happier and on the verge of promising futures in contrast to Kanye’s grim reality, after the loss of his mother the previous year.
8. Gorgeous (ft. Kid Cudi & Raekwon) – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Kanye goes after haters, among them the writers of South Park, critiques the issue of race in America, and of course, a boastful Kanye re-emerges from the rubble, caused by an avalanche of hate after the MTV VMA’s incident with Taylor Swift. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was his comeback from licking his wounds on 808’s & Heartbreak, and “Gorgeous” is the indicator that Kanye is ready to reclaim his extravagant and expensive throne.
9. Runaway (ft. Pusha T) – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
The beautiful thing about Kanye’s fifth studio album is that it emphasizes his braggadocio behavior, but also features his vulnerability, with remnants from 808’s & Heartbreak. Add that to rousing instrumentals, it’s a glossy, fancy piece of work that can be added to any museum. “Runaway”, which was the centerpiece of Kanye West’s short film of the same name, features piano and Kanye willing to admit that he is in fact, a jerk but in the classiest of ways.
10. New Slaves (ft. Frank Ocean) – Yeezus
Kanye’s sixth studio release Yeezus may go down as his most polarized album. On the one hand, you must applaud Kanye for daring to use dancehall and electronic sounds paired with lyrics that all but claim he’s the second coming of Christ. On the other, some of Kanye’s ideas are displaced and just don’t fit within the album. “New Slaves” is among the better songs off the album, and while the verses might not be the greatest, there’s no denying the shock value of the lyrics and Frank Ocean’s vocals at the end.