Top 10 Kanye West Songs
When Kanye West debuted in 2004, he just wanted people to pronounce his name correctly. These days, the Chicago emcee can say that his leap from relative obscurity to omnipresence is one for the record books. Of course, West has become known for his outlandish antics since touring with a life-sized teddy bear and Louis Vuitton backpack, but hip-hop heads can’t deny his unique artistry. From his very first album till now, the G.O.O.D. Music founder has dropped banger after banger consistently and you can bet that he’ll remind the masses of that fact every chance he gets. Ego and cringe-worthy rants notwithstanding, Kanye West is widely respected as one of the genre’s greatest, initially for what he could do behind the boards and increasingly for what he can do behind the mic. From his earliest hits to his latest chart toppers, Yeezy’s lyrical content may have changed but his passion is the driving force and that’s ultimately remained the same. Here's the Top 10 Kanye West Songs.
'Through the Wire'
The higher-ups at Roc-A-Fella had to give Yeezy a break once he dropped 'Through the Wire' in 2003. It’s well-known that Jay-Z was especially apprehensive about promoting the Chicago producer’s rap career. The success of the lead track from his upcoming debut, ‘College Dropout,’ changed everything. After a near-fatal car accident the year before, West had to have his jaw wired shut and decided to detail it and his recovery while literally rapping through the wire. Over Chaka Khan’s hit song 'Through the Fire,' Kanye told a tale of perseverance in the face of adversity.
If you really think about it, Kanye West has been taking chances and leaps of faith from the very beginning. His constant experimenting these days shouldn’t even come as a surprise. In 2004, who knew an up-and-coming rapper could win with a modern-day gospel song on their debut album? 'Ye did. 'Jesus Walks' carried a heavy bass-line and an insistent drumroll throughout. He even implemented an sample from the ARC Choir’s performance of the very-churchy 'Walk With Me.' Yeezy made the track relatable to all: sinners, saints and everyone in between.
'Diamonds From Sierra Leone (Remix)' Feat. Jay-Z
The lead single from Kanye’s second album, 'Late Registration,' proved that the young rapper was ready to spar on the same track with one of hip-hop’s greatest. While dabbling in the politics behind conflict diamonds, Yeezy and Jay, by playing on words, touched on the death of the Roc-A-Fella dynasty. Up until that point, Hov had made a point of not revealing too much about the messy breakup but here he pulls back the curtain a bit: “People lined up to see the Titanic sinking / Instead we rose from the ash like a Phoenix...”
'Gold Digger' Feat. Jamie Foxx
Kanye’s life changed infinitely over the course of two years. By 2005, he was no longer playing the background as an in-house producer for Roc-A-Fella. 'Ye had become a star in his own right, calling in favors from superstar friends like Jamie Foxx. On 'Gold Digger,' 'Ye and Foxx poke fun at guys caught up in the affections of opportunistic women. “Was supposed to buy your shorty Tyco with ya money / She went to the doctor got lipo with ya money / She walking around looking like Michael with ya money / Shoulda got that insurance Geico for ya money...”
'Heard Em Say' Feat. Adam Levine
Yeezy was still dropping jewels as they related to a lifestyle that was quickly shrinking in his rear view. His grind to “make it” was still fresh in his mind, so tracks like 'Heard Em Say' was effortlessly tinged with earnest honesty and the addition of Adam Levine to the hook gave it a certain melancholy feel. He’d succeeded in creating a vulnerable rap song speaking on the woes of hood life -- not an easy feat for a relative newcomer: “Where I’m from the dope boys is the rock stars / But they can’t cop cars without seeing cop cars...”
'Flashing Lights' Feat. Dwele
By Kanye’s third LP, ‘Graduation,’ hip-hop fans had come to expect and anticipate special surprises from the rapper. Yeezy made rap fun again -- he was at the wheel and listeners were in for whatever ride he wanted to take them on. 'Flashing Lights' proved to be yet another starting point for 'Ye. This time, he experimented with an electronic vibe over a thumping bass-line and some honeyed vocals from soul singer Dwele. 'Flashing Lights' was an obvious club-banger continuing Kanye’s endless strings of hits.
By 2007, Kanye had comfortably settled in as Jay-Z’s young mentee. Three albums in, he had shown vast maturation in his lyrics, so much so, that he penned an ode to his “big brother” Jay on the ‘Graduation’ LP. Over production from Atlanta’s DJ Toomp, Yeezy waxed poetic about the relationship between himself and Hova from beginning to end even, tossing in a shout to No I.D., who taught him the ropes of production. 'Big Brother' is supremely honest as 'Ye presents his most humble self on record.
'Love Lockdown' marked Kanye’s departure from the happy-go-lucky, rapping Yeezy that fans had fallen for since his debut in 2004. In the year preceding the release of ‘808s & Heartbreak,’ 'Ye lost his mother after complications from a cosmetic surgery procedure. He’d also broken up with his fiancee and was trying to cope with it all in the public eye. So when Yeezy dropped 'Love Lockdown,' with its simple production and Auto-Tune-heavy vocals, fans understood that he was simply trying to purge via creativity. It was different from his usual tracks but Kanye’s never stood still for too long anyway.
'N----s in Paris'
By 2011, Kanye and Jay-Z had formed a direct alliance. 'Ye finally managed to get his “big brother” to see things his way. That realization resulted in the two emcees joining forces, to form The Throne. For the first time, the two rappers would collaborate on an entire album as a duo and they smashed through the gates with the lead single, 'N----s in Paris.' The track was an instant hit -- people couldn’t stop talking about the innovative production from newcomer Hit-Boy. But possibly more than anything, Yeezy seemed to be just fine balancing a track with his mentor.
'Mercy' Feat. Big Sean, Pusha T & 2 Chainz
Nowadays, Kanye West is beyond trying to “make it” -- he’s straight. Besides, he has an entire crew behind him with dreams of their own. On 'Mercy,' he gives them all some shine. Even the most unofficial member of G.O.O.D. Music, 2 Chainz, gets some burn. Over an ominous beat and a very old sample from dancehall’s Super Beagle, this clique goes on a braggadocious streak. As Pusha T raps: “All she want is some heel money / All she need is some bill money / He take his time, he counts it out / I weighs it up, that’s real money...”