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The Discography of Kanye West: A Retrospective

Taken from Axel Antas-Bergkvist, Unsplash.

Kanye West is known for many things in his career spanning almost 20 years, including being a rapper, singer, businessman, fashion designer and the source of many controversial statements. For example, his somewhat recent statements on the Alex Jones podcast which include “I like Hitler” and “I love Jewish people, but I also love Nazis”, didn’t fail to create traction within the media. However, in March he claimed on Instagram that he had a change of heart after watching the film 21 Jump Street (I wish I was making this up) and stated, “Watching Jonah Hill in 21 Jump Street made me like Jewish people again…” and that “No Christian can be labelled antisemite knowing Jesus is a Jew”.  Some attribute these statements to his struggle with Bi-Polar disorder and other possible mental illnesses. One thing impacting his recent behaviour and music is his conversion to Christianity in 2019, and while the authenticity of this conversion is still under dispute, we may only pray that his music may continue to reflect this.

That being said, this article is NOT about Mr West as an individual, but rather, his work and innovation as an artist and how he has influenced modern hip-hop and Rap music. However, his controversial statements may explain Kanye’s recent absence from the music scene meaning it is unlikely Kanye will release any music any time soon. With this in mind, I will be looking back on how his discography ranks up today, as ‘Donda’ may well mark the end of Kanye’s solo music career. I will be ranking only Kanye’s solo albums on clever lyricism, production quality, innovation in the music scene and my personal enjoyment of each record, ranking the releases from worst to best.


#12 The Life of Pablo (2016)

‘The Life of Pablo’ may be without a doubt Kanye’s laziest album in terms of lyricism, too often taking jabs at other artists such as Taylor Swift and Ray J. It is repetitive, unnecessarily vulgar, and just feels uninspired overall. Its production is largely lack lustre and contains nothing interesting besides the beat and lyricism (somewhat) in Famous. The album’s production bombs in terms of overall pace, tone and innovation. Many of the album’s features feel like they don’t have much to say on the record, making the album feel like Kanye didn’t have much to say, with too many tracks leaving me unimpressed. I struggle to get through this album and lose interest many times throughout, thus leaving it at the bottom of the rankings for me.

Album highlights: Ultralight Beam, Famous

Album Lowlights: Freestyle 4, Facts


#11 Watch the Throne (2011)

This album was somewhat of a letdown surrounding hype for the collaboration of two music legends, JAY-Z and Kanye West. This album feels like it could have had more to offer overall with the latter half of the album being relatively uninteresting. This album certainly does have its moments in terms of great production and lyricism such as the iconic sample featured on the hugely popular third track and the chilling introduction to the album in No Church in The Wild. To me, it felt everything the album had to flex was shown by the end of Gotta Have It with no other memorable moments past that.

Album Highlights: No Church in The Wild, Otis

Album Lowlights: The Joy, H.A.M, New Day


 #10 Ye (2018)

This album follows Kanye battling his Bi-Polar disorder and other mental illnesses, reflected through the lyrics. This album is short and feels as if it hasn’t fulfilled its true potential. It features great moments in tracks such as Yikes and Ghost Town which are both engaging songs with great samples and some clever lyricism. The majority of the tracks, however, are uninteresting and unnecessarily vulgar, don’t feel as if they communicate much other than Kanye’s personal struggle, and have no clear message. This album is short, clocking in at just 24 minutes, and feels as if it could have done a lot more, but this was then later answered with the later release in the same year with the ‘KIDS SEE GHOSTS’ project.

Album Highlights: Ghost Town, Violent Crimes

Album Lowlights: I Thought About Killing You, All Mine, No Mistakes


 #9 Yeezus (2013)

‘Yeezus’ was innovative through Kanye’s use of more electronic sounds which carried the record but is unfortunately still disappointing overall. The lyrics in this album are largely uninteresting and quite vulgar and the album overall has a loose concept following his superiority complex (one example of this is in the poorly made, I’m In It). However, his flow throughout this album is very consistent yet stays fresh throughout and isn’t as predictable as some other releases of his. Personally other, than a few tracks having really great sampling, this album is not that clever conceptually, feeling more like a collection of songs that aren’t consistent and don’t push an interesting story or theme. Some great and new sounds are featured throughout this record that holds up very well, present in tracks such as Black Skinhead, Hold My Liquor and of course the immensely successful, Bound 2.

Album Highlights: Bound 2, Black Skinhead, Hold My Liquor, On Sight

Album Lowlights: I’m In It, Guilt Trip


#8 Donda (2021)

‘Donda’ was conceptualized as a tribute to West’s late mother Donda West, however, Kanye blends this with an extension of the tracks featured in his 2019 album ‘JESUS IS KING’. This album does unfortunately feel loose conceptually, not really following one exact story or idea which is a deal breaker for me. This is simply just a good album from West in terms of lyricism and presents interesting and innovatively mastered tracks throughout. There are no poor tracks in this album, with a number of really great moments seen in Jail, Off the Grid and Hurricane. Overall, this album has a fairly uplifting tone, much like ‘JESUS IS KING’, and feels different when compared to his work in the early 2010s which I personally find refreshing. It has mostly well-applied features, but also includes a number of tracks missing the mark through the inclusion of too many unnecessarily repeated tracks for my liking which often feel like filler.

 Album Highlights: Hurricane, Jail, Off The Grid

Album Lowlights: Junya pt 2, Jesus Lord pt 2


#7 808s & Heartbreak (2008)

This is a great album, marking a moment of change in Kanye’s discography. It was very influential on hip hop, pop and R&B genres, influencing the beginning of Drake’s extremely successful music career. This album demonstrated that even after the massive success of ‘Graduation’, Kanye could still innovate and do new things. It showed Kanye was still using each album to redefine himself as an artist, especially with the change of pace in ‘808s & Heartbreak’. Featuring many memorable highlights with only a few uninteresting tracks, it still managed to keep listeners interested throughout. This album makes sparing but well-applied use of featured artists and keeps the tone of sadness throughout the record. This album follows Kanye at one of his worst states emotionally following the death of his mother and the leaving of his girlfriend which is translated into the music very well.

Album Highlights: Heartless, Love Lockdown, Robocop

Album Lowlights: Bad News, See You In My Nightmares


#6 My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)

I know this may be a super controversial placement, but please hear me out. This album gets almost all of the praise it deserves. It demonstrated a massive change in Kanye’s career and features a number of heavy-hitting tracks which have definitely aged well. This album was Kanye’s “Rubber Soul” as it was when he really started to innovate after the huge success of the ‘Dropout Bear’ trilogy. This was released with many new and interesting sounds present in tracks like Dark Fantasy, Gorgeous, POWER, Devil in A New Dress and so many more. However, after Runaway, the great pace featured across the great tracks in the album lost steam, with the last 4 tracks being far less interesting than the ones before. This is not a bad album whatsoever. However, I believe the albums higher up in the list are deserving of more praise.

Album Highlights: Dark Fantasy, Gorgeous, POWER, Devil In A New Dress, Runaway

Album Lowlights: Lost In The World, So Appalled, Who Will Survive In America


 #5 JESUS IS KING (2019)

Another controversial placement, I’ll admit. I’m highly biased as a result of the lyrical content of the album due to my beliefs. However, I do believe this album makes great strides and again shows Kanye innovating and truly getting experimental as a result of his conversion to Christianity at the time. This record takes a Christian rap/hip-hop direction (with gospel elements) and Kanye describes it as “an expression of the gospel”. The album is fairly clever lyrically, incorporating lines quoting scripture, outside-of-the-box lyrics and a fairly gripping flow overall. However, there is far more creative and nuanced Christian rap out there. Even the lowlights on this album are not particularly bad, just less interesting than others in terms of production and some out-of-place lyrics here and there. The standout thing about this album, like much of Kanye’s work, is the production. It is by far the best production I’ve seen on any Christian album, that is my reason for its high ranking on the list.

 Album Highlights: God Is, Use this Gospel

Album Lowlights: Water, Everything We Need


 #4 KIDS SEE GHOSTS (2018)

‘KIDS SEE GHOSTS’ is a perfect album in my view. This was very much released at a time in Kanye West’s career when he needed something new in order to keep up in the music scene. Conceptually, this is essentially a second part to ‘Ye’ as it was released later that year. This is a collaborative album with Kid Cudi, of which Cudi’s influence on the production is very clearly noticeable. Each track on this album feels as if it has something important to say and each track is very distinct in its sound. This album again speaks to West’s production and sampling abilities within hip-hop that made him famous in the first place and is very much a return to form for him. There are no bad tracks in this album, some are merely just a bit less interesting than others. My only gripe with this album is its length, clocking in at just 23 minutes. It felt like both Kanye West and Kid Cudi had more to say…

Album Highlights: Feel The Love, Fire, 4th Dimension, Reborn

Album Lowlights: Kids See Ghosts


 #3 Graduation (2007)

Many regard this as his best album, and for good reason. The beautiful vocal introduction in Good Morning alone is enough to send chills down my spine. This may be one of the most influential hip-hop records of all time, with hits even the most casual of fans would likely recognise. ‘Graduation’ maintains the soul-based sound and sampling of what made his previous two records amazing while reinventing his sound with the implementation of synthesizers, electronics, and even more, ambitious sampling and very well-applied features. The only reason this album isn’t ranked higher is because, in my opinion, this is not a perfect album. While there are a lot of great memories I identify with the memorable moments on this album, this album is let down by a few tracks that missed the mark. This album brought Kanye to the highest point of his career, and I doubt another album as innovative and ambitious as ‘Graduation’ will ever be released again.

Album Highlights: Good Morning, Stronger, I Wonder, Flashing Lights, Everything I Am

Album Lowlights: Barry Bonds, Drunk and Hot Girls


 #2 Late Registration (2005)

This album is perfect in my view. It had the difficult task of following possibly one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time, ‘The College Dropout’. It departs a bit from the heavy use of sped-up soul samples of ‘The College Dropout’, and incorporates more orchestral, jazz and RnB elements. This album covers a diverse range of issues and topics such as higher education, institutional racism and various health care systems. This album features a number of my favourite Kanye songs with some of his best and most memorable works featured on this album and is an emotional rollercoaster overall. This may be exemplified in the differences between the high of my favourite Kanye track, Touch The Sky and the more calm feel-good track, Hey Mama.

Album Highlights: Touch The Sky, Gold Digger, Roses, Diamonds From Sierra Leone, Hey Mama

Album Lowlights: Celebration


#1 The College Dropout (2004)

This is my favourite hip-hop/rap album of all time. A monumental introduction to Kanye West’s career with many prolific rappers also identifying this album as one of great innovation still influencing many artists. It includes some of the greatest production work in hip-hop, with Kanye having such a distinct production style made clear from the beginning, with songs carried not just by clever lyricism, but consistently including well-mixed and innovative sampling. This album has many well-applied features with big names right out the gate featuring the likes of Common, Jay-Z and Jamie Foxx. This album is perfect in my view, and I think features so many great elements of what a hip-hop album should strive to incorporate, while also featuring clever and whimsical lyricism (despite the unnecessary vulgar lyricism featured in most of his albums). This album is consistently hitting listeners with great and memorable moments that cannot be understated, and I would recommend this album to anyone who likes intriguing and well-crafted music.

Album Highlights: All Falls Down, Jesus Walks, Never Let Me Down, The New Workout Plan, Slow Jamz, Two Words, Through the Wire, Family Business, Last Call

Album Lowlights: Breathe In Breathe Out


If you haven’t listened to Kanye West’s work yet, I would highly recommend his first three studio albums to anyone who can appreciate well-crafted and innovative music. I would encourage listeners to attempt to separate Kanye’s work from his actions, as in my opinion, this does not take away from the true masterpieces Kanye has released in his career.

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  • AshtonApr 11, 2024 at 9:05 am

    TLOP opinion is not good at all. did you not listen to NMPILA, saint pablo, FSMH pt 1, famous, ultralight beam, waves, 30 hours,

  • AshtonApr 11, 2024 at 9:01 am

    bad ranking overall, MBDTF is top 3. yeezus is top 5. JIK bottom 12. YE not bottom 10. please re-listen to the albums!

  • AshtonApr 11, 2024 at 8:59 am

    TLOP bottom of discography is shocking

  • ZaydenJan 18, 2024 at 12:58 pm

    i know that wcc is a christian school but JIK in the top 5 is wild

  • AnsonAug 23, 2023 at 9:24 am

    I think I still prefer Taylor Swift.

    • AshtonApr 11, 2024 at 9:06 am

      track 4 the life of pablo