With Kanye West in the news lately due to the release of his brand-new album “JESUS IS KING”, I thought it was a perfect time to look back at the legend’s discography and attempt to rank each of his studio albums. This list was particularly difficult to make due to the richness of Kanye’s catalogue, so ranking these albums came down to personal taste. So, without further ado, here is Kanye West: Worst to Best.
12. “Cruel Summer” (2012)
While the 2012 mixtape from Kanye and GOOD MusicIs not technically a Kanye album, per se, I still decided to put it on this list due to how prevalent Kanye’s involvement was with the making of this tape. With the exception of a few standout tracks (Mercy, Clique, Don’t Like.1, New God Flow), the tape contains some of Kanye’s least cohesive work to date, and some of the production choices made feel very of-the-time and therefore haven’t aged well even after five years. It’s a decent project, but mostly feels like a platform for GOOD Music’s other artists rather than a true Kanye album, hence why it’s at the bottom of the list.
11. “ye” (2018)
The album is, for all intents and purposes, kind of a mess. The whole project was apparently written and recorded in a matter of days, and this lightning-in-a-bottle approach shows. Some of the songs are outstanding (“Ghost Town”), but others feel like they could have used more time in gestation before being released to the public (“No Mistakes”). Plus, this album contains some of Kanye’s all-time worst one-liners, like the head-scratching “none of us would be here without cum,” (“All Mine”). For these reasons, “ye” goes near the bottom of the list.
10. “Late Registration” (2005)
This is probably a controversial placement for some. The GRAMMY-winning album was certainly excellent at the time it was released, but placed in context with the rest of Kanye’s discography, its flaws start to appear. The album is really skit-heavy, with four skits ruining the progression of the album, and a couple of songs sound like ideas that were already accomplished on “The College Dropout” (“My Way Home”), or were done better on “Graduation” (“Heard ‘Em Say”). It’s a good album for sure, but it’s definitely the weakest of bear-era Kanye.
9. “JESUS IS KING” (2019)
I’m not going to talk about “JESUS IS KING” too much here, as I just wrote a review on the album. But I will say that this is likely Kanye’s most emotionally honest album to date, and the themes of redemption and salvation are universal. It has a couple of flaws preventing it from ranking higher on the list (most notably the song “Closed on Sunday”), but it is otherwise a remarkable spiritual experience.
8. “The Life of Pablo” (2016)
This album is an interesting beast. At the time of its release, it sounded unfinished with multiple production errors and incomplete ideas. But after a series of edits, the album started to grow on me, and now is a pretty landmark album for Kanye, in my opinion. The gospel sounds of “Ultralight Beam” would go on to inspire his 2019 album, “JESUS IS KING”, and tracks like “Famous”, “Real Friends”, and “FML” rank among some of Kanye’s best to date. It’s still not a perfect album but is definitely an interesting and unconventional one.
7. “Watch the Throne” (2011)
Kanye’s first collaborative project may not be that deep, but it contains some of the hardest-hitting bangers ever collected in album form. “Otis”, “HAM”, and *ahem* the one where they’re in Paris are fantastic, trunk-knocking club bangers with Kanye’s lush production complimenting him and Jay-Z’s delicate wordplay beautifully. Not to mention this album has two cuts featuring Frank Ocean, which is also a huge plus.
6. “Yeezus” (2013)
This was a controversial album at the time of its release due to its experimental production choices and dark, violent, and sexually explicit lyrical content. But it has since taken on a new context due to revelations about Kanye’s mental health. It now reads like a total manic episode, complete with the kind of narcissism and hedonism expected from Kanye. It’s a blast to listen to with some of Kanye’s most hilarious one-liners (“eating Asian pussy, all I need was sweet-n-sour sauce”) and thoughtful professions of love (“Bound 2”).
5. “KIDS SEE GHOSTS” (2018)
Kanye’s long-gestating collaborative project with Kid Cudi finally arrived in 2018 and was well worth the wait. The album is remarkably short at just over 20 minutes, but it packs so much thematic detail across its seven tracks that it might as well be a full release. Religion, drug use, psychological instability, and depression are all major themes on the album and combine excellently with Kanye’s psych-rock-inspired production and Cudi’s gorgeous singing. It’s one of the most profound pieces in Kanye’s entire discography and is sure to be remembered as a modern classic.
4. “Graduation” (2007)
This album may functionally be a pop album, but it’s one of the best of the 2000s. Kanye’s production takes a huge step forward on this project, combining glamorous hip-hop beats with vibrant, anthem-like choruses. The sound of this album is so crisp and tight that it sounds like it could have been released yesterday, let alone over a decade ago. While it may not be Kanye’s deepest work, it might be his catchiest.
3. “808s & Heartbreak” (2008)
I’m partial to this album mostly because it was the first Kanye project I ever listened to front to back, but I also believe it is one of his best in its right. Kanye’s dark, new-wave inspired electro-R&B is some of the most lush production he has conceived to date, and the dark lyrical content and heavy dose of singing has inspired countless artists from the 2010s, i.e. Drake and Juice WRLD. It’s an incredibly cohesive project both sonically and thematically, as Kanye tackles the loss of his mother and his own personal demons with style and substance.
2. “The College Dropout” (2004)
Kanye’s debut is the kind of landmark introduction that only happens once a decade. On just his first album, Kanye sounds like an elder statesman discussing life in college, religion, and his place in the world with the kind of attention to detail of a seasoned veteran. Some great features and memorable production choices more or less invented a new wave in hip-hop complete with pink polos and backpacks. It’s a truly remarkable achievement and one of the greatest rap albums ever made.
1. “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” (2010)
Here it is, number one. This album might just be THE rap album of the millennia and is certainly Kanye’s magnum opus. Sampling the likes of King Crimson and featuring everyone from Elton John to Fergie, Kanye looks at fame with a totally unique lens: one of worldliness but also immaturity. His narcissism may be more apparent than ever, but he never strays away from tackling the dark consequences of his actions. Every track is a banger in its own right, with countless collaborators working to create a kaleidoscopic, futuristic vision that only Kanye could achieve. It’s a mesmerizing and profound piece of art, and is one of the most enduring works ever recorded.
Thanks for reading everyone. Now go listen to some Ye.