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RANKED: Discography of Kanye West

Updated on July 21, 2016

Kanye West: Legend? Douche? Both? Mr. West first came into the musical world as a producer for some of the biggest names before he made a name for himself in the rap game. Some of those names include Ludacris, T.I., Beyoncé, and Jay-Z. When he stepped onto the scene as a rapper, he was rocking pink polos and slinging Louis Vuitton backpacks over his shoulders. No one could take him seriously. To fight off the haters, he surprised us all with his clever raps, clean production value, and other projects outside of music. 12 years later, the man is now a mega-mogul and one of the most talked about celebrities of our time ("I've been trending years, y'all a couple days"). He has amassed seven solo albums (and two collaborative), has a successful fashion and shoe line, has a wife whose name is used just as frequently as his, two adorable children, and a head start on his presidential campaign in 2020. Is there anything this guy can't do? Probably not. He still has a hunger for success (i.e. he wants to “design hotels and nail it”). The following article discusses all of his studio albums (so far) and where they rank up between each other.

9. Cruel Summer (2012)

Technically, Cruel Summer shouldn’t exactly count on this list, but it’s included just because Kanye is the headlining act of the album and can be found on two-thirds of the tracks. Although the album had all of G.O.O.D. Music’s heavy hitters and then some, it was long delayed and didn’t live up to the hype that everyone was hoping for. It did give us anthems like “Mercy” and “Clique”, but it didn’t give much more than that other than one impressive solo track by Kid Cudi. It was kind of sloppy and landed just a bit over mediocre. Here’s to hoping Cruel Winter blows Summer out of the water because “Champions” is a banger.

Key Tracks: “Clique” / “Mercy” / “Creepers”

8. Yeezus (2013)

Kanye’s most experimental album to date is most definitely Yeezus. Don’t be fooled that it’s ranked as second to last on this list because from here on out, everything has at least a four out of five-star rating. Admittedly, it does take a few listens to this one in order to really appreciate its value, but it’s time well spent if open yourself up to it. Opening with “On Sight” caught listeners off guard and set the tone of the album, which is industrialized hip-hop. It was controversial of him to flip his name and make it sound almost like Jesus and have the only feature on the album to be from the big man himself, God, but only Kanye can pull that off, right? With only one or two forgettable tracks, Yeezus still holds up four years later as a very solid album. It also sparked inspiration for Kanye to go on a solo tour for the first time in five years to deliver a visual experience for his fans.

Key Tracks: “Blood on the Leaves” / “Black Skinhead” / “New Slaves”

7. 808s & Heartbreak (2008)

Fans alike would argue that 808s is Kanye’s worst album just because it wasn’t hip-hop at all. Others would say it’s one of his bests because they commend him for stepping out of his comfort zone and trying something so left field. It was defined by Ye himself that the genre 808s fell under was “Pop Art”. After his breakup with his ex-fiancé and the death of his late mother, Donda, the album was something very personal to Kanye and it seemed that the only way to express how he was feeling was through actual singing in order for the listener to hear the hurt in his voice. His own combination of unfortunate events worked in his favor and was translated successfully through his music. 808s & Heartbreak would go on to be Ye’s only solo studio album not nominated for any type of “Best Album” Grammy award. Many would say it was overlooked due to the 2009 MTV VMAs incident involving Taylor Swift, but more on that later.

Key Tracks: “Heartless” / “RoboCop” / “Amazing”

6. The Life of Pablo (2016)

TLOP is an album that has never been seen (or heard) before. It’s constantly being modified and it changes how we perceive the traditional album. It’s a living and breathing thing. There have been miniscule to significant edits to certain songs as well as the addition or replacement of tracks entirely. Even the title of the album kept shifting. From So Help Me God to SWISH to Waves, he finally settled on TLOP, which he then made his fans first decipher for themselves 33 lucky fans who guessed it right on Twitter were rewarded with a pair of his self-designed Yeezys. We first got a taste of TLOP when Ye premiered “Wolves” with Sia and Vic Mensa the year before and we were uncertain when the full album would be completed or released. So many big names can be found throughout Pablo, whether it be behind the boards or as featured guests. The world finally got a long-awaited collaboration with Kendrick Lamar and other contributors include Drake, The Weeknd, Frank Ocean, Rihanna, Kid Cudi, Chance the Rapper, and way too many more. The Life of Pablo will go down in history as one of Kanye’s most memorable compilations and the first visual music video for “Famous” stunned the universe. Just see for yourself if you dare.

Key Tracks: “Highlights” / “Ultralight Beam” / “No More Parties in LA”

5. Watch the Throne (2011)

Watching the Throne drop was a huge deal to fans of modern day hip-hop. Two of the biggest rappers of our generation, who could only be described as siblings, had come together on one powerful album. Their chemistry was unbreakable and Ye and Jay rapped about everything from going hard as a motherfucker to balling so hard. The majority of WTT is considered “luxury rap”, which Jay mentions on the album’s first single “Otis”. They touched on serious subject matter here and there, but it was more of a “fuck it, let’s give the world what they want” type of an album, which worked out for the better. This album would also be the one of the earliest tastes we get of electronic/dubstep music mixed with hip-hop.

Key Tracks: “Niggas in Paris” / “Otis” / “Gotta Have It”

4. The College Dropout (2004)

Before you grab your torches and pitchforks, there is no doubt that The College Dropout has earned itself “classic” status. Is it one of the most solid debut albums from a rapper? Yes. Does it contain some of Kanye’s best songs ever? Absolutely. Is it his best album to date? No. Coming from a producer background, Ye never really had much time behind the mic than he did behind the boards. Not to say his raps were wack by any means, but Dropout would merely introduce us to this newly-signed Roc-A-Fella team member and show us what he’s made of. We all wanted to know why Jay-Z chose this guy from Southside Chicago to represent such a prestigious music label. There was very little room for improvement on Dropout (maybe lose the seven skits), but with each album released after his 2004 debut, he either grew, tried something entirely new, immensely improved, or had a combination of all three. This was just chapter one of a very long memoir.

Key Tracks: “All Falls Down” / “Jesus Walks” / “Through the Wire”

3. Graduation (2007)

What makes Graduation so unique is that it seemed as if Kanye had in mind that this whole album would be perfect for performing in stadiums and arenas. That’s how big and bold the sounds are on Graduation. Released the same day as 50 Cent’s Curtis, the rappers made a wager: the artist who sells the most albums doesn’t have to retire from hip-hop. Guess who won with flying colors and guess who didn’t honor their end of the bet? Within his third album, Kanye cooked up his first street anthem (“Can’t Tell Me Nothing”), gave the world his biggest mainstream hit to date (“Stronger”), and served as the end of his college-themed albums era. You can see from the album cover that the famous Dropout bear is being launched into the sky, which probably hints that Kanye was finally ready to move on to the next challenge he’d be faced with.

Key Tracks: “Good Life” / “Flashing Lights” / “Can’t Tell Me Nothing”

2. Late Registration (2005)

The College Dropout gave listeners just a taste of who Kanye West was as a rapper and what he was capable of. Fast forward a year later and he blessed us with his sophomore album, Late Registration. It’s tough for anyone to have a successful second album, but Kanye did it effortlessly. In fact, Registration is his best-selling album to date with over 3.6 million copies sold and it still holds a spot as one of his best albums ever. The success of this album, both in sales and through critics’ reviews, just goes to show that he had already made a major impact in such a short amount of time and that he embodied an immense amount of talent. What makes Registration stand out was that Kanye was influenced by the sounds of the four regions of the United States. He even got help from the West Coast (“Crack Music”), the South (“Drive Slow”), the East Coast (“We Major”), and of course, the Midwest (“My Way Home”). There was something for everyone on Registration and it struck a chord with all of his listeners.

Key Tracks: “Diamonds From Sierra Leone” / “Heard ‘Em Say” / “Touch the Sky”

1. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)

There is no doubt that My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is West’s best album to date. Simply put: it’s a masterpiece. It received critical acclaim and for good reason. After crashing Taylor Swift’s speech at the 2009 MTV VMAs, Kanye became the most hated man in America and no one saw he could possibly recover from such an incident. So what did he do? He basically took a brief break from music and laid low. He wouldn’t just let the storm pass through, though. He wanted to make sure than if he was going to come back and give us new music that he would make a statement. The first single, “Power”, was leaked and listeners were excited to see what more could come from such an epic song. In September of 2010, MTV welcomed Kanye back to their annual VMAs to close out the ceremony and debut a song that was so self-aware (“Runaway”) that fans who had once turned their back on Kanye welcomed him back with open arms. The lead up to the actual album releasing, however, was an adventure on its own. Every Friday, West released a new, free single as a part of his G.O.O.D. Fridays series. Some were tracks from the album itself and some were just high-quality freebies. In November of the same year, MBDTF finally dropped and the world went nuts for it. The rhymes, the production, the guest spots, and other factors were perfectly on point. Simply put: Dark Fantasy is a masterpiece.

Key Tracks: “Runaway” / “All of the Lights” / "Dark Fantasy"

Album
Metacritic Score
Sales
Certification
The College Dropout
87
3,358,000
3x Platinum
Late Registration
85
3,643,000
3x Platinum
Graduation
79
2,700,000
2x Platinum
808s & Heartbreak
75
1,700,000
Platinum
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
94
1,300,000
Platinum
Watch the Throne
76
1,650,000
Platinum
Cruel Summer
68
389,000
N/A
Yeezus
84
750,000
Platinum
The Life of Pablo
75
28,000
N/A

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