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From Worst to Best #1: Kanye West's Albums Ranked

14/04/2016 13:02

Already one of the most divisive figures in pop history, calling Kanye West a cultural phenomenon feels redundant in a year that has seen him dominate Twitter feeds and gossip columns alike. With the supposedly definitive version of The Life Of Pablo finally with us, here's Ye's entire solo discography ranked.

#7) The Life Of Pablo (2016)

For all it's been criticised, pulled apart and tampered with in the last few weeks, it's a credit to the enduring talent of Kanye West that a record as good at this can be deemed his worst. It has some genuinely awe-inspiring moments - Kendrick Lamar and Kanye swapping verses on No More Parties In LA, the sheer audacity of Famous and even the ridiculously self-indulgent skit I Love Kanye. With that said the feeling that it's still unfinished is inescapable, and there's plenty of weak and unfocused verses.

#6) Late Registration (2005)

A record defined by a string of brilliant singles, Late Registration is a very long way from being a weak offering. Diamonds of Sierra Leone, Gold Digger and Touch The Sky remain amongst the rapper's most popular singles, but in all his second effort didn't feel like a real progression. It lacks the strong sense of narrative of his debut and despite an inspired set of collaborations doesn't have the same sense of identity as the rest of his discography.

#5) Yeezus (2013)

Its Daft Punk-produced opening three tracks are breathtakingly good, with New Slaves and Blood On The Leaves finding Kanye on wonderful lyrical form. The record's latter-half isn't his strongest, though, and the self-indulgence that became a feature of Kanye West albums released this decade is most evident on Yeezus. A great record nonetheless.

#4) 808's & Heartbreak (2008)

Far from an instant classic upon release, 808's & Heartbreak is West's album that most needs re-appraising. It's a far more influential record than most give it a credit for - its use of auto-tune changed attitudes of critics throughout the industry, taking it from something associated with Disney pin-ups to an art form in itself. Its lyrical themes arguably paved the way for Drake's success later in the decade, and it produced one of the best break-up songs of the 21st century in Heartless. Not bad at all.

#3) My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)

Yeezy's great conceptual masterpiece, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy used its cast of collaborators brilliantly. It's Kanye's least radio-friendly listen - the kind of record an artist makes when his work is too well appreciated critically for a record label to interfere with any aspect of it. This was the start of West's second phase, and what a start it was.

#2) Graduation (2007)

Graduation
feels a bit like a greatest hits compilation. Drunk And Hot Girls. Champion. Good Life. Can't Tell Me Nothing. Flashing Lights. Homecoming. The hits simply never stop coming, and we're yet to even mention one of the best singles of the last thirty years in Daft Punk mash-up Stronger. The fact that it doesn't feel like a focused project in itself has perhaps meant Graduation is a little under-rated by critics. Song for song you can't get much better than this.

#1) The College Dropout (2004)

It arguably does a bit of a disservice to one of the 21st century's stand-out artists to suggest that he's never bettered his debut album - but twelve years on and The College Dropout remains a thrilling listen. Showcasing West as both an ingenious producer and technically gifted rapper - the record covered topics ranging from materialism, organised religion and racism with the kind of wit and personality hip-hop had been missing for years. He delivers a one-man assault on capitalism (All Falls Down), professes his Christianity (Jesus Walks) and questions the cause of racism (Never Let Me Down) over inspired choices of classic soul samples. For an artist to come out of the blocks with such an accomplished, skilfully put together debut is a remarkable feat - when it comes to Kanye you really can't look past The College Dropout.

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