|Kanye West is one of the most recognizable musicians of the current day, and perhaps of all time. He started making beats for Jay-Z in the 1990s, and in 2004 he began to release his own music as a lead artist, and since then he has defied every expectation and every convention of hip-hop, time and time again. Each of his nine albums has a very distinct style and sound and represents a specific era in West’s career and life. Of course, not all albums are created equal, so here is the ranking of all nine of his studio albums. Collaborative albums like “Kids See Ghosts,” “Watch The Throne” or “Kanye West Presents: Good Music — Cruel Summer” have been excluded.
9. “JESUS IS KING”
The placement of Kanye’s ninth and most recent album will likely come as no surprise to any longtime fans of Kanye, as “JESUS IS KING” is obviously a cut under the rest. Released in 2019 after the cancellation of his 2018 album “Yandhi,” which was leaked online afterward, “JESUS IS KING” arrived during Kanye’s Christian revival and is an album with gospel-based lyrics over mostly hip-hop beats. This is a combination that West has made work before on songs like “Ultralight Beam,” but here the lyrical content is so uninteresting that even religious listeners will likely want to shut it off. At some points, the album is even reminiscent of the fictional over-the-top band “Faith+1” that Eric Cartman organized in an old episode of “South Park.” There are some really interesting musical ideas here, such as production from Pi’erre Bourne, but the album comes off as rushed and devoid of any really interesting lyrics. Kanye should have gone with “Yandhi” instead.
From this point onward, it becomes a lot more difficult to rank the albums. You can make a convincing case for any of these being his best, but “ye” falls in eighth place due to its short length of only seven tracks, and very rushed, demo-quality sound at points. This album is not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but it just isn’t the masterpiece that some of his other albums are.
This is a favorite for many Kanye fans, but it simply hasn’t held up over time the same way that some of his other works have. “Graduation” marked a shift for West, moving away from soul-samples and decadent production for electronic arena bangers. While some of his best songs are found here, like the introspective “I Wonder,” his all-time worst song “Drunk and Hot Girls” not only appears here but has the longest runtime and drags on for a sickening five minutes. “Graduation” is great, but some of the electronic sounds of the record simply sound a little dated in 2021.
6. “Late Registration”
If it was hard to rank these albums by the time we got to “ye,” here it becomes nearly impossible. “Late Registration” is an excellent album with jazz influence all over it as well as some of Kanye’s trademark “chipmunk soul” samples. “Late Registration” has excellent songs like “We Major,” “Gone” and the Jay-Z-assisted “Diamonds from Sierra Leone,” but clocking in at 21 songs with four repetitive skits, “Late Registration” is a little too long and could have used some additional quality control.
5. “The College Dropout”
This is Kanye’s very first album, released in 2004. Full of wonderful soul samples as well as amazing storytelling about his journey in the industry thus far, “The College Dropout” is always an excellent listen to put you in a good mood. “Spaceship” is a highlight, on which Kanye explains his frustrations working retail as a Black man and hoping to one day escape the rat race. “The College Dropout” is also a longer album, but there really aren’t any songs to cut here. The only reason it isn’t any higher is that his later albums are even more impressive.
4. “808s & Heartbreak”
This album, while not Kanye’s all-time best, is perhaps his most important. After going through a breakup and losing his mother in 2008, Kanye was broken and hurting. He tackled these feelings by basically abandoning rap and creating an auto-tuned singing masterpiece about his pain, with smash hits like “Heartless” defying the expectations of the genre. Kanye broke many barriers with this album, and many say that it’s the reason that Drake and the subsequent generation of auto-tuning SoundCloud rappers achieved the popularity that they did. “808s & Heartbreak” has some beautiful songs, like the masterpiece “RoboCop,” but it is dragged down a little with the inclusion of the repetitive “Amazing.” “808s & Heartbreak” may not be the absolute best Kanye album, but it’s certainly a special and important part of his musical journey.
3. “The Life of Pablo”
There is a lot that can be said about “The Life of Pablo.” It is one of West’s longest album at 20 songs, but unlike some of the earlier albums on this list, there really isn’t any bloating at all. Chocked full of special guests like Frank Ocean and The Weeknd who all play an important role on the album, “The Life of Pablo” is a little hectic and all over the place, but that’s really its appeal. The album is a mirror for Kanye’s mental state at this time, with manic highs like “Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 1” sharing space with somber reflective tracks like “FML.” While “The Life of Pablo” can be a daunting listen, it’s a wild ride that is definitely worth taking.
2. “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”
Anyone starting to get into rap music will likely spend at least a year praising this as the best album of all time, and with good reason. “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” was released in 2010, when Kanye was public enemy number one after his incident with Taylor Swift at the MTV Video Music Awards the year prior. “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” is excellently crafted, with epic, maximalist songs where West manages to make even the most rich-people problems relatable to any listener. “Runaway,” for lack of a better word, is perfect, with hard-hitting lyrics about failing to keep up a relationship, and sublime use of auto-tune that is enough to bring some listeners to tears. Even though it’s a better record than most artists make in a lifetime, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” is still not the top of the list for Kanye’s discography.
This leaves only West’s 2013 effort, “Yeezus”. This album had big shoes to fill, after all, it was preceded by the mind-blowingly amazing “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” In order to be able to outdo such a grand album, Kanye totally destroyed it. Where “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” is lavish and maximalist, “Yeezus” is industrial, minimalist and grating. The opening song, “On Sight,” has been likened in memes to an audio equivalent to the taste of McDonald’s Sprite, and there’s really no better way to describe it. “Yeezus” is a short 10 tracks, each one feeling almost Frankenstein-ed together in the best way possible. “New Slaves” goes from choppy, almost violent synths to an angelic auto-tuned outro assisted by Frank Ocean, and this juxtaposition of different sounds and ideas is what makes “Yeezus” work. It can be a challenge to get into on first listen, but the rawness and intensity are what make it so great. It’s been almost eight years since the release of “Yeezus,” but it still feels ahead of its time. This is Kanye’s real magnum opus, capturing the man himself and his creative energy in a perfect way.
Kanye West discography ranked
All nine of Kanye West albums vary in style, sound