More about: Kanye West
Kanye West...do you think he's a genius? The consensus on this is that there isn't one: some people think he's an overblown mess, and others think he's God's gift. We tend to believe the latter.
Here, Phil Giouras looks at 11 of the Kanye songs that you may not have given enough time to...could they change your mind?
Kanye West’s shift to full-on Christian rap on 2019's JESUS IS KING was a stark transition from his previous material and left his fanbase divided over the direction he had taken. It seems like his upcoming material will be more of a mixture of religious and modern sounds...‘God Is’ however is a straight-up sensational Gospel ballad. There’s a real beauty in the pure emotion flowing out of West and I believe no matter where you stand on your religious beliefs you’ll be moved by the passion West puts into the track. It also is the perfect showcase of West’s incredible production skills and his ability to transcend genres via sampling.
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At only two minutes, this short but very sweet track is the least streamed, most striking track on Kanye’s YE. Whilst now divorced from Kim Kardashian, the track is an ode to the strength of their relationship during West’s tumultuous journey with his mental health. The beautiful and soulful hook sung by Charlie Wilson will be reverberating in your head long after the song is finished.
Kanye’s 2012 G.O.O.D Music collective album Cruel Summer somehow slipped under the radar upon its release. However, it’s home to some of the most audacious and bold tracks West has ever created. Before DJ Khaled was a household name he could be found screaming ‘KANYEEE WEST’ to open this hard-hitting anthem full of the most narcissistic lines West has ever rapped (and that’s saying something!). Bonus points if you listen to the live version which ingeniously merges in Foreigners' ‘Cold as Ice’.
This one-off single was released on New Years Day back in 2015, a surprise collaboration with Paul McCartney that perhaps fell under the radar compared to ‘FourFiveSeconds’. It’s a touching ode to West's late mother Donda, sung from her perspective, speaking of her pleasure that Kanye has had children and how she’ll always be there for them, as West sings “Tell Nori about me” you can hear his voice begin to choke up. It’s a soft, sweet and redemptive moment in West’s discography.
'Murder to Excellence'
From the opulent collaborative album Watch The Throne with Jay-Z, ‘Murder to Excellence’ is the innovative juxtaposition of both the struggles and violence on the streets of Black America (specifically in West’s hometown of Chicago). The track details how the wealth of West and Jay goes against the grain of an oppressive system set up against them. The opening sample feels regal and grandiose in styling, fitting in with the album’s themes. It’s refreshing to hear the pair speak so candidly about racial politics and is one of West’s most powerful tracks, lyrically and sonically.
'RoboCop' twinkles and glistens in all its synth glory like a lost track out of Disney’s Fantasia or a retro videogame; perhaps one of the poppiest yet underappreciated tracks from 808s and Heartbreaks. Sonically, it’s absolutely bonkers in practically every way, sounding like everything but the kitchen sink has been thrown into his apparently challenging production, yet the result is a track that is so unique and magical, only West could conjure it up.
This soulful selection from Graduation celebrates the success West had achieved at that point with two stellar albums under his belt. A fan favourite, it blends Labi Siffre’s soulful piano melody and hook from 'My Song' with West’s forward-thinking drum beats and synth flares. Interestingly it’s been spoken about as one of West’s personal favourite tracks, it’s an uplifting triumph that shows his ability to blend the past and future, whilst remaining a timeless track well over a decade since its release.
Few things in life mean more to Kanye than family, and as you may have guessed from its title, that is the centre of this stripped back story. Told through a series of touching verses rapped by West, he reflects on Thanksgivings and Christmases, attending church, family seeing a relative hit the limelight and even "wetting the bed". Full of sentiment, the slow rhythm on this very early track is the perfect display of the smooth wordplay and flow that West rarely gets to highlight at this quality very often anymore.
A rare post-release addition to The Life of Pablo happens to also be one of the better tracks on the whole record. Featuring the incredible vocals of British RnB singer Sampha on the bombastic and foreboding hook, West laments his critics, compares himself to Einstein, describes how he thinks at a higher wavelength than everyone else—and that’s only verse one. 'Saint Pablo' is a six-minute epic that goes at a pace that feels like seconds. West sounds invigorated, and it’s that fire and determination to prove he’s still at his best over twenty years into his career that makes this such a highlight.
No track fills my soul with pure joy as much as ‘Hey Mama’. A retrospective following the death of his mother, this is an absolutely devastating track (especially when taking into consideration the heartbreaking version he performed in her memory at the 2008 Grammy Awards). At its core though, this is simply about love in its purest form: that of a bond between a child and their parent. West is simply having fun, shouting at the top of his lungs about how much Donda West means to him and how he wanted to give her the world. You’ll be hooked from the first second when those gorgeous ‘La’s’ kick in.
'Devil In A New Dress'
Considered by many West fans, and myself to be one of the greatest Kanye songs ever made, ‘Devil In A New Dress’ is pretty much perfect. Rick Ross makes a guest appearance with one of the most brilliant guest verses in the whole of hip-hop, while West delicately toes the line between cocksure and complete arse as he describes lust, heartbreak and the dark sides of religion: “The way you look should be a sin, you my sensation, I know I'm preachin' to the congregation, We love Jesus, but you done learned a lot from Satan”. It’s the combination of devilish temptation within the lyrics and angelic backing vocals which make this track such a luscious listen. It’s his magnum opus, and a must-listen for any casual listen of West or someone who may not be as deeply familiar with his discography.
More about: Kanye West