With a career that is as evolving as it is unpredictable, Kanye West has ventured into various territories that crosses the paths of music, fashion, and everything in between. Tracing back to the 1990’s, the then strictly producer worked his way to the top with soul samples and unprecedented vocal flips. As a local guy, he prioritized producing for Chicago emcees which then captured the attention of various artists including Foxy Brown, Mase, and then Jay Z.
Kanye West’s success story began to unravel after his contributions on the highly regarded album The Blueprint, which allowed to venture into working with acts across genres including Alicia Keys, Janet Jackson and Monica. At the time, West was exhausted from being behind the scenes, and sought out his true aspirations in life — being a solo artist. Achieving the dream, West’s big breakthrough was his introduction onto the scene with his debut album The College Dropout. Working as a montage of bits and pieces of his work as a producer, West combined the best of the best and made an impact that laid the groundwork for what was to come in the latter stages of his career.
What came next for the rapper was an endless display of the unthinkable. The sophomore release Late Registration came to life with the enabling of string orchestra and stylistic embellishments of an alternative touch to the beloved soul samples. As a grand follow up to the previous release, Kanye continued to one-up himself. Graduation — the third studio album was one of the first major risks in his career. Introducing the soundscape of hip-hop to electronic music with the crossover hit “Stronger”, Kanye welcomed a new audience to his music, but also giving a chance to enhance his already impressive catalog. One risk lead to another as he traded in soul samples for auto tune on the polarizing release 808’s & Heartbreak. Completely singing on the album rather than rapping, he laid the blueprint for his peers to become comfortable in the vulnerability.
The shift in mainstream sound after 808’s & Heartbreak was proof of the Kanye effect, that later came apparent with the blockbuster follow up My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Isolating himself, the idea of the album came into fruition as Kanye stepped outside of reality, and into his nightmares and fantasies that are beautiful, yet twisted to the point that Kanye became that monster that he or no one thought he’d become. After that Kanye evolved from a monster and into a God on the controversial- experimental sixth studio album, YEEZUS. The abrasive, aggressive, unhinged release ushered in an era where Kanye no longer had the pressure to prove himself but instead to follow his own rules. That came apparent with what was to come next The Life Of Pablo — an album where Kanye proclaimed it to be the first “living and breathing album” and it was exactly that. With various tweaking of sounds and additions of new songs he reformulated the formula on a gospel-like album that predicted what was to come next.
After a mishap of a year in 2018 Kanye West released YE — the album that highlighted his mental health issues that then helped to transition into his next reinvention. Departing from secular music, West murdered the rockstar and witnessed a new rebirth. The full-on Christian/Gospel album Jesus is King was met with mixed reviews by critics and fans alike but was yet another chapter into the life and times of the Kanye West discography. The timeline of the career of the producer/rapper allowed for West to meet the highest highs and the lowest lows.
But of course, when it seems like you’ve achieved the all, there’s times when some of your best work goes unnoticed. To celebrate the career of Kanye West, here’s 43 of his most underrated, under-appreciated, and some-what forgotten solo songs, featured songs, and produced for other artists songs. The curated playlist titled Into The Blue: Kanye West is now available on Apple Music and Spotify. Stream it below: