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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released January 1, 2010 | Roc-A-Fella

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Pitchfork: Best New Music - Sélection Les Inrocks
As fatiguing as it is invigorating, as cold-blooded as it is heart-rending, as haphazardly splattered as it is meticulously sculpted, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is an extraordinarily complex 70-minute set of songs. Listening to it, much like saying or typing its title, is a laborious process. In some ways, it's the culmination of Kanye West's first four albums, but it does not merely draw characteristics from each one of them. The 13 tracks, eight of which are between five and nine minutes in length, sometimes fuse them together simultaneously. Consequently, the sonic and emotional layers are often difficult to pry apart and enumerate. Nothing exemplifies its contrasting elements and maniacal extravagance as much as "All of the Lights." Rattling, raw, synthetic toms are embellished with brass, woodwinds, and strings. It’s a celebration of fame ("Fast cars, shooting stars") and a lament of its consequences ("Restraining order/Can't see my daughter"). Its making involved 42 people, including not one but two French horn players and over a dozen high-profile vocalists, only some of which are perceptible. At once, the song features one of the year's most rugged beats while supplying enough opulent detail to make Late Registration collaborator Jon Brion's head spin. "Blame Game" chills more than anything off 808s & Heartbreak. Sullen solo-piano Aphex Twin plays beneath morose cello; with a chorus from John Legend, a dejected, embittered West -- whose voice toggles between naturally clear-sounding and ominously pitched-down as it pans back and forth -- tempers wistfully-written, maliciously-delivered lines like "Been a long time since I spoke to you in a bathroom, ripping you up, fuckin' and chokin' you" with untreated and distinctively pained confessions like "I can't love you this much." The contrast in "Devil in a New Dress," featuring Rick Ross, is of a different sort; a throwback soul production provided by the Smokey Robinson-sampling Bink, it's as gorgeous as any of West's own early work, yet it's marred by an aimless instrumental stretch, roughly 90 seconds in length, that involves some incongruent electric guitar flame-out. Even less explicable is the last third of the nine-minute "Runaway," when West blows into a device and comes out sounding something like a muffled, bristly version of Robert Fripp's guitar. The only thing that remains unchanged is West's lyrical accuracy; for every rhyme that stuns, there's one deserving of mockery from any given contestant off the The White Rapper Show. As the ego and ambition swells, so does the appeal, the repulsiveness, and -- most importantly -- the ingenuity. Whether loved or loathed, fully enjoyed or merely admired, this album should be regarded as a deeply fascinating accomplishment. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released January 1, 2013 | Rock The World - IDJ - Kanye - LP6

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Pitchfork: Best New Music
Everyone professionally involved with the creation of Kanye West's sixth solo effort was sworn to secrecy, and with no preorders allowed, plus the news that producer Rick Rubin was still tinkering with tracks seven days prior to the drop, this instant, no-singles, anti-hype album got pre-release hyped on an Olympic scale. Think of the roll-up as a revolutionary blow against the empire or the supernova ego of West in full effect, and while it's probably a little of both, Yeezus the album is a lot of both, with good taste and bad taste both turned up to 11. This aggro-industrial earthquake with booming bass and minimal synths balances groundbreaking hip-hop lyrics ("New Slaves" is a bizarre, layered concept clash where high fashion, slavery, and "I'd rather be a dick than a swallower" all collide) with punkish, irresponsible blast-femy (during the draggy, trap track "I'm in It," West's melodious and melancholy voice shouts its dreams to the multitude, pleading "Your titties, let 'em out, free at last/Thank God almighty, they free at last" as if civil rights and booty calls were equally noble quests), and it all works in an astonishing, compelling manner. It's as if West spent the last year listening exclusively to Death Grips and Chief Keef and all the political, social, and musical contradictions became his muse, inspiring moments like the Keef and Bon Iver meet-up that fuels the mile-high hangover number "Hold My Liquor." "Blood on the Leaves" is recklessly bold as it uses Nina Simone's performance of "Strange Fruit" under its snide tale of ex-girlfriends, groupies, and date rape drugs; then there's the obviously volatile "I Am a God" ("Hurry up with my damn massage!/Hurry up with my damn ménage!"), which still outdoes its provocative title with a swelled-head manifesto plus an unexpected, Magic-Mike-meets-Aphex-Twin boom production courtesy of Daft Punk. The closing beauty called "Bound 2" finds veteran singer Charlie Wilson reuniting with that Gap Band bassline but in chilly, new wave surroundings, but the most spellbinding juxtaposition on the album comes on first as claustrophobic electro-clasher "On Sight" offers "Black dick all up in your spouse again/And I know she like chocolate men/Got mo' n*ggas off than Cochran" -- stunning because Kanye is family now with the OJ Simpson trial's "Dream Team," seeing as how he's dating Kim of the Kardashian family and the couple welcomed a child three days before the album's release. Coming from the man who jumped on-stage and grabbed Taylor Swift's VMA award, or called the American President a racist during a nationally televised charity event, this angry, cathartic, and concise album (punkishly running 40 minutes), and its unconventional road to release seems like a personal quest for the next provocative, headline-making, and unforgettable fix. That's an unfathomable thing for most and irritating for many, but it's Kanye's unbelievable reality, so complaining about Yeezus being unrelatable is like complaining the sky is untouchable. At least he has decided to indulge his giant hunger with the help of art, and if anything, this is the moment he becomes a swashbuckling Salvador Dali figure, chopping down all that's conventional with highly imaginative work and crass, attention-grabbing attitude. Unlike Dali's separate delivery of the two, Yeezus is an extravagant stunt with the high-art packed in, offering an eccentric, audacious, and gripping experience that's vital and truly unlike anything else. © David Jeffries /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released August 30, 2005 | Roc-A-Fella

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
And then, in a flash, Kanye was everywhere, transformed from respected producer to big-name producer/MC, throwing a fit at the American Music Awards, performing "Jesus Walks" at the Grammys, wearing his diamond-studded Jesus piece, appearing on the cover of Time, running his mouth 24/7. One thing that remains unchanged is Kanye's hunger, even though his head has swollen to the point where it could be separated from his body, shot into space, and considered a planet. Raised middle class, Kanye didn't have to hustle his way out of poverty, the number one key to credibility for many hip-hop fans, whether it comes to rapper turned rapping label presidents or suburban teens. And now that he has proved himself in another way, through his stratospheric success -- which also won him a gaggle of haters as passionate as his followers -- he doesn't want to be seen as a novelty whose ambitions have been fulfilled. On Late Registration, he finds himself backed into a corner, albeit as king of the mountain. It's a paradox, which is exactly what he thrives on. His follow-up to The College Dropout isn't likely to change the minds of the resistant. As an MC, Kanye remains limited, with all-too-familiar flows that weren't exceptional to begin with (you could place a number of these rhymes over College Dropout beats). He uses the same lyrical strategies as well. Take lead single "Diamonds from Sierra Leone," in which he switches from boastful to rueful; more importantly, the conflict felt in owning blood diamonds will be lost on those who couldn't afford one with years of combined income. Even so, he can be tremendous as a pure writer, whether digging up uncovered topics (as on "Diamonds") or spinning a clever line ("Before anybody wanted K. West's beats, me and my girl split the buffet at KFC"). The production approach, however, is rather different from the debut. Crude beats and drastically tempo-shifted samples are replaced with a more traditionally musical touch from Jon Brion (Fiona Apple, Aimee Mann), who co-produces with West on most of the tracks. (Ironically, the Just Blaze-helmed "Touch the Sky" tops everything laid down by the pair, despite its heavy reliance on Curtis Mayfield's "Move on Up.") West and Brion are a good, if unlikely, match. Brion's string arrangements and brass flecks add a new dimension to West's beats without overshadowing them, and the results are neither too adventurous nor too conservative. While KRS-One was the first to proclaim, "I am hip-hop," Kanye West might as well be the first MC to boldly state, "I am pop." © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released August 29, 2021 | Rock The World - IDJ - Kanye LP7

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The first noticeable thing about Kanye West's tenth studio album, Donda, is its mass. With 27 tracks, a running time of an hour and 48 minutes, and a dense list of contributors including Jay-Z, Kid Cudi, Roddy Ricch, Jay Electronica, Travis Scott, Lil Durk, and many, many more, Donda is poised to be an epic statement, an all-out event. The music itself tells a different story. Still bearing the religious overtones of 2019's Jesus Is King, West assembles the sprawling Donda from minimal arrangements that linger while feeling eerily unfinished. This is perhaps most apparent in the conspicuous absence of drums from many of the tracks. The hooky "Jail" sounds like a rocked-up version of something from Graduation, with Auto-Tuned vocals swimming happily around crunchy guitars. It's a banger with no bang, though, waiting until the last seconds of the song to bring in a brief, stilted drum pattern. "Tell the Vision" also lacks a forceful rhythm track, stitching together a stumbling piano loop with fragmented hi-hat skitters to hold a ghostly verse from Pop Smoke. Traces of the old Kanye show up alongside this new subtractive approach. "Junya" is upbeat and confident, with a cheery church organ sample and another skeletal rhythm track serving as a backing track for lively flows. We're reminded of West's production mastery when he cuts up a Lauryn Hill sample for standout track "Believe What I Say," while "Lord I Need You" carries diminished echoes of the grandiose pop magnitude of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and the thick bass and abrasive rush of "God Breathed" would fit in on Yeezus. Donda isn't without its highlights, but taken as a whole, it's both confused and confusing. The album is purportedly a tribute to Kanye's late mother, Donda West, who died in 2007. Donda's presence is felt throughout the record, in particular during moments like the somber beauty of "Jesus Lord," and more directly on the song that bears her name and includes audio of her speaking. In this exhaustive form, however, it becomes harder to keep the threads of any emotional narrative or even fully absorb the slew of sometimes only partially realized ideas that play out over the course of Donda's nearly two hours. At a certain point, all but the most devoted fans might have to wonder if everything that made the final cut is completely necessary. As with every new shape he takes, Kanye can be heard deep within Donda's drum-less beats and protracted wandering. His role as the man behind the curtain somehow keeps the songs compelling even as they become hard to digest. 808s & Heartbreak confounded both fans and critics with its frigid atmospheres and gothic undertones when it first arrived in 2008, but its production went on to influence the better part of the next decade of mainstream pop and rap. The first few times through, Donda feels haunted and incomplete, yet there's a spark deep inside the songs that suggests Kanye might merely be ahead of the curve. It wouldn't be the first time. © Fred Thomas /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released September 11, 2007 | Roc-A-Fella

Graduation's pre-leak talk wasn't as substantive as it was with Kanye West's first two albums. As with just about any other artist's third album, it had to be expected. The College Dropout was one of the most anticipated debuts of the early 2000s, while Late Registration had people wondering why Kanye would feel the need to work so extensively with multi-instrumentalist rock producer Jon Brion (the J Dilla of the chamberlin) and whether or not Kanye's hubristic tendencies would get the better of it. With Graduation, there was Takashi Murakami's artwork, a silly first-week sales competition with the decreasingly relevant 50 Cent, and chatter about synthesizers running wild. That was about it, but it all seemed loud and prevalent, due in part to a lack of high-profile rap albums released in 2007. Graduation is neither as bold nor as scattered as The College Dropout, and it's neither as extroverted nor as sonically rich as Late Registration. Kanye still makes up for his shortcomings as an MC and lyricist by remaining charmingly clumsy, frequently dealing nonsense through suspect rhyme schemes: "I never be picture-perfect Beyoncé/Be light as Al B. or black as Chauncey/Remember him from Blackstreet, he was black as the street was/I never be laid-back as this beat was." The songs that are thematically distanced, introspective, and/or wary -- there are many of them -- are, in turn, made more palatable than insufferable. That his humor remains a constant is a crucial aspect of the album, especially considering that most other MCs would sound embittered and hostile if they were handling similar subjects, like haters new and old, being a braggart with a persistent underdog complex, getting wrapped up in spending and flaunting, and the many hassles of being a hedonist. Those who have admired Kanye as a sharp producer while detesting him as an inept MC might find the gleaming synth sprites, as heard most prominently throughout "Flashing Lights" and "Stronger," to be one of the most glaring deal-breakers in hip-hop history. Though the synthesizer use marks a clear, conscious diversion from Kanye's past productions, highlights like "I Wonder," "The Glory," and "Everything I Am" are deeply rooted in the Kanye of old, using nostalgia-inducing samples, elegant pianos and strings, and gospel choirs. So, no, he's not dreaming of fronting A Flock of Seagulls or joining Daft Punk. He's being his shrewd, occasionally foolish, and adventurous self. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released June 10, 2016 | Rock The World - IDJ - Kanye LP7

The back story of Kanye West's 2016 release, The Life of Pablo, is nearly impossible to put in a nutshell, but it involves an ever-changing album title, including one that offended Wiz Khalifa so much that a twitter war ensued. Then there was a "Bill Cosby is innocent" tweet, and a consensus among producers and insiders that this was the culmination of his career. There was the Season 3 release of West's fashion line, a coinciding event that seemed just as important to Yeezy as dropping this LP. More important, maybe, since the runway models all made their cues while The Life of Pablo missed its release date, and while the idea that this is Kanye's career in one album can be loosely applied, it's more an angelic-themed LP in the vein of 808s & Heartbreak, with another vicious, trite, spiteful, parasitic release nibbling at its host. The opening masterpiece, "Ultralight Beam," represents the angelic side, offering a complicated emotional ride with the Gospel of Kirk Franklin fueling the song's jaw-dropping climax. Then, on a smaller scale, there's "No More Parties in L.A." with Kendrick Lamar and Madlib as co-producer, plus samples of Junie Morrison and Larry Graham, all supporting a smooth, rolling soul song they never could've imagined -- one about dropping your own shoe line -- plus "sheets still orange from your spray tan." Add the gorgeous "FML" ("I will die for those I love/God, I'm willing to make this my mission"), which comes with the Weeknd, and a marvelous sample of post-punkers Section 25, and the vibrant The Life of Pablo circles the wagons around family and soul mates in a manner that makes this the most holy of endeavors. And yet, when "Real Friends" explores the flipside, the emotions are tweet-sized and click bait, because paying a cousin a quarter million just to get a laptop back, just because of ex-girlfriend nudes, seems like G-Unit bragging or yesterday's bossip. There's the much talked about Taylor Swift diss in "Famous," which is not only callous, trite, and illogical but sits on a sub-Yeezy beat, and yet "Waves" (sounds like Kraftwerk remixing Chris Brown), "Highlights" (Young Thug and Yeezy connect supremely, like Drake and Future), and "Low Lights" (nothing but bass and a woman testifying for pure perfection) are all captivating, and make Pablo a soul-filling, gospel-fueled alternative to West's vicious, industrial-powered LP Yeezus. The bleached anuses that ruin expensive t-shirts in "Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 1" just don't seem as interesting in this context, but the other way to look at the erratic Pablo is as an "instant" LP, one that was mastered at the last minute and debuted via streaming. On that count, it's a fascinating, magazine-like experience with plenty of reasons to give it a free play, and with "Feedback" adding "name one genius that ain't crazy" to the mix, Pablo excuses itself from the usual criticisms, although it could have been tighter. © David Jeffries /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released October 25, 2019 | Rock The World - IDJ - Kanye LP7

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After deifying himself on 2013’s Yeezus, Kanye West now assumes the role of preacher in 2019, performing every week at his “Sunday Services”, travelling public jam-sessions during which he adds a gospel flair to some of his own tracks as well as some covers (Drake, No Doubt and even Nirvana). Jesus Is King is the culmination of this journey: a concept album, combining hip-hop and and church music which reminds us of the singularity and especially the liberty that Kanye West awards himself on each of his albums. The Sunday Service Choir, who accompany him every week, are the ones lending their tones to an album which contains plenty of gospel references, notably the sample of Can You Lose by Following God by Whole Truth, a brilliant spiritual soul track made in Memphis, which sets the rhythm on the heady Follow God. There are a few strokes of genius on this album, such as the mystical and already mythical Selah, and the minimalist Use This Gospel, featuring Clipse and Kenny G, which starts out with a single string resonating between two notes, followed by chords played on an organ, then a saxophone solo during the last minute, before finally the drum beat comes in 20 seconds before the end along with all the previous tracks. However with Hands On, featuring gospel singer Fred Hammond, he questions the criticisms of the American Christian community, themselves wary of the intentions of a man who has renamed himself Yeezus (“What have you been hearin’ from the Christians?/They’ll be the first ones to judge me”). Yet after this half-hour of music, we get the relaxing impression that we were able to look past the persona to better appreciate the artist. © Smaël Bouaici/Qobuz
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released February 10, 2004 | Roc-A-Fella

Producer Kanye West's highlight reels were stacking up exponentially when his solo debut for Roc-a-Fella was released, after numerous delays and a handful of suspense-building underground mixes. The week The College Dropout came out, three singles featuring his handiwork were in the Top 20, including his own "Through the Wire." A daring way to introduce himself to the masses as an MC, the enterprising West recorded the song during his recovery from a car wreck that nearly took his life -- while his jaw was wired shut. Heartbreaking and hysterical ("There's been an accident like Geico/They thought I was burnt up like Pepsi did Michael"), and wrapped around the helium chirp of the pitched-up chorus from Chaka Khan's "Through the Fire," the song and accompanying video couldn't have forged his dual status as underdog and champion any better. All of this momentum keeps rolling through The College Dropout, an album that's nearly as phenomenal as the boastful West has led everyone to believe. From a production standpoint, nothing here tops recent conquests like Alicia Keys' "You Don't Know My Name" or Talib Kweli's "Get By," but he's consistently potent and tempers his familiar characteristics -- high-pitched soul samples, gospel elements -- by tweaking them and not using them as a crutch. Even though those with their ears to the street knew West could excel as an MC, he has used this album as an opportunity to prove his less-known skills to a wider audience. One of the most poignant moments is on "All Falls Down," where the self-effacing West examines self-consciousness in the context of his community: "Rollies and Pashas done drive me crazy/I can't even pronounce nothing, yo pass the Versacey/Then I spent 400 bucks on this just to be like 'N*gga you ain't up on this'." If the notion that the album runs much deeper than the singles isn't enough, there's something of a surprising bonus: rather puzzlingly, a slightly adjusted mix of "Slow Jamz" -- a side-splitting ode to legends of baby-making soul that originally appeared on Twista's Kamikaze, just before that MC received his own Roc-a-Fella chain -- also appears. Prior to this album, we were more than aware that West's stature as a producer was undeniable; now we know that he's also a remarkably versatile lyricist and a valuable MC. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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ye

Hip-Hop/Rap - Released June 1, 2018 | Getting Out Our Dreams, Inc. - Def Jam Recordings

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When Kanye West declares "It's been a shaky ass year" on 2018's Ye, it's an understatement. During a tumultuous period following 2016's The Life of Pablo, he garnered as much attention for headline controversy as for his music: he was hospitalized for stress and exhaustion following the cancellation of his Saint Pablo tour, later revealing a struggle with opioid addiction, and a disastrous pre-album promotion cycle was packed with provocative political proclamations. West's world seemed to be spiraling out of control. As the lines between public life and studio recordings blurred, the two became increasingly inextricable, culminating with his complicated eighth effort, Ye. While Pablo delved into the darker corners of fame and family, Ye is messier and more uncomfortable, especially when heard in the context of his high-profile outbursts preceding its release. West places mental health at the center, complicating his usual bravado. On the opening "I Thought About Killing You," West delivers a stream-of-consciousness confessional about morality, murder, and suicide from an imaginary therapist's office sofa. Designed to shock, it feels like an interlude, not a full-fledged song. Ye improves from there, as West switches gears on "Yikes," dropping the album's first delectable beat and matching it with an equally addictive flow. It recalls West's early spirit, an enticement for audiences to keep listening. When he boasts, "That's my bipolar shit/That's my superpower," he embraces his issues and defies challengers with self-affirmation. For all the awkward times when West forces listeners to confront his internal struggles, Ye has moments of clarity. "Ghost Town" shines, serving as an appetizer to the superior Kid Cudi collaboration Kids See Ghosts that arrived the week after Ye. Along with Cudi and breakthrough newcomer 070 Shake, West offers a glimmer of hope, facing failure and reigniting optimism and personal acceptance by proclaiming, "And nothing hurts anymore/I feel kinda free." "Wouldn't Leave" is a touching ode to his wife's loyalty, while "No Mistakes" maintains tenderness, recalling early-2000s Kanye with its uplifting, old-school production. The reflective "Violent Crimes," directed toward his daughters, is an effort to atone for his past misogyny, but closes Ye with a whimper, confusing its message with a voicemail cameo from Nicki Minaj. Ye can feel uneven, sometimes boring, and more indulgent than usual, but it's a fascinating peek into West's psyche. Like Pablo, Ye may be firmly tied to its surrounding public drama, yet it's a rough-hewn, vital piece to the puzzle for those still willing to humor West and his many demons. Pushing the mental health discussion into such a public space, he challenges listeners' limits while leaving himself vulnerable for judgment. Taken as a snapshot of his state of mind at the time -- and in relation to the adjacent GOOD Music releases recorded simultaneously during the Wyoming sessions -- Ye offers a bittersweet reflection of its creator, who is confused, searching, and at a crossroads. © Neil Z. Yeung /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released January 1, 2007 | Roc-A-Fella

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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released June 30, 2020 | Getting Out Our Dreams II - Def Jam Recordings

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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released January 1, 2010 | Roc-A-Fella

As fatiguing as it is invigorating, as cold-blooded as it is heart-rending, as haphazardly splattered as it is meticulously sculpted, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is an extraordinarily complex 70-minute set of songs. Listening to it, much like saying or typing its title, is a laborious process. In some ways, it's the culmination of Kanye West's first four albums, but it does not merely draw characteristics from each one of them. The 13 tracks, eight of which are between five and nine minutes in length, sometimes fuse them together simultaneously. Consequently, the sonic and emotional layers are often difficult to pry apart and enumerate. Nothing exemplifies its contrasting elements and maniacal extravagance as much as "All of the Lights." Rattling, raw, synthetic toms are embellished with brass, woodwinds, and strings. It’s a celebration of fame ("Fast cars, shooting stars") and a lament of its consequences ("Restraining order/Can't see my daughter"). Its making involved 42 people, including not one but two French horn players and over a dozen high-profile vocalists, only some of which are perceptible. At once, the song features one of the year's most rugged beats while supplying enough opulent detail to make Late Registration collaborator Jon Brion's head spin. "Blame Game" chills more than anything off 808s & Heartbreak. Sullen solo-piano Aphex Twin plays beneath morose cello; with a chorus from John Legend, a dejected, embittered West -- whose voice toggles between naturally clear-sounding and ominously pitched-down as it pans back and forth -- tempers wistfully-written, maliciously-delivered lines like "Been a long time since I spoke to you in a bathroom, ripping you up, fuckin' and chokin' you" with untreated and distinctively pained confessions like "I can't love you this much." The contrast in "Devil in a New Dress," featuring Rick Ross, is of a different sort; a throwback soul production provided by the Smokey Robinson-sampling Bink, it's as gorgeous as any of West's own early work, yet it's marred by an aimless instrumental stretch, roughly 90 seconds in length, that involves some incongruent electric guitar flame-out. Even less explicable is the last third of the nine-minute "Runaway," when West blows into a device and comes out sounding something like a muffled, bristly version of Robert Fripp's guitar. The only thing that remains unchanged is West's lyrical accuracy; for every rhyme that stuns, there's one deserving of mockery from any given contestant off the The White Rapper Show. As the ego and ambition swells, so does the appeal, the repulsiveness, and -- most importantly -- the ingenuity. Whether loved or loathed, fully enjoyed or merely admired, this album should be regarded as a deeply fascinating accomplishment. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released August 29, 2021 | Rock The World - IDJ - Kanye LP7

The first noticeable thing about Kanye West's tenth studio album, Donda, is its mass. With 27 tracks, a running time of an hour and 48 minutes, and a dense list of contributors including Jay-Z, Kid Cudi, Roddy Ricch, Jay Electronica, Travis Scott, Lil Durk, and many, many more, Donda is poised to be an epic statement, an all-out event. The music itself tells a different story. Still bearing the religious overtones of 2019's Jesus Is King, West assembles the sprawling Donda from minimal arrangements that linger while feeling eerily unfinished. This is perhaps most apparent in the conspicuous absence of drums from many of the tracks. The hooky "Jail" sounds like a rocked-up version of something from Graduation, with Auto-Tuned vocals swimming happily around crunchy guitars. It's a banger with no bang, though, waiting until the last seconds of the song to bring in a brief, stilted drum pattern. "Tell the Vision" also lacks a forceful rhythm track, stitching together a stumbling piano loop with fragmented hi-hat skitters to hold a ghostly verse from Pop Smoke. Traces of the old Kanye show up alongside this new subtractive approach. "Junya" is upbeat and confident, with a cheery church organ sample and another skeletal rhythm track serving as a backing track for lively flows. We're reminded of West's production mastery when he cuts up a Lauryn Hill sample for standout track "Believe What I Say," while "Lord I Need You" carries diminished echoes of the grandiose pop magnitude of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and the thick bass and abrasive rush of "God Breathed" would fit in on Yeezus. Donda isn't without its highlights, but taken as a whole, it's both confused and confusing. The album is purportedly a tribute to Kanye's late mother, Donda West, who died in 2007. Donda's presence is felt throughout the record, in particular during moments like the somber beauty of "Jesus Lord," and more directly on the song that bears her name and includes audio of her speaking. In this exhaustive form, however, it becomes harder to keep the threads of any emotional narrative or even fully absorb the slew of sometimes only partially realized ideas that play out over the course of Donda's nearly two hours. At a certain point, all but the most devoted fans might have to wonder if everything that made the final cut is completely necessary. As with every new shape he takes, Kanye can be heard deep within Donda's drum-less beats and protracted wandering. His role as the man behind the curtain somehow keeps the songs compelling even as they become hard to digest. 808s & Heartbreak confounded both fans and critics with its frigid atmospheres and gothic undertones when it first arrived in 2008, but its production went on to influence the better part of the next decade of mainstream pop and rap. The first few times through, Donda feels haunted and incomplete, yet there's a spark deep inside the songs that suggests Kanye might merely be ahead of the curve. It wouldn't be the first time. © Fred Thomas /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released September 6, 2018 | Getting Out Our Dreams, Inc. - Def Jam Recordings

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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released January 1, 2010 | Roc-A-Fella

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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released January 1, 2012 | Getting Out Our Dreams Inc. (G.O.O.D.) Music - IDJ

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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released January 1, 2006 | Roc-A-Fella

Leave it to Kanye West to make live hip-hop exciting again. On his first live album, released officially only in Europe, West ditches the hypemen and instead enlists the help of an all-female orchestra. Sprinkle in a few guest appearances from the likes of an up-and-coming kid named Lupe Fiasco, who was starting to make a little noise in the industry, and John Legend, whose career already was well past being a session pianist and background singer, and you have a well-balanced live show. Curiously, the orchestra and the DJ, aside from Legend's brief appearance, are the only band on-stage. The rest of the instrumentation was pre-recorded. One of the best performances is from someone who never utters a word. A-Trak, who serves as West's tour DJ, puts together fanciful scratches, one of which perfectly introduces GLC to come on-stage to perform his verse on "Drive Slow" by scratching his "What it do?" line effortlessly. His fingers work even faster when closing out the upbeat "Workout Plan." The material here covers his first two albums, The College Dropout and Late Registration (of which he obviously based the name of this album), with the mixture being just over 50-percent of the latter. On "Jesus Walks," the live orchestra performs at its peak, as there is an extra sense of urgency to the performance. They also add a classy if understated touch to "All Falls Down," one of West's best storytelling tracks. The notes are few, but the effect is big. His choice of "Bring Me Down," for which he repurposed lyrics from an unreleased tune called "Wack Niggaz" which featured Talib Kweli, is a curious one, although it could have been selected to utilize the orchestra. While fans of West's radio material may have clamored for the massive hit "Gold Digger," it wouldn't have fit well with the personnel at hand. Still, a better selection might have been "Roses," a deeply personal account of family bonding during a time when his grandmother was hospitalized and a nurse had the gall to ask for his autograph. As a bonus, we do get a live version of "Gold Digger" from AOL Sessions, but after 40-plus minutes of being backed by an orchestra, the non-orchestrated "Gold Digger" sounds flat. Filmed at Abbey Road Studios in September 2005 in front of an audience of 300 people, West had performed at larger-capacity venues but, arguably, not a bigger one. Even with a small crowd, West draws a lot of energy from attendees who seemingly know every word, but he gives every bit as much back. For all the flak he's received for his ego, his hunger to give quality performances and music has never been questioned. With Late Orchestration, he proves himself a certified rock star. [Region 0 DVD was also released in Europe containing the same performance with the four promo videos of singles from Late Registration, as well as an exclusive interview.] © Eric Luecking /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released September 11, 2007 | Roc-A-Fella

Graduation's pre-leak talk wasn't as substantive as it was with Kanye West's first two albums. As with just about any other artist's third album, it had to be expected. The College Dropout was one of the most anticipated debuts of the early 2000s, while Late Registration had people wondering why Kanye would feel the need to work so extensively with multi-instrumentalist rock producer Jon Brion (the J Dilla of the chamberlin) and whether or not Kanye's hubristic tendencies would get the better of it. With Graduation, there was Takashi Murakami's artwork, a silly first-week sales competition with the decreasingly relevant 50 Cent, and chatter about synthesizers running wild. That was about it, but it all seemed loud and prevalent, due in part to a lack of high-profile rap albums released in 2007. Graduation is neither as bold nor as scattered as The College Dropout, and it's neither as extroverted nor as sonically rich as Late Registration. Kanye still makes up for his shortcomings as an MC and lyricist by remaining charmingly clumsy, frequently dealing nonsense through suspect rhyme schemes: "I never be picture-perfect Beyoncé/Be light as Al B. or black as Chauncey/Remember him from Blackstreet, he was black as the street was/I never be laid-back as this beat was." The songs that are thematically distanced, introspective, and/or wary -- there are many of them -- are, in turn, made more palatable than insufferable. That his humor remains a constant is a crucial aspect of the album, especially considering that most other MCs would sound embittered and hostile if they were handling similar subjects, like haters new and old, being a braggart with a persistent underdog complex, getting wrapped up in spending and flaunting, and the many hassles of being a hedonist. Those who have admired Kanye as a sharp producer while detesting him as an inept MC might find the gleaming synth sprites, as heard most prominently throughout "Flashing Lights" and "Stronger," to be one of the most glaring deal-breakers in hip-hop history. Though the synthesizer use marks a clear, conscious diversion from Kanye's past productions, highlights like "I Wonder," "The Glory," and "Everything I Am" are deeply rooted in the Kanye of old, using nostalgia-inducing samples, elegant pianos and strings, and gospel choirs. So, no, he's not dreaming of fronting A Flock of Seagulls or joining Daft Punk. He's being his shrewd, occasionally foolish, and adventurous self. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released March 2, 2015 | Rock The World - IDJ - Kanye LP7

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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released October 25, 2019 | Getting Out Our Dreams II - Def Jam Recordings

After deifying himself on 2013’s Yeezus, Kanye West now assumes the role of preacher in 2019, performing every week at his “Sunday Services”, travelling public jam-sessions during which he adds a gospel flair to some of his own tracks as well as some covers (Drake, No Doubt and even Nirvana). Jesus Is King is the culmination of this journey: a concept album, combining hip-hop and and church music which reminds us of the singularity and especially the liberty that Kanye West awards himself on each of his albums. The Sunday Service Choir, who accompany him every week, are the ones lending their tones to an album which contains plenty of gospel references, notably the sample of Can You Lose by Following God by Whole Truth, a brilliant spiritual soul track made in Memphis, which sets the rhythm on the heady Follow God. There are a few strokes of genius on this album, such as the mystical and already mythical Selah, and the minimalist Use This Gospel, featuring Clipse and Kenny G, which starts out with a single string resonating between two notes, followed by chords played on an organ, then a saxophone solo during the last minute, before finally the drum beat comes in 20 seconds before the end along with all the previous tracks. However with Hands On, featuring gospel singer Fred Hammond, he questions the criticisms of the American Christian community, themselves wary of the intentions of a man who has renamed himself Yeezus (“What have you been hearin’ from the Christians?/They’ll be the first ones to judge me”). Yet after this half-hour of music, we get the relaxing impression that we were able to look past the persona to better appreciate the artist. © Smaël Bouaici/Qobuz