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

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Pitchfork: Best New Music - Sélection Les Inrocks
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Rap/Hip-Hop - 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
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Rap/Hip-Hop - 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
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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released October 25, 2019 | Rock The World - IDJ - Kanye LP7

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released June 15, 2016 | Rock The World - IDJ - Kanye LP7

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

For the better part of a decade, a cavalcade of headlines and controversy accompanied each fresh Kanye West release, causing as much of a stir as the rabid anticipation from diehard fans. His game-changing ninth album, Jesus Is King, was no different. Between 2018's complicated Ye and this 2019 gospel rebirth, West's position as a cultural firebrand and his own worst enemy was further amplified by inflammatory interviews and controversial political stances. At one point, he even threatened to quit the rap game, citing the genre as "the Devil's music." During that period, West also recommitted himself to Christianity, spreading his personal gospel throughout the land with his trademarked Sunday Service crusade. Praising the Lord but also selling expensive branded merchandise, West proved that, beneath the talk of faith and a life turned around, this is still business and religion is often just a tool. With all that in mind, the loaded Jesus Is King proffers a new Kanye, one loudly dedicated to Jesus Christ and the fruits of faith. No longer the scumbag of "Runaway," West -- born again and repenting past sins -- fully commits to this direction, forgoing curse words and lewd rhymes in a complete turnaround from the rest of his catalog. While his grasp of Christ's teachings is elementary -- giving detractors further ammunition to question his true intentions (which he tackles on "Hands On") -- his seeming sincerity and vulnerability help temper embarrassing rhymes about fast food chicken sandwiches ("Closed on Sunday") and his troubling alignment with prosperity gospel teachings ("Water," "On God"). Despite the occasional lyrical misstep, Jesus Is King is a wonder of production, housing some of West's most focused and inspired work since 2013's Yeezus. From the rapturous choral sweep on "God Is" and the slapping beat of "Follow God" to the digital swirling "On God" and the languid flow of "Water," the true power of this set lies in what West has accomplished with all his meticulous studio tinkering, crafting an immersive sonic experience that only improves upon repeated listens. Well-utilized guests Ty Dolla $ign and Ant Clemons bridge the secular with the religious, joining gospel singer Fred Hammond and the Sunday Service Choir to add further heft to the proceedings. West even manages to match a reunited Clipse with saxman Kenny G. Considering his new message, the reinvigorated production, and the communal spirit that courses through the album, West seems to be in a healthier place. Presumably reborn in Christ, Jesus Is King reframes Kanye West as a work in progress and, despite the controversies, demonstrates (as humbly as his ego will allow) that he's at least trying. ~ Neil Z. Yeung
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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released September 6, 2018 | Getting Out Our Dreams, Inc. - Def Jam Recordings

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released September 11, 2007 | Roc-A-Fella

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released February 10, 2004 | Roc-A-Fella

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 2008 | Roc-A-Fella

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 2008 | Roc-A-Fella

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

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released June 6, 2018 | Getting Out Our Dreams, Inc. - Def Jam Recordings

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released April 29, 2018 | Rock The World - IDJ - Kanye LP7

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 8, 2015 | Rock The World - IDJ - Kanye LP7

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released June 6, 2018 | Getting Out Our Dreams, Inc. - Def Jam Recordings

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Rap/Hip-Hop - 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
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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released September 11, 2007 | Roc-A-Fella

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released April 28, 2018 | Rock The World - IDJ - Kanye LP7