Kanye West will be the first to tell you that he’s been one of the most consistently innovative and influential artists of all time. OF ALL TIME!!! Even before his 2004 debut, The College Dropout, he was one of the hottest producers in the game. And of course, his creativity transcends music: he is a 22-time Grammy-winning rapper but he’s also a fashion mogul thanks to his clothing and shoe brand Yeezy. The Chicago rapper is always experimenting with and we are always looking forward to his next move… and sometimes, we’re bracing ourselves for it.
Check out 10 of Ye’s best songs ranked:
"Can't Tell Me Nothing" samples Jeezy's 2006 album track "I Got Money." Ye told Concrete Loop per Songfacts that his intention for "Can't Tell Me Nothing" was to speak to people. "I hear records that are super hot for two months, but the records won't last in people's minds. I set out not to just make records that could hop off the radio instantly, but stuff that will speak to people. Two videos for this song were made. One features Ye in the middle of the desert and the other is a comedic version featuring Zach Galifianakis and folk singer Will Oldham.
Ye credits a sudden spark of inspiration from God with this song telling Concrete Loop (per Songfacts) that the lyrics just came to him. "Like on this one, I didn't even try, I just zoned out, I'd go into the studio and vibe to the beat and it came and God gave me the words." Unusual for Ye, the song credits no features. The song was used for Charlize Theron's 2019 Dior fragrance commercial.
Ye's "Stronger" is based on Daft Punk's song "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger." Ye teamed up with Daft Punk and allowed him to use rap over his electronic pop beat. The lyrics, "Now that-that-that that don't kill me can only make me stronger" is from the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. "Stronger" won a Grammy for "Best Rap Solo Performance" in 2007 and is featured on Ye's album Graduation.
From Ye's 2008 album 808's & Heartbreak, "Heartless" samples The Alan Parsons Project's 1984 album Ammonia Avenue. The single's cover art is virtually the same as for "Love Lockdown," but is missing the red heart balloon and is, therefore "heartless." In 2008, Kanye told The Guardian that with the broken engagement to designer Alexis Phifer and the recent loss of his mother, he told the outlet the song resembled the sudden losses in his life. 'It's lonely at the top. Losing my mom, having no woman in my life to support me. I feel I'm on my own and can only express it through my music.'
"Through The Wire" samples Chaka Khan's song "Through The Fire" where Ye found inspiration for the song during a very hard part of his life. In 2003, he was in a car accident that almost killed him and the resulted in his mouth mouth being wired shut; he underwent emergency surgery to put a metal plate in his chin. During his time in the hospital, he heard Chaka's "Through The Fire" and created lyrics that conceptualized what he was feeling at the time, a new appreciation of life. "Through The Wire" was West's first single leading the way for his debut album, The College Dropout, in 2004. The song was nominated for "Best Rap Solo Performance" at the 2004 Grammys.
"Blood on the Leaves" samples Nina Simone's version of Billie Holiday's chilling "Strange Fruit." Ye uses his artistry in this song in a way that honors the sample and delivers a clear message of the horrifying act of lynching. The song appears on Ye's 2013 album Yeezus.
Ye was making music about his faith and systemic issues that impact minority groups early on. “Jesus Walks” incorporates themes of racism, our individual role in society, racism, and trial and redemption. "Jesus Walks" won "Best Rap Song" and was nominated for "Song of the Year" at the 2004 Grammys.
"Gold Digger" is from Ye's 2005 album Late Registration and samples 1954 Ray Charles song "I Got A Woman." The song is about a woman who only wants to date rich and famous athletes or artists hence the term "digging for gold." Ye talks about several celebrities in the song as examples including Busta Rhymes and Usher. Jamie Foxx – who won an Oscar for playing Ray Charles in 2004’s ‘Ray’ -- is featured on the song which they performed together at the 2006 Grammys. The song won "Best Rap Solo Performance" and was nominated for "Record of the Year" at the 2005 Grammys.
"All of the Lights" is the third single from Ye's fifth studio album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The song features star-studded contributions from Rihanna, Kid Cudi, John Legend, Ryan Leslie, Charlie Wilson. You also hear Alicia Keys, Sir Elton John, Fergie, La Roux's Elly Jackson, The-Dream, and Tony Williams. The song won "Best Rap Song" and "Best Rap/Sung Collaboration" at the 2012 Grammys.
"Runaway" is a track from his 2010 album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which features rapper Pusha T. At the time, Ye had just signed King Push to his label G.O.O.D. Music. The song was accompanied by a 34-minute noir film. "It's the story of a phoenix fallen to Earth and I make her my girlfriend," the rapper told New York Magazine at the time, per Songfacts. "And people discriminate against her and eventually she has to burn herself alive and go back to her world. I've been feeling the idea of the phoenix. It's been in my heart for a while."