Kanye West’s Solo Albums Ranked Worst to Best


Image courtesy of Forbes

Adam Matos and Anthony Millan

Anthony’s rankings:

Kanye West is undoubtedly one of the most controversial public figures worldwide and it may be easy to write him off as a crazy influencer who got his fame with no talent. However, this is not the case. Although Kanye, and the things he says, may be among some of the world’s most debatable topics, he is without a doubt a worthy figure. Kanye West is a musician, an artist, and the music he has put forward over a musical career spanning approximately three decades is some of the most consistently amazing work from any artist over our time. We ask readers not to focus on Kanye’s questionable decisions while reading this article and instead only focus on his solo career as an artist.

Having debuted (after about a decade of producing for other rappers) with The College Dropout, a revered classic, and working his way toward his most recent album, Jesus is King, West has been through a lot of artistic change and growth, whether for better or worse. This article intends to give you our rankings of his solo discography. Hopefully, after reading you will be inspired to listen to his albums, if you have not already, and enjoy the amazing music Kanye has given us over the years.

Anthony’s rankings:

9. Jesus is King

Easily his worst album, Jesus is King sees Kanye go down a Christian rap route, which, at its best is okay, and at its worst, it’s downright bad. There are a few songs that could almost be good, but the poor mixing, surface-level writing, and general lack of creativity make this album seem bland in comparison to the rest of his discography.

Favorite song: Selah


8. Ye

Ye was completed about a month prior to release, with some songs finished the day it was released. I could tell. While this project is significantly better than Jesus is King, that doesn’t say much. Being 7 songs (23 minutes), it shouldn’t be a painful listen, but I find myself bored at the fifth song. The main thing saving this album are two career highlights for Kanye, “Ghost Town” and “Violent Crimes”, being absolutely extraordinary songs, however, neither can make up for the boring rest of the album.

Favorite song: Ghost Town


7. The College Dropout

Often considered one of Kanye’s best albums, I find his debut to be one of his least interesting. The production is great (as expected), and there are career highs on this project (“Family Business”, “Jesus Walks,” etc.), however, I just don’t enjoy it nearly as much as his other albums. The lyricism doesn’t pull me in, the topics don’t engage me, and overall the album isn’t nearly as good as his greatest works. 

Favorite song: Through the Wire


6. 808s and Heartbreak

A major sonic departure from Kanye’s previous albums, 808s and heartbreak is more pop than it is rap, and I think he did it pretty well. It is easily one of the most ambitious albums of his career, revolutionizing an entire genre. The uniqueness of this record is relatively unmatched, showcasing Kanye’s prowess in creativity. Containing some of my favorite Kanye songs, 808s and Heartbreak is consistent throughout, being a solid album listen. Not as great as what’s to follow, but definitely a good album.
Favorite Song: Say You Will


5. Graduation

Graduation is Kanye’s party album, and I love it. Staying consistent throughout, Graduation has some of Kanye’s biggest hits and some of my favorites. This album has a great feel-good vibe to it, making it a very easy listen no matter what you’re doing. This is the start of some of my favorite albums part of the list.


4. The Life of Pablo

Kanye’s most confusing body of work, and also one of his best. The Life of Pablo has so many of Kanye’s best songs, and is riddled with some of his best production and lyricism. The album is an amazing journey throughout an entire listen, and the concept by itself is engaging enough. The “Pablo” theme is carried throughout the whole album, with Kanye struggling as to which Pablo he relates to. Is he like Saint Pablo, the devout Catholic? Pablo Escobar, the businessman? Or is he like Pablo Picasso, the visionary artist?

Favorite song: Saint Pablo


3. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Easily Kanye’s best album, but not my favorite. Fantasy is all around amazingly produced, and has my all-time favorite song on it, so it has a soft spot in my heart. Not a single song on Fantasy is bad, and every single feature is just as good, if not better than Kanye, leaving an incredible body of work. Everything needing to be said about this album has been, and multiple news publications naming it album of the decade sounds about right. 

Favorite Song: Runaway


2. Yeezus

I wanted this to be 1 so bad. Yeezus is Kanye’s most experimental work to date, and it paid off extremely well. At only 10 tracks, 40 minutes, I listen to the album in full almost every time I want to listen to one of the songs, and it’s always worth it. This album is not for everyone, and that is the point. It’s loud, abrasive, and it’s Kanye. The concept is incredible, and I would get into it, however, I’ll save that for a review. Full of innovative production, a compelling narrative, and some of Kanye’s best artistic moments, this is a worthy 2nd place. 

Favorite Song: Bound 2


1. Late Registration

In my opinion, the best Kanye West album. Fresh off the success of his debut album, Kanye embarked on making a very orchestral-feeling record, and he succeeded in flying colors. Every instrumental is lush and beautiful, using real instruments for better effect. Kanye flows the easiest he ever has in his career, and his storytelling is immaculate. West captures the sound he was going for, perfectly, and I could not say anything negative about this album. 

Favorite song: Hey Mama


Adam’s Ranking

9. Jesus is King

Jesus is King provides Kanye West (and his audience) with an entirely new sense of self-discovery. He enters a new realm that many would consider a harsh detour from every other album in his discography. Pop rap and rap as a whole sum up most of Kanye’s career, while Jesus is King is a true outlier. Even though gospel music is obviously not Kanye’s forte as this is his first and only album of the genre, but quite honestly, it was better than I expected.  The rapping on this record is bland to say the least and his voice is without a doubt the weakest it has been in his career, yet I still found myself really enjoying a few tracks. The lyrics are mediocre in some places and in others (“Closed on Sunday”) simply bad. The production is very good on most songs but the mixing takes away from the album as a whole. Unfortunately, some of the songs on this record are easily the worst in his discography with a lack of depth and interesting instrumentals. The replay value of this album is also easily his worst with 27 minutes of pop gospel rap, three genres that often don’t mix well. I would be excited to listen to a new Kanye album even after the dissatisfaction I had with Jesus is King. If Kanye focused on more secular topics in his lyrics, the album might turn out a lot more interesting instead of a poor attempt at evangelization for half an hour. “Use this Gospel” was one of my favorite tracks of 2019 and provides solid features from both members of the hip-hop duo Clipse: Pusha T and No Malice. The production on this song might be seen as annoying to some with a repeated sound that appears from the opening second that some drew similarities to a car beeping. Overall, the album is what you think it would be from a man who has completely revamped his public image to act in the name of the Lord. It is an intriguing project providing a new lens of Kanye that we have never seen, but also easily my least favorite work of his.

Favorite Song: Use this Gospel 


8. ye

I was surprised, but at the same time not surprised by the experimental work that is ye. At 23 minutes, ye provides the listener with the most compact experience of Kanye’s bipolar disorder in the most combative way possible. The album’s entire concept revolves around mental health, something that Kanye has not explored in a full-length album before this. The album cover is easily one of my favorites from Kanye says, “I hate being bipolar, it’s awesome.” It doesn’t take a genius to see that this is a statement on the bipolar disorder Kanye lives with. After opening up with a bang in a very aggressive way with the first three tracks, ye switches into a much more sentimental project with the final two tracks “Ghost Town” and “Violent Crimes.”  The former is easily one of Kanye’s best songs and features heavy-hitters such as PARTYNEXTDOOR and Kid Cudi along with newcomer 070 Shake (who hails from New Jersey). “Ghost Town” is without a doubt the climax of the entire project with a grandiose outro from 070 Shake. “Ghost Town” was finished the day that it was released, but it doesn’t show. It sounds like one of Kanye’s songs that was perfected over a long period of time and that just goes to show that Kanye can throw amazing tracks together quickly. Unfortunately, this doesn’t show for the entire album. Even at seven songs, it seems like half of the album is just filler. This slots ye as his second-worst album which just shows how consistent Kanye is in his efforts.

Favorite Songs: Ghost Town, Violent Crimes


7. 808s & Heartbreak

I really wish that I could rank 808s & Heartbreak higher. This was one of my favorite albums for a long period of time but after careful examination, it comes to me that it simply isn’t on the caliber of other albums in Kanye’s discography. It opens with “Say You Will” one of the saddest tracks Kanye has released to date. The song revolves around a sound that interpolates a heartbeat, something Kanye would have known all too well from the recent passing of his mother at the time of the album’s release. Even with songs like “Paranoid” and “RoboCop”, which are uplifting pop-rap songs, the album’s theme is, as the title suggests, heartbreak. The raw emotion featured throughout the project cumulates in some of Kanye’s best moments, such as the piercing chorus on “Street Lights” that hits you right in the heart. The only thing knocking this down from being one of Kanye’s best albums were the extremely lackluster features on “Amazing” and “See You in my Nightmares.” Both tracks are okay at best to begin with, with intriguing yet bland production. To add on to that, the lyricism is not interesting and Jeezy’s feature on “Amazing” completely ruined what could have been a salvageable song. On another note, the outro track, “Pinocchio Story”,  saves one of the best tracks for last. It is a live freestyle at a concert in Singapore, released at the request of Beyoncé. This final track shows how sad Kanye truly is as he attempts to connect with the audience to no avail since there is a language barrier between the two. It makes it seem like he is screaming for help, but no one is listening. The barrier between the audience and Kanye shows that even when he attempts to open up to people, they won’t hear his story. “Pinocchio Story” is very inspiring but releasing a freestyle with plenty of audience sounds such as screaming and yelling throughout is considered by many a bad idea. Although the story behind the track is one of the best, many consider it to be Kanye’s worst songs simply because it was never truly recorded, mixed, and mastered. With all this, 808s & Heartbreak has its ups and downs, and since Kanye had never released a pure heartbreak album before many expected much worse than what he put forth. On the contrary, he could’ve done a lot better but 808s & Heartbreak still marks an important time for Kanye in his career as he paves the path for what would come in his future and the future of many others.

Favorite Songs: Say You Will, Paranoid, Street Lights


6. The College Dropout

How does one man completely revolutionize the entire music landscape, even from his debut album? Kanye didn’t have the answer in 2004 but soon would after the release of his debut album, The College Dropout. After rising through the ranks of the music industry as a producer, Kanye would go on to receive the highest quality features on his debut record with Jay-Z, Twista and Mos Def just to name a few. With all these features, Kanye’s debut record would be considered a solid endeavor even if some just wrote him off as another producer attempting to rap. The world would go on to be shocked by just how well Kanye would use his production in tandem with his rapping to revolutionize the entire hip-hop industry. Kanye’s original style of “chipmunk souk” derived from R&B samples he took from the 80s and 90s, speeding them up and using the human voice as the ultimate instrument. With astounding production already checked off, all Kanye needed was a good flow, lyrics and personality. He absolutely succeeded in all three of these areas. Tracks like “Get Em High” and “The New Workout Plan” feature some of Kanye’s most clever lyricism with an abundance of quotable bars. Kanye’s voice was something that the music industry hadn’t seen in a long time; it was very unique and featured many flows that could not be executed as well by many artists. Kanye’s electrifying personality shows from the first minute of the album with interesting skits that always entertain. Skits were usually the cause for many fans hating albums with amazing songs; skits often ruined albums in the 90s and early 2000s. The College Dropout went on to win the 2005 Grammy for Best Rap Album and standout single off the album and one of Kanye’s best songs of all time, “Jesus Walks” won Best Rap Song in the same year. His risk in attempting to switch from just a producer to a rapper as well would pay off, especially with the fact that Kanye completely revolutionized the hip-hop scene by adding elements of pop and R&B to a genre tacked off by many as “gangster rap.” The College Dropout was something that nobody had really heard before. With two Grammys under his belt as a newcomer to the game, Kanye would set himself up to be an artist for the ages, a title he would live up to. 

Favorite Songs: Jesus Walks, Two Words, Last Call, Through the Wire


5. The Life of Pablo

The Life of Pablo is one of those albums that on some days you think it’s easily Kanye’s second-best album (not even close to first) and on others one of his messiest and most inconsistent. I think that both of these statements hold a lot of truth as this project is definitely Kanye’s hardest to swallow body of work. It is so dense with material, emotion, and ideas; The Life of Pablo is one of his most enjoyable and worthwhile listens even though, and sometimes because, it is so abstract. Each track is a stark contrast to the one before it, leading to the album becoming a conglomeration of all of Kanye’s most interesting styles and voices. The production on this album is some of Kanye’s best as he incorporates many styles he has used over the years. He also teams up with amazing producers such as Madlib, Charlie Heat, Metro Boomin, and Mike Dean. However, Kanye’s lyrics on some tracks, specifically “Father Stretch My Hands Pt.,” can be quite lackluster. Fortunately, the production on that track including the beat drop made for one of Kanye’s most memorable moments. Kanye’s lyricism on this album is inconsistent but his lyrics on “No More Parties in LA” and “Saint Pablo” are some of his best, consisting of some of his best wordplay and bars of all time. One thing that Kanye undoubtedly gets right on is features. From Chance the Rapper on “Ultralight Beam” to The Weeknd on “FML” and even to Kendrick Lamar on “No More Parties in LA,” Kanye delivers with heavy-hitters consistently on this album. There really is no filler on this tracklist although some songs are much better than others. The album is full of energy shown on songs such as “Facts” and the aforementioned “No More Parties in LA.” The latter is comfortably one of Kanye’s best tracks of all time with amazing writing and execution from West and Lamar over a Madlib instrumental, Madlib being arguably one of the greatest hip-hop producers of all time. Kanye put together everything he learned over the years and compacted it into one album. Although it might not be as consistent as Late Registration, as fun as Graduation, or as heart-wrenching as 808s & Heartbreak, The Life of Pablo is Kanye’s peak as an artist. Although it is not his greatest album and is still very inconsistent in its efforts, this album shows how meaningful Kanye’s artistic vision truly is.

Favorite Songs: No More Parties in LA, Saint Pablo, Ultralight Beam, Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1


4. Yeezus

Where to even begin with Yeezus? Without a doubt, West’s most experimental work came with a storm of love and hate upon its release in 2013. At 10 tracks in a short 40 minutes, Yeezus explores aspects of Kanye that he left untapped prior to this record. On first listen, I did not like this album; I thought it was too wild and untamed and needed much more balance than it has. I now know after many relistens and plays of every song on this record, Yeezus is a masterpiece. The production is a true genius and the wild and untamed nature of the project only adds to Kanye’s character. The album opens with “On Sight,” a track that is one of Kanye’s loudest and abrasive cuts to date. The topics that Kanye dives into on this album are so intriguing. With many harsh tracks highlighting the album and being some of the West’s most memorable works such as “I’m In It,” “Black Skinhead” and “Send It Up,” the album finds its balance in the heartfelt and touching tracks such as “Blood on the Leaves” and “Hold My Liquor.” Both tracks explore and highlight the amazing production especially the former. “Blood on the Leaves” is easily one of Kanye’s most powerful songs with amazing verses, a moving chorus, and brass instruments that pierce the soul. Kanye’s delivery is at its very best especially on the closing track “Bound 2,” in which he delivers some of the most quotable lyrics of his career over a soulful sample. There really is nothing weighing this project down. At ten songs, what Yeezus lacks in length, it makes up for in consistency. Kanye West had some of his most gritty highlights as well as emotional tracks experimenting with this new production style. This album brought underground hip-hop to a mainstream audience. For that, we must applaud Kanye’s efforts.

Favorite Songs: Blood on the Leaves, Hold My Liquor, Black Skinhead


3. Late Registration

Late Registration is The College Dropout reimagined and much more complete. Late Registration capitalizes on everything its predecessor put in place for it including amazing soul samples along with new and improved features. The storytelling and production on this album led many to see Kanye as cementing himself in the hip-hop industry and not a one-album fluke. Without taking into consideration the #1 album, this is Kanye’s most consistent effort. Every song is amazing and has its own strong suits. This album is much more lavish and has featured among the likes of Jay-Z, Adam Levine, Nas, and Lupe Fiasco each adding something new and diverse to each track they are on. The record’s skits also add lots of replay value to the project because of the character they add. Kanye nailed the skits on this album; this was something he couldn’t do on The College Dropout. Lots of tracks on West’s previous work didn’t really know their place. Late Registration provides a remedy for this by being a much more easily listenable and cohesive record. Its coherency is brought together through amazing tracks where Kanye lets his emotions flow and provide some of his most beautifully written songs. The messages behind “Roses” and “Hey Mama” provide a blissful glance into Kanye’s family life. The latter, a track made for Kanye’s mother, is one of the most touching songs West has put out to date. All in all, this album has some of Kanye’s most beautiful songs both lyrically and production-wise. The production of songs like “Addiction” and “We Major” show a grimy and more orchestral take on Kanye’s style of production respectively. Late Registration uses brass instruments in lots of ways and many different times throughout this album’s runtime, most notably on “We Major” and “Touch the Sky.” Late Registration, again without taking into account Kanye’s best album, is his most grandiose project because of the instrumentation used throughout along with the topics Kanye goes into. Overall, this project is a huge success and a stepping stone in Kanye’s career. It is a step in the right direction for Kanye who had an amazing debut to begin his career. On Late Registration, Kanye West broadens his view over the hip-hop industry and continues to deepen his lyrical and production styles culminating in one of the most amazing hip-hop albums of the 2000s.

Favorite Songs: Heard ‘Em Say, Gone, Roses, Hey Mama, We Major


2. Graduation

Graduation is aesthetically and lyrically amazing. This album features hit after hit and an amazingly energetic performance from Kanye. His personality seeps through this record in every way possible, through some of the most dynamic and intricate songs of his career. This album is not just a dance track project; it has some of Kanye’s most heartfelt verses on “I Wonder” and “Everything I Am.” I might be heavily biased on placing this as Kanye’s second-best album simply because “Everything I Am” is my favorite Kanye song of all time and one of my favorite songs in general. I might be biased, but I don’t care. Not only does this project feature my favorite Kanye song but also my favorite Kanye vibe. The mood that Kanye puts you in on this album is absolutely fantastic. Kanye has mastered the art of storytelling and the art of making the listener feel the emotion he wants you to. If you don’t like this album, you’ve never had fun in your life. This is easily Kanye’s most carefree and feel-good album. Kanye mixes his typical sampling RnB style of music with pop-rap, house, and electronic music. This leads to a fantastic blending of styles where one idea or production style does not overstay its welcome. “Stronger” is one of Kanye’s most well-known tracks if not his most well-known and for good reason. It mixes EDM, hip-hop, and pop together and I still can’t believe how amazing it turned out. Kanye’s charisma is through the roof; this is just one of the most joyful albums I’ve ever listened to. It is probably my favorite cheerful album simply because of the emotional high that this album makes me feel. This album is also incredibly important in the context of Kanye’s career because it wasn’t a disappointment in any way after Kanye’s first two albums. Graduation showed the world that Kanye could change genres at any time he wanted and excel flawlessly. 

Favorite Songs: Everything I Am, I Wonder, Flashing Lights, Good Life


1. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

After Kanye’s infamous drunken outburst at the 2009 MTV Awards, everybody expected him to go down in a blazing fire, never to be heard from again. After all, he had just come off a streak of four consistently great albums, how much did he have left in the creative tank? Apparently, a lot. I am genuinely not kidding when I say that this is the greatest album of all time. The writing on this project is flawless and the entire album is near flawless from a technical standpoint. These are some of the best verses in hip-hop history, period. Kanye delivers most of his best verses of all time on tracks such as “Monster” “All of the Lights” and “POWER.” Featured on the record are A-list features from Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj, Pusha T, Rick Ross, and Bon Iver. The production on this album is absolutely unmatched. “Lost in the World” is one of the most monumental and inspiring outro songs to an album you will ever hear. The message throughout the album may be hard to follow if you don’t know all of the lore that led up to the creation of this album; Kanye’s struggles are on full blast and shown in the most beautiful way possible. Kanye is self-aware of his ego and on songs such as “POWER” his ego is on full-blast, even more so than on Yeezus. “Every superhero needs his theme music,” says Kanye. He remains so egotistical but balances it with all the raw pain he experiences. Kanye put everything into this album; his career depended on it. “Runaway” is a hauntingly beautiful track. It shows Kanye’s true arrogance along with his regret, his insecurities, and his genius. The production on this song, the piercing one-note repeating to start along with the heavy drums kicking in make for amazing execution from Kanye. Kanye’s voice is the ultimate instrument and he uses it to the best of his ability on this song with amazing hooks and verses along with an incredible feature from Pusha T. His lyricism shows every facet of how his relationships affect him. The outro to this track is four minutes of beauty. It features Kanye’s voice distorted and blurred out so you can’t hear a word he says. The beat keeps playing and Kanye keeps speaking but you can’t hear what he’s saying due to the distorted vocals. Even in his fantasies, Kanye’s shortcomings won’t let him get his message across. We can’t even perceive the world Kanye lives in, which is why he has to paint us his vivid fantasies. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy puts together every emotion Kanye has felt up to this time in his career and delves into how they all affect him as a person. Kanye West is a normal person just like all of us; he has troubles and challenges. This album is a small window into seeing how Kanye copes. It is his fantasy, his dark twisted fantasy, a wicked form of beauty. Kanye releases his inner demons for everyone to see and his individuality will never be matched or forgotten. This album is Kanye West. It is so much to take in, but so beautiful to look at once you see the full picture. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is the closest to perfect that I believe I will hear in my lifetime.

Favorite Songs: Runaway, Gorgeous, Devil in a New Dress, Dark Fantasy, So Appalled