16. “Lost in the World” feating Bon Iver / “Who Will Survive in America,” My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’s conclusion comes with Kanye proving his ability as a collaborator and curator of ideas. “Lost in the World” has Kanye taking Bon Iver’s “Woods,” finding common ground in the ideas of loneliness and going deep inside one’s own mind, and turning it into a last-ditch effort for life and love in a plastic city full of empty parties. But by concluding with “Who Will Survive in America,” which samples Gil Scott-Heron’s “Comment #1,” Kanye reiterates the points made throughout this album, a question of what we sacrifice to become who we are, which segues perfectly into the ideas of Kanye’s next album, Yeezus.
15. “Bound 2,” Yeezus
Kanye has always had a sense of humor in his music, but there’s no bigger laugh and middle finger than ending Yeezus with “Bound 2.” After the outraged, brash sound of the first nine tracks, “Bound 2” comes in, reminiscent of Kanye’s older material and a reminder that that version of himself is still there, and he just wants to tease you with it. Instead of the fury that comes out in the rest of the album, “Bound 2” is Kanye’s first song specifically about Kim Kardashian, but he does it in a fun, self-deprecating way. He questions whether they’ll make it another month, tries to get her to forget about his bad reputation and admits he doesn’t even remember when they first met. But what comes out is clearly a song of love towards a person who makes him feel young again, a message that is sweet, despite the weird-ass video it brought upon the world.
14. “All of the Lights,” My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
“All of the Night” is so gargantuan on every level that the Hype Williams-directed video even comes with an epilepsy warning. “All of the Lights” is Kanye’s ode to the oft-overlooked dark side of celebrity life, surrounded by over a dozen other legendary musicians like Elton John and Rihanna, all of whom have experienced similar difficulties with being thrown into this life of fame. Almost as a funeral dirge for the recently passed Michael Jackson, “All of the Lights” is equally as flamboyant as the King of Pop himself, as Kanye throws orchestra and drum beats among the flashing lights that Kanye and Michael both had a hard time avoiding.
13. “Gold Digger” featuring Jamie Foxx, Late Registration
“Gold Digger” might very well be Kanye’s best example of how well the man can tell a story. In the first two verses, Kanye tells a take of a gold digger who deceives a man into playing child support for a child that isn’t even his. But then in the final verse, he takes the side of understanding how that mindset can come about and criticizing the hypocrisies that can ruin a relationship. With Kanye and Jon Brion’s incredible production and Jamie Foxx returning to his Ray Charles impression, “Gold Digger” is one of Kanye’s most fun songs, yet he still finds a way to make the track about something more.
12. “Flashing Lights” featuring Dwele, Graduation
With Graduation, Kanye wanted to make a stadium-ready album, one with gigantic beats and sounds that could fill up the largest of spaces. Because of this, we get one of his greatest beats, the thumping, synthy powerhouse that is “Flashing Lights.” Here Kanye is stuck between two girls, which leads to him being found out by the paparazzi hounding him. In the brilliant “Flashing Lights” video co-directed by Kanye and Spike Jonze, we get the classic “video vixen” burning her clothes and murdering Kanye in slow-motion, a rage against the typical hip-hop video done in a fascinating way.
11. “Slow Jamz” featuring Twista & Jamie Foxx, The College Dropout
Kanye’s first number one single is also one of his first great club songs that also plays to Kanye’s strengths. Kanye has always delved into the past of R&B to create stunning samples and with “Slow Jamz,” he’s name checking everyone from Luther Vandross to Jodeci for this ode to the smoother club jams. While this became one of The College Dropout’s biggest songs, “Slow Jamz” also appears on Twista’s Kamikaze album, and rightfully so, as his final verse speeds the song up to insane levels and blows the track into greatness.
10. “Love Lockdown,” 808s and Heartbreak
808s and Heartbreak is a masterpiece in simplicity and huge emotions, making every sound and shift impactful. The pinnacle of this comes in “Love Lockdown,” 808s and Heartbreak’s biggest single that is iconic of the themes and style of the album. With “Love Lockdown,” it’s all about how these little shifts occur and come together. There’s the basic TR-808 drum machine heartbreak underneath, as Kanye’s distorted voice and basic piano piece go through the first verse before gigantic drums blast in, leading to a conclusion full of animalistic sounds and power. “Love Lockdown” is about the plethora emotions that go through the end of the relationship and Kanye’s embodiment of this idea makes for 808s finest song.
9. “Black Skinhead,” Yeezus
Much like “Love Lockdown” is iconic of what makes 808s so great, “Black Skinhead” does the same with Yeezus. “Black Skinhead” has Kanye ready for a fight, even proclaiming the track as his theme song, before suiting up, waiting for the fists to fly. The strategically placed and always shocking screams throughout the song show Kanye’s frustrations have gone too far and he’s ready to raise hell. Throughout Yeezus, Kanye will rage about consumerism, racism, and even at his own past, but “Black Skinhead” is him entering the ring with fists flying.