is many things: auteur, scream-rap wizard, disobedient fashion intern, table jumper-on-er, heir to the Kardashian throne. West has also been to known to belt into song—the man is not embarrassed of his technically limited singing voice. With his new album leaking all over the Internet, we present to you the 10 greatest songs that feature Kanye Tudda sangin’.
10. “Drunk and Hot Girls”
This fallowed, reverb-dunked track sounds less like a night on the town than a digital wasteland. West gets stuck babysitting a girl who can’t hold her liquor: “Aaaaaaaaaaaa, that’s how the fuck you sound.” Poetry.
9. “Pinocchio Story”
A shaky, acapella stroke of improvisation recorded in front of 20,000 or so Singaporeans. While 808s & Heartbreak sometimes sounds like a bad Nick Zammuto album, “Pinocchio Story” will leaven you in its poignancy.
8. “Hey Mama”
As music and as biography, “Hey Mama” rules. West is tender, needy, overprotective and a touch dishonest (“I’m going back to school”) in this letter to his mother, who he famously spoiled until her death from plastic-surgery complications in 2007.
7. “Put On”
West sings of having Trainspotting-worthy nightmares on, of all things, a Young Jeezy single. Jeezy is gumpish as usual, rhyming about redbone side chicks and “pussy niggas,” but West’s heavy-hearted self-disclosure makes “Put On” a must-hear.
6. “School Spirit”
A College Dropout stunner that flips Aretha Franklin’s “Spirit in the Dark” into a tutorial on fraternizing: “Alpha, step/Omega, step/Kappa, step/Sigma, step.” It sounds like Yeezy gained some perspective on his miserable collegiate years, once at a certain remove; “School Spirit” is funny and laudably devoid of animosity.
5. “Blame Game”
Kanye being Kanye, his relationship post-mortem included slam poetry and Chris Rock saying “motherfucker” seven times. Part apology, part apologia, “Blame Game” jumps down the logic rabbit hole pretty early—“You should be grateful that a nigga like me ever noticed you,” West raps. Still, what a piece of music. The track concludes with West carrying a note more ably than he ever had in his extracurricular singing career.
On “Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” West instructed us to “let the champagne splash.” On “Runaway,” he proposes a toast to the “assholes,” “douchebags” and “jerk-offs” of the world. ’Ye has always been indelicate with his language, but he’s also kinder and sweeter than he’s usually given credit for. “Runaway” is a fundamentally sweet song. Underneath all the talkbox, prog guitar and general convolution, these are humble pastures.
3. “Street Lights”
With 808s & Heartbreak, West wanted to buck the constraints of lowly pop music, so he turned to Hood or Postal Service or God knows who for inspiration. The resulting album was confused and undercooked, with one crazily poignant exception: “Street Lights.” West multitracks a gospel choir into infinity, just like the old days (see The College Dropout’s “Family Business” or Late Registration’s “Bring Me Down”), and the result is so gorgeous that it practically beggars belief.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is Kanye’s most comprehensive album, but The College Dropout is his most emotional. Whether or not Everyman Kanye is your steez—many people seem to prefer Graduation-and-after Kanye—you can’t not appreciate the spiritually inclined confessional “Spaceship,” where a young West prays for an out of his 9-to-5 doldrums. For all his talk of divine ordainment, West clearly did not know that he was on the precipice of a momentarily fruitful career when he was slinging fleeces at the GAP.
1. “Slow Jamz”
Kanye the gentleman? Believe it. The man who would later tear his ex-fiancée from limb to limb (proverbially speaking, anyway) on the embittered 808s & Heartbreak started out as an ingratiating romantic. On “Slow Jamz,” West wines and dines a discerning lady friend: “She said she wants some Marvin Gaye, some Luther Vandross, a little Aretha.” “Slow Jamz” is all acoustic guitar and cottony seduction—West even croons the first verse in a shy, cute falsetto.