When Kanye first announced he was releasing 5 albums in the span of 5 weeks, I was ecstatic. 2 years since The Life of Pablo, I was hungry for more Ye and he had just promised to deliver a full course meal. Then he declared that all 5 albums would be 7 tracks long, and I became apprehensive. Coming from a man that – for his entire career – reveled in excess, this was surprisingly conservative move from the self-proclaimed Yeezus.
Though it is a bit too early to tell if this Wyoming era Kanye would strengthen or dilute his already extensive legacy, it is hard not to argue that this past month has been one of hip-hop’s most exciting moments this year.
So just like any other rap fan, I’m going to attempt to rank the 5 albums because the unnecessary competitiveness that we force upon our favourite rappers are what we live for.
5. Nas – NASIR
Two years ago, legendary rapper Nas told us “Nas Album Done”. So we waited but nothing came of that confirmation. Then Kanye came through and announced that he would be producing the entirety of Nas’ 11th studio album. The hip-hop world collectively rejoiced and the hype was sky high.
But even as Kanye completely delivered, Nas didn’t. Littering the album with false facts (‘Fox News was started by a Black man’) and dangerous conspiracy claims (Anti-vax sentiments on “Adam & Eve”), along with actual filler (?!) on a 7-track album.
Long heralded as one of rap’s premier storytellers, Nas was noticeably lacking on this front on the album. Those of us that wished for him to address the Kelis domestic abuse allegations were left hanging. Instead what we got a cold and unapproachable veteran that decided to play it safe.
So, even with Kanye blessing him with the best beats of his of his career, Nasir ranks as one of the weakest projects in Nas’ discography and rests at the bottom of this list.
4. Kanye West – ye
Out of all 5 albums, I’ve listened to ye the most. It is a very peculiar album that stands out in Kanye’s already very eclectic discography.
Sonically, the album is all over the place. There is little cohesion throughout while the tone of it ranges from the bombastic (“Yikes”) to serene (“I Thought About Killing You”) to the triumphant (“No Mistakes”). Yet the genuine emotion that Kanye brings on this record turns it into a beautiful mess. One that transports us into the conundrum that is Kanye’s mind and invites us to take it apart.
Unfortunately, the lyricism holds it back from being a great album. He had only written it 8 days prior to its release and it shows. Most lines amount to nothing but empty punchlines while none of them address any of the controversies he caused prior to the album’s release. While I adore the personal nature of the album, it just leaves for so much more to be desired.
Overall, ye has the skeletal makings of an incredible Kanye album but the rushed job that led up to it only serves as a major detriment. It just leaves me wanting of the album that it could have been.
3. Teyana Taylor – KTSE
I really hope this album will be able to launch Teyana Taylor into the mainstream because GODDAMN is this album an absolute pleasure to listen to. If nothing else, KTSE proves that Kanye should try his hands at producing more R&B albums. His luscious production is a perfect fit for the slow-tempo jams of the genre today.
Teyana’s previous work has always been trapped in the pitfalls of trendy and generic R&B, unable to stand out in the overcrowded and oversaturated scene filled with her moody contemporaries. Yet with the backing of Kanye’s production, Teyana’s often overlooked, powerhouse of a voice is given an excellent platform to shine.
Her ability to weave in her vocals alongside the chopped up soul samples is incredible, as she brings both the passion and sass of a true star. The grit in her voice also grounds the album and ensures that the production never outshines her, reminding listeners that this is Teyana Taylor record and not a Kanye West beat tape.
Though KTSE is a career-best for Teyana but even at a brief 8 tracks (?!), it loses steam by the end as the lyrical content of the songs start to turn stale. The final track of the album – “WTP” – though a strong contender for THE drag anthem of 2018, is an awkward closer to an otherwise delightful album. Still, I’m excited where her career progresses from here as G.O.O.D. Music’s first lady.
2. KIDS SEE GHOSTS – KIDS SEE GHOSTS
The super-duo of Kanye West and Kid Cudi has been a long time coming. Both of them extremely egotistic and mentally-unsound men that long struggled with mental illness, while musically feeding off each other as they became each other’s biggest influences. Their careers have had a nearly inseparable trajectory and now formed up as KIDS SEE GHOSTS, the duo has proven that their undeniable chemistry since their first collaboration in 2008 hasn’t faded a single bit.
Sonically, these are the most experimental beats that Kanye has ever laid down (how the hell do you flip a 1930s Christmas song into such a dope sample???). He created an album that sounds nothing like any other piece of rap music that has been released this decade. He chose to forego the tried-and-true formula of 808 drums and instead relied on obscure rock samples as the backbone of the record, matching it the grungy yet jubilant attitude that both Kanye and Cudi radiate throughout.
But Kid Cudi’s role on KIDS SEE GHOSTS is the secret weapon that elevates the album from being just great to a work of unquestionable genius. His presence is felt way more throughout than Kanye’s as his half-humming half-singing vocals signal the optimistic rallying cry against the insurmountable challenges both of them have faced within themselves and throughout their careers.
Although the record ends up being more of a ‘Kid Cudi featuring Kanye’ album, the contagious joy and chemistry that the duo scream to the world is addicting. A victory lap for both influential artists that are most likely in the heyday of their careers. Still, they stand strong, motivating you to overcome your inner demons and it just wants to make you scream: “I FEEL FREEEEEEEE!”
1. Pusha T – DAYTONA
Unlike the last-minute completion of the other albums on this list, Kanye finished DAYTONA ahead of time and then proceeded remake it 3 times in the name of perfection. In its brisk 22 minutes, every beat is exquisite, every rhyme is intricate and every coke rap innuendo is delivered with the wrath of a vengeful god.
On the opening track of “If You Know You Know”, from the disgustingly potent line of ‘Ran off on the plug too like Trugoy’ to the initial threatening synth line working in tandem with Kanye’s chaotically chopped up samples, it menacingly puts its foot down on your throat and never lets up for the rest of the album. As each song smoothly transitions into the next, Pusha T brings you into his world. He makes you feel the grime and dirt of the environment he had to hustle in, the natural gruff of his voice discomforting while still keeping listeners entranced at the same time. DAYTONA is able to transcend the limits of an album and turns itself into a unique auditory experience.
The album is a definitive career best for the 41-year old Pusha T, providing a second wind to an already illustrious career for the G.O.O.D. Music president. A collaboration between two artists that fired from all cylinders, where every detail and syllable deliberately handpicked to fit both the aesthetic and overall concept of the quintessential coke rap album. Its tight runtime only serving to enhance the project, leaving no room for error as Pusha T exercises his flair for cutting-edge punchlines and drug-selling metaphors throughout the 7-tracks.
From start to finish, the album is air-tight, serrated and flawless. Every track as hard-hitting as the last. Every line lined with so much venom that it would make a cobra blush. DAYTONA is nothing short of a modern-day masterpiece.