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Kanye West’s most underrated songs

The most slept-on Yeezy tracks.

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Kanye West is one of the most polarizing rappers of all time. In a tenure that’s lasted well over a decade, he’s explored some of the most unique and revolutionary sounds hip-hop has ever heard. From the anthemic orchestras of Late Registration to the grimy, guttural basslines of Yeezus, Kanye’s continued to thrive in experimentation, resulting in some of the best rap music ever.

However, like every artist, Kanye has some truly phenomenal cuts that haven’t got the love his blockbuster singles have. In celebration of the latest Yeezy season and the release of four Kanye-curated GOOD albums in 2018 thus far, we’ve chosen the most underrated songs from each Kanye West album.

01. ‘Spaceship’ ft. GLC & Consequence (The College Dropout)

 

It’s hard to pick an underrated song from such a renowned classic, but ‘Spaceship’ has always deserved more credit than it gets. The deep, warm bass-lines that spiral throughout the track and Ye’s reminiscent bars on working at GAP makes this the perfect introduction to the wild wild West of Kanye. It’s braggadocious, soulful and has a bounce nobody can deny.

02. ‘Crack Music’ ft. The Game (Late Registration)

 

‘Crack Music’ is one of Kanye West’s most socially conscious songs to date, as he weighs in the American crack epidemic. Lyrics like “Arm & Hammer baking soda raised their own quota, Right when our soldiers, ran for the stove ’cause, cause dreams of being Hova” positioned Kanye as a man of the people, showing his ability to mix politics with impressive wordplay. This paired with the luscious orchestral samples, arena-ready drums and a stern refrain from The Game makes ‘Crack Music’ essential listening.

03. ‘I Wonder’ (Graduation)

 

Graduation is where Kanye transitioned from blockbuster boom bap to synth-drenched soundscapes, and ‘I Wonder’ is the perfect example of this. A sombre Labi Siffre sample, and walls upon walls of dense keys create a barricade of sound perfectly suited for nightlife. Kanye passionately tells the story of a failing love, with each vocal inflexion becoming an aggressive yell. While it may not be as lyrical as ‘Jesus Walks’ or ‘Ride Slow’, it shows Yeezy’s commitment to abolishing trends and revolutionising sounds.

04. ‘Street Lights’ (808s & Heartbreak)

 

‘Street Lights’ is as Melancholic as Yeezy gets. The beat is dystopian, laced with minimalistic keys, warped synths, and thumping drums timed to the beat of Kanye’s crumbling heart. Throughout the lyrics, Kanye ponders the repetition of life, with sadness breaking through the autotune as he has an existential crisis. It isn’t the most vibrant of listens, but it shows a layer of vulnerability Kanye had yet to explore before 808s and Heartbreak.

05. ‘Blame Game’ ft. John Legend (My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy)

 

The minimalism of ‘Blame Game’ often drowns in the grandeur of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, but it still stands as one of Kanye’s most honest songs. The beat consists of an Aphex Twin sample warped to the point of being lo-fi, and some faint drum patterns, allowing Yeezy and John Legend’s vocals to be the main focus. Throughout the verse, Kanye ponders a toxic relationship and even criticises himself as romance rapidly starts to flee. His openness on the song paired with the Chris Rock monologue that closes this eight-minute song shows the duality between Kanye’s fame and personal life, solidifying it as one of his most important songs to date.

06. ‘Hold My Liquor’ ft. Chief Keef (Yeezus)

 

‘Hold My Liquor’ feels like a direct sequel to ‘Blame Game’ if Kanye were drunk driving on the highway. The beat is dense and melancholic, with synths that range from heavenly to gloomy. Kanye’s one verse tells the tale of a man spiralling out of control in a fading relationship, with the lyrics acting as a representation of fame’s dark side. A then up and coming Chief Keef handled the sung hook with his signature brand of nihilism, all while Bon Iver’s hauntingly layered vocals epitomize the darkness Yeezus is known for.

07. ‘Murder To Excellence’ w/ Jay Z (Watch The Throne)

Watch The Throne was a pure victory lap for Ye and Hov, but ‘Murder To Excellence’ branched out of banger territory to talk real-world issues. The song explores both the violence and poverty in African-American communities, as well as black excellence and ownership in America. Going verse for verse over a Swizz Beatz produced opus, Kanye and Jay-Z not only touch on some socially conscious topics but ooze optimism and inspiration.

(Song is available to stream on Tidal and Apple Music now)

08. ‘Feedback’ (The Life Of Pablo)

 

Feedback is short, grimy and savage. The instrumental was designed to emulate microphone feedback and features Kanye at his rawest. His subject matter is all over the place, as he raps about everything from Steve Austin to Oprah, but it’s this stream of consciousness aggression that makes the song a highlight. Its straightforward, hard-hitting aesthetic provides a quintessential contrast to the themes of gospel and soul laced throughout The Life Of Pablo.

09. ‘Wouldn’t Leave’ (Ye)

 

While songs like ‘Ghost Town’ and ‘I Thought About Killing You’ have been leading Ye into critical acclaim, ‘Wouldn’t Leave’ exists as one of the more low key standouts on the seven-track album. The song centres around Kim Kardashian’s loyalty after Kanye’s recent TMZ controversy, even when Kanye gave her the option of leaving. The beat is simple and straightforward, with vocals from PartyNextDoor, Jeremih and Ty Dolla Sign combing in a gospel-like euphoric feel. While Ye as a whole is gregarious and epic, ‘Wouldn’t Leave’ is an unadulterated deep cut that shows Kanye at his most introspective.

010. ‘Cudi Montage’ w/ Kid Cudi (Kids See Ghosts)

 

‘Cudi Montage’ is a testament to Kanye West and Kid Cudi’s chemistry, as well as their ability to push the boundaries of hip-hop forward. It features a dark, moody guitar sample from Kurt Cobain’s ‘Burn The Rain’, and a chilling verse from Kanye that details the vicious cycle of violence. Ye and Cudi’s harmonies mesh beautifully in a choir-like journey to realisation and contentment. While it may not be as instantly catchy as their other collaborations like ‘Father Stretch My Hands’ and ‘Make Her Say’, it shows that their creativity isn’t fizzling out anytime soon.