Kanye West – every album ranked!

As the rapper’s new album arrives on the usual sea of ego and controversy, we rate everything he’s done so far – from The College Dropout to The Life of Pablo

10. Cruel Summer (2012)

As close as Kanye West has come to that least-disarming of hip-hop phenomena – the posse album – Cruel Summer was wildly uneven: stimulating and underwhelming in equal measure. Ghostface Killah and Jay-Z turned in strong work and West himself sounds imperious throughout, but all the big-name patronage in the world isn’t going to turn lesser names such as Cyhi the Prynce into premier-league talent.

9. Late Orchestration (2006)

Recorded live at Abbey Road with an all-female orchestra, Late Orchestration is more impressive as an act of screw-you ostentation than as an album in its own right. It’s certainly not bad, especially on the urgent version of Jesus Walks, but it’s not an essential listen, other than as a signifier of West’s vaulting ambition.

8. 808s & Heartbreak (2008)

Devastated by romantic failure and by his mother’s death, West, who cannot sing, elected to spend an entire album doing just that, through Auto-Tune, to sparse electronic backing. The good bits are great – single Love Lockdown among them – but it’s wearyingly monotonal, so lost in personal misery that it dispenses with the wit and ambiguity of West’s best lyrics. Still, its sound continues to echo through pop.

7. Watch the Throne (2011)

Kanye West and Jay-Z perform at the Verizon Center in Washington DC.
Kanye West and Jay-Z perform at the Verizon Center in Washington DC. Photograph: The Washington Post/Getty

West hooking up with Jay-Z was perhaps less about music than a super-sized, follow-that event, and there are moments when listening to the pair discuss how rich they are starts to pall. But some of the music boasts the same ambition as My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and the lyrics occasionally flame, as on New Day and Made in America.

6. The Life of Pablo (2016)

At turns infuriating, superb, utterly original and deeply flawed – occasionally over the course of the same track – The Life of Pablo is a rambling mess, liberally splattered with moments of greatness (Famous, Waves and Fade) and haunted by the sense that its failings might be less down to hubris than the fact you are listening to a mind unravelling.

5. Graduation (2007)

The least appealing of his opening trilogy of albums – the superstar narcissism tending to the-paparazzi-are-worse-than-Nazis idiocy, the sound a little too calculated in its lunge for stadium-filling vastness – but still frequently fantastic. Forget Chris Martin’s ill-judged cameo and luxuriate instead in the euphoric Good Life and the Daft Punk-sampling Stronger.

4. The College Dropout (2004)

As striking a debut album as 2000s hip-hop produced, the endlessly delayed and tampered-with College Dropout was almost as good as West claimed it was. The sugar rush of his then-signature production quirk – old soul samples sped up to chipmunk squeakiness – matched by lyrics that already hinted at the complex, ambiguous figure behind the elephantine ego.

3. Late Registration (2005)

College Dropout has better lyrics, but Late Registration just edges it in musical terms. The orchestral arrangements of Jon Brion add a new weight and depth to West’s sound, the hits – Touch the Sky, Gold Digger – are among his most impermeable, and there’s the unmistakable sense of an artist keen to reach beyond the usual confines of his genre.

2. Yeezus (2013)

Forty minutes of abrasive, distorted hostility that drags everything from bovver-booted glam to industrial music to acid house into the mix, Yeezus is faintly marred by the feeling that West’s no-filter approach to lyrics is getting disturbingly out of control. It’s a still a stunning, bold piece of work, utterly unlike anything his peers were making.

1. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)

Kanye West in 2009.
Kanye West in 2009. Photograph: Reuters

Its sound ranges from grandiose pop to straight-up hip-hop to head-spinning sonic overload, the key to this album’s ambitions may lie in its preponderance of prog-rock samples: from King Crimson, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band and Mike Oldfield, among others. Like prog, the album was dense, sprawling, complex and occasionally confounding; a gripping, brave, sometimes contradictory meditation on fame, race, sex and money made by a man who occasionally sounds at the end of his tether – witness the uncomfortable cocktail of braggadocio and self-loathing on Blame Game and Runaway. But more often, Kanye is at the top of his game: pulling together wildly disparate strands of music (it’s a rare album that features Aphex Twin, Elton John, Gil Scott-Heron and Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas) into an endlessly fascinating whole that he’s yet to equal.


Actors playing nightmarish versions of themselves in cinema - ranked!
Michael Caine's best films - ranked!
The 10 best Glenn Close movies - ranked!
Tom Cruise - top 20 movies - ranked!
Judi Dench - every film - ranked!
Jane Fonda's 10 best films - ranked!
Ryan Gosling movies - ranked!
10 best Hugh Grant films - ranked!
Every Angelie Jolie film performance - ranked!
Nicole Kidman’s top 10 films - ranked!
The best and the worst Jennifer Lopez films - ranked!
All Helen Mirren's 61 movies - ranked!
Robert Redford's greatest screen roles - ranked!
Winona Ryder's 20 best films - ranked!
Movie Santa Clauses - ranked!
Maggie Smith's 20 best films – ranked!
Jason Statham - every film - ranked!
Emma Thompson's best films - ranked!


Wes Anderson movies - ranked!
The Coen brothers’ films - ranked!
Stanley Kubrick's best films - ranked!

Movie genres

Biopics trashed by families, friends and fans - ranked!
Purr evil: cats in movies with hidden agendas - ranked!
Dog weepie movies - ranked!
Top 20 J-horror films - ranked!
Movies that have grossed more than $1bn - ranked!
Palme d'Or winners - ranked!
The scariest horror films ever - ranked!
The best Shakespeare films - ranked!
The 10 best movie shark performances - ranked!
The best Stephen King movies  - ranked!
From Trolls to Transformers: toy films – ranked!
Worst holidays in cinema - ranked!

Studios & franchises

Aardman's 20 best films – ranked!
James Bond on film – 007's best and worst movies - ranked!
The 20 best Marvel films - ranked!
Top 10 Merchant Ivory films - ranked!
Pixar - every film ever made - ranked!
Planet of the Apes - the best and worst of the movies - ranked!
Star Wars - every film - ranked!

TV & award shows

The 20 best music documentaries - ranked!
The weirdest Brits performances - ranked!
Game of Thrones - every episode - ranked!
Oscar nominees - the weirdest ever - ranked!
Oscar snubs - the 20 greatest ever - ranked!
The biggest Rock & Roll Hall of Fame snubs ever - ranked!
Super Bowl half-time shows - the 10 greatest - ranked!
The best X Factor finalists - ranked!
From Niall Horan's toast to Russell Crowe’s jockstrap: celebrity auction items - ranked!


All Abba's UK singles - ranked!
The Beatles' singles – ranked!
Kate Bush – every UK single - ranked!
Every one of Madonna's 78 singles - ranked!
Missy Elliott's solo singles – ranked!
Prince's 50 greatest singles – ranked!
Queen's 50 UK singles - ranked!
Taylor Swift's singles - ranked!
The Who: their UK singles - ranked!


Black Sabbath - every album - ranked!
David Byrne – (almost) all of his albums - ranked!
Miles Davis's 20 greatest albums – ranked!
Lil Wayne's albums - ranked!
Every Mercury prize-winning album - ranked!
Joni Mitchell's albums – ranked!
The Rolling Stones – every album - ranked!
10 best Paul Simon albums - ranked!
Bruce Springsteen's albums - ranked!
Kanye West – every album - ranked!
Stevie Wonder's albums - ranked!


20 greatest breakup songs ever - ranked!
Aphex Twin's best songs - ranked!
Barry Manilow – all his greatest songs - ranked!
Björk – her 20 greatest songs ranked!
Cher's 30 greatest songs - ranked!
The 30 greatest Disney songs – ranked!
Elton John's 50 greatest songs - ranked!
From Drake to Wet Wet Wet: songs with 10 weeks at No 1 - ranked!
From MC5 to Jeff Mills: the greatest Detroit tracks ever - ranked!
PJ Harvey's 50 greatest songs – ranked!
Giorgio Moroder's 20 greatest songs - ranked!
Nirvana's 20 greatest songs - ranked!
The best songs from teen movies - ranked!
The best UK garage tracks - ranked!
The greatest banned songs of all time - ranked!
The greatest ever female rap tracks - ranked!
The greatest pop music dance crazes - ranked!
All 43 Spice Girls songs - ranked!

Artists & bands

The 30 best boyband members - ranked!
The greatest Scottish indie bands - ranked!
Quincy Jones's greatest ever moments - ranked!


Alexis Petridis

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Pharrell Williams’s 30 greatest songs – ranked!
It’s 20 years since his band NERD released their debut album – but the rapper-producer-singer-songwriter has been responsible for an avalanche of hits. As he and co-pilot Chad Hugo get inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, we count down Williams’s 30 greatest bangers

Alexis Petridis

10, Mar, 2022 @2:00 PM

Article image
Best albums of 2016: No 4 The Life of Pablo by Kanye West
By turns brilliant and shambolic, breezy and anguished, Pablo was a perfect reflection of its maverick creator’s mindset

Nosheen Iqbal

13, Dec, 2016 @7:30 AM

Article image
From MC5 to Jeff Mills: the greatest Detroit tracks ever – ranked!
From Motown psychedelia to dystopian rap and orchestral techno, the Motor City is more than just a garage rock paradise

Michael Hann

08, Mar, 2018 @4:44 PM

Article image
The 100 greatest BBC music performances – ranked!
As the Beeb celebrates its centenary, we take a look at its most memorable pop moments, from the birth of grime to the first sightings of Bob Dylan and Bob Marley, plus TOTP goes Madchester and countless classic Peel sessions

Guardian music

06, Oct, 2022 @12:12 PM

Kanye West presents GOOD Music: Cruel Summer – review
Cruel Summer has more highlights than most long-gestated efforts, writes Paul MacInnes

Paul MacInnes

20, Sep, 2012 @8:57 PM

Article image
Rihanna's 30 greatest singles – ranked!
With a rumoured ninth album on the way – the follow-up to 2016’s Anti – we examine Rihanna’s singles and pick the 30 best

Alexis Petridis

01, Apr, 2021 @2:12 PM

Article image
The best albums of 2013: No 1 – Yeezus by Kanye West

The album that won our poll of critics was also among the year's most divisive, as Kanye West set out to confront, not conciliate

Paul MacInnes

20, Dec, 2013 @7:30 AM

Article image
Drake’s 30 greatest songs – ranked!
With the release of a new album – Certified Lover Boy – we pick the best tracks from the Canadian rapper and global superstar’s hit-studded career

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

02, Sep, 2021 @11:05 AM

Article image
Meet the new producers bringing underground sounds to Kanye West, Jay Z and J.Lo
A new generation of beatmakers – many from Britain – are breathing new life into pop, hip-hop and R&B

Lanre Bakare

14, Aug, 2014 @4:00 PM

Article image
The 20 greatest breakup songs ever – ranked!
On the 40th anniversary of Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive topping the charts – and as the UK blunders towards its own acrimonious divorce – here’s the definitive list of tear-stained stonkers

Alexis Petridis

14, Mar, 2019 @3:16 PM