In honor of The Life of Pablo, and the fact that Kanye said Pitchfork should have given it a 30 out of 10, as well as the excellent track "30 Hours," here are (in my opinion) his 30 best before Pablo.
  1. [30] Clique (with Jay Z & Big Sean) - Single/Cruel Summer
    One of the many great singles to fill the dearth between Watch the Throne and Yeezus. Do they stand out because, as singular efforts, they were always high quality, or because they simply received singular attention? Either way, the loose wordplay here: “frew brews” and traditional verse structure (remember when Kanye rapped?) makes this track a modern classic.
  2. [29] That’s my Bitch - Watch the Throne
    In my opinion, Watch the Throne is Kanye West’s album. He and Jay Z have pretty much equal time on it, but Kanye also produced nearly all the tracks. That said, That’s my Bitch is definitely all Jay Z lyrically. Solid beat, but all the energy comes from Jay’s verse.
  3. [28] Touch the Sky ft. Lupe Fiasco - Late Registration
    Late Registration’s de facto opening track (Heard ‘Em Say feels more like an extended intro), Touch the Sky not only kicks off Kanye’s best album, but also Kanye’s emergence as Kanye: “Jay favorite line: ‘Dog in due time.’ Now he look at me like ‘Damn dog you where I am.’ A hip hop legend I think I died in the accident cause this must be heaven.” Also notable for making Lupe Fiasco a sensation. He’s still around, but at the time, he was supposed to be something more like what Drake is today.
  4. [27] White Dress - The Man with the Iron Fists OST
    Kanye greatness comes in two forms: production and flow. Most newer tracks lack rappability, but make up for it with amazing production, becoming more avant garde soundscapes than hip hop tracks. This is maybe Kanye’s most recent pure rap track, with a simple but catchy beat and a traditional hook and verses. If you missed this one (it wasn’t widely available until a year or more after release), you’ll want to put it on repeat. The video is also dope.
  5. [26] Only One (with Paul McCartney) - Single
    Debated putting this here. It’s such an outlier that it’s hard to rank among other tracks. It's not as catchy as FourFiveSeconds, but I think time will find it out as the better of the two. Paul McCartney’s backing is heavenly, and his riffs at the end (I like to imagine that they’re purely improvised) play out so much longer than you expected in such a satisfying way. I never want it to be over.
  6. [25] Niggas in Paris - Watch the Throne
    Going back on this one, I find it hard to qualify with so many other great tracks, but I have to remember how. many. times. I listened to this song. Over and over and over. It has some of the best (most rappable) verses on WtT, and the stupidest (but good somehow) sample from Blades of Glory. Nothing like Jon Heder, the whitest celebrity on earth, on arguably one of the blackest tracks (the title of the track is Niggas in Paris). Also, don’t let Kanye get in his zone:
  7. [24] Breathe In Breathe Out ft. Ludacris - College Dropout
    I’m not a Ludacris fan, but his verse/hook on this is excellent. Also, remember when instead of existentialism, it was all about having a big dick? You still get the occasional big dick line, but nothing as top tier as “Now even though I went to college and dropped outta school quick, I always had a Ph.D., a Pretty Huge Dick."
  8. [23] Celebration - Late Registration
    There’s nothing wrong with indulging in a slow jam. We’re all sexual beings here.
  9. [22] Who Gon Stop Me - Watch the Throne
    You have to get about 2:10 into this one to find evidence that this isn’t a middling track (which would still be a very good one). Jay Z’s hook is a special indulgence, especially if like me, there’s actually no one trying to stop you, and you don’t know what the black strap is for. But halfway through it starts to get weird, and loud, and doesn’t stop till the hook start—Hol up!
  10. [21] Get Em High ft. Talib Kweli & Common - College Dropout
    “So Chi that they thought I was bashful…” A fun track to rap along to, like most on College Dropout, but this one stands out because of the skit-like exchange between Kanye, Talib-lyrics-stick-to-your-rib, and the girl from BlackPlanet. In this song, Kanye needs Talib Kweli to use his fame to pick up a girl for him...
  11. [20] Chain Heavy ft. Talib Kweli & Consequence - G.O.O.D. Fridays
    If you don’t know G.O.O.D. Fridays, they were a group of songs Kanye released on his website every Friday in late 2010 leading up to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. A few of them ended up being included on the album, but not the best ones. The haunting production on Chain Heavy fits in better with MBDTF than the others, and it gives you four solid verses. You can easily find the whole “album” on a torrent site, and don’t feel bad about downloading, because they were released for free anyway.
  12. [19] We Major ft. Nas & Really Doe - Late Registration
    I love We Major so much because the hook is like it’s own verse. Can you believe this song is 7 1/2 minutes long? One of Kanye’s many excellent car tracks, drive around and pretend you’re on rims (unless you are on rims) and that you smoke a lot of weed (unless you do smoke a lot of weed).
  13. [18] Otis ft. Otis Redding - Watch the Throne
    Otis was released as a single only about six months after MBDTF, but in some ways it felt like the longest wait. After 808s & Heartbreak and MBDTF, it was a FUN track. If you don’t remember the video, go watch it right now. Look at the single album artwork. It was just a good time. It also signified the finally complete saturation of luxury rap, which was its own slog (we get it, you’re rich), but that was nicely offset by a gorgeous sample: a return to “Chop up the soul Kanye."
  14. [17] Love Lockdown - 808s & Heartbreak
    When those drums come in tho. The sole track from 808s & Heartbreak on the list, I actually loved 808s. 808s is what separates Kanye from Puff Daddy and Jay Z and most likely what Biggie and Tupac would have been. 808s is what actually makes Kanye West comparable to the Beatles. Other favorite tracks that just barely missed the list: Amazing, Paranoid, and RoboCop.
  15. [16] Flashing Lights ft. Dwele - Graduation
    Possibly one of the first hints at Kanye’s future brilliance, Flashing Lights has a verse or two, but who can remember? It’s all about the production. This video is also a must-see. One of those that actually enhances the enjoyment of the song every time you hear it afterward.
  16. [15] Family Business - College Dropout
    A far cry from Real Friends, huh? Here’s a note: Kanye is the sole credited producer on every College Dropout song but two. And they're pretty much all brilliant.
  17. [14] Gold Digger ft. Jamie Foxx - Late Registration
    This song is so basic and user friendly that it’s tempting not to give it the credit it deserves. One of an increasing minority of tracks featuring Kanye and only Kanye, Gold Digger flows so well you can easily rap it from end to end. Does that make a track better or worse? Either way, it makes it last.
  18. [13] Spaceship ft. GLC & Consequence - College Dropout
    Have you ever wondered what Kanye’s singing voice sounds like without autotune? Listen to Spaceship and find out. There’s a lot I love about this track, but only one thing you need to know: “Y’all don’t know my struggle. Y’all can’t match my can’ t fathom my love dude lock yourself in a room doing five beats a day for three summers.” Sometimes when dreaming about a goal, I think “five beats a day for three summers.” You may not like Kanye’s ego, but you can't deny his work ethic.
  19. [12] Primetime - Watch the Throne
    This might seem like an odd choice for the best track off WtT, but any good album, if you listen to it enough, will trade best tracks on you. In time, each and every one will become your favorite, and it’s usually those latest to the game that have the most depth. Another perfect driving track, roll down your windows on a warm night singing “the night is young, what the fuck we gon’ do, huh?” Even if you’re alone, and have absolutely nothing to do, you’ll feel your squad in your heart of hearts.
  20. [11] Homecoming - Graduation
    This probably one of Kanye’s softest songs, but it’s so catchy and so good. I listened to it probably 150 times before I realized that the girl he’s talking about in the song is the city of Chicago, even thought at the end he says, “If you don’t know by now I’m talkin’ bout Chi-town!” At that point, all the excellent wordplay came to the surface, and made it more indelible than ever.
  21. [10] Black Skinhead - Yeezus
    Wow, have we really been talking about Kanye for this long without bringing up Yeezus? I love Yeezus as an album. Without question Kanye’s tightest. Sonically, completely new. Three years and a Wolf of Wall Street trailer later, you don’t think about what an unfamiliar sound it was, but for me it was easily the most unexpected listening experience of any of his albums. Like a lot of people, I first heard this song on SNL and could hardly follow it.
  22. (cont'd)
    My mom was in town visiting, and we were both watching the performance in her hotel room. About halfway through she finally cracked and literally screamed out, “Ugh! This is horrible!” Then 30 seconds after that, a resigned, “This isn’t music."
  23. [9] Lost in the World ft. Bon Iver - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
    The final track on the list included solely for its production, Lost in the World is just gorgeous. I know I said Otis was a gorgeous sample, but this is truly a gorgeous sample. As if Woods was written just to fulfill its destiny as Lost in the Woods. It feels like listening to a true composition, which is appropriate, considering the visual and performance arts atmosphere that framed MBDTF as a work of art.
  24. [8] Runaway Love (by Justin Bieber) Remix ft. Kanye West & Raekwon - G.O.O.D. Fridays
    If you don’t respect Justin Bieber after Purpose (which is quite good), maybe you need to go back to the source. The beat and verses on this track are 10s, but it’s Justin’s cherubic hooks that push it to greatness. But still, 8th best Kanye West track of all time? The answer is yes. Also easily downloadable or accessible on YouTube.
  25. [7] All Falls Down ft. Syleena Johnson - College Dropout
    It all goes back to the beginning (for me). Through the Wire and Slow Jamz were earlier releases, but I still remember the day I first saw the video for All Falls Down. It was a decidedly cool video, shot entirely in first person, and the song was groovy. But it was lyrics like “Man I promise, I’m so self conscious” and “things we buy to cover up what’s inside, cause they make us hate ourself and love they wealth” that made me take notice, even on first listen.
  26. (cont'd)
    He was talking about an establishment perhaps entirely represented by white people, but it still spoke to me. Prior to this, I had no love for hip hop outside radio play, a genre that had been defined for me by songs like “Project Bitch,” which at the time infuriated me. Maybe it was the fact that he dressed (compared to Cash Money Millionaires) like a white person, but I do hope it was the lyrical depth that hooked me. Either way, All Falls Down will always have a special place in my heart.
  27. [6] I’m in It - Yeezus
    If we can, as people, celebrate Celebration as a beautiful, sexy, slow jam, then surely we can also recognize that sometimes you need to get rough with it. There’s a lot a lot going on in this song. Of course the beat, the lyrics (which you might pretend to be scandalized by but actually you’re real into it), the strange doubling on the vocals in the first verse, Assassin’s verse that you can’t even try to understand, and then…the dog bark.
  28. (cont'd)
    I fucking love that dog bark. It’s so subtle, but it perfectly encapsulates the song. It takes another perfect turn at the end, and if you don’t finish it out every time by shouting “They be ballin’ in the D-league, I be speakin’ Swaghili!” then what are you even doing reading this?
  29. [5] Monster - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
    I never understood the outpouring of praise for MBDTF. I still think of it as a lower-tier album. Either way, Monster is an amazing record and every contribution is perfect (Bon Iver, Rick Ross, Kanye West, Jay Z, and Nicki Minaj). The first time hearing Nicki Minaj was something special, and created hopes for the next great female rapper. That didn’t quite pan out, but obviously by choice, and probably a smart one when you’re tryna make that mon-AY!
  30. [4] The New Workout Plan - College Dropout
    This is an unapologetically silly song, and the only one on the list with “chipmunk soul,” which lets be honest, couldn’t fade out of favorability quick enough. If you’ve ever thought Kanye was too full of himself, just watch this music video. Fair warning, it has the power to ruin the track for you, because, like the song, it’s very dumb. But it’s perfectly dumb. And fun.
  31. (cont'd)
    I love rapping this song, have done so from start to finish a hundred times, and even once in karaoke, to the surprise of all my coworkers in attendance. But it's not just fun, it also speaks to my soul: “Nobody wants a little tight ass."
  32. [3] Drive Slow ft. Paul Wall & GLC - Late Registration
    What it do? I’ve already mentioned a few quality car tracks. This is the ultimate. All the verses on this on this are great, but I have to give especial shout outs to Paul Wall and GLC, who sound alike in voice and cadence, dropping r’s (and a lot of other letters), the verbal equivalents of seats leaned way back.
  33. (cont'd)
    Remember when facebook didn’t have a feed, and you just had to click around to different profiles? At one time there was a box to “say something about yourself.” Until it transitioned to the newsfeed, mine long stood as “It’s a star-studded even when I valet park, open up my mouth and sunlight illuminates the dark."
  34. [2] Don’t Stop! (by Child Rebel Soldier) - G.O.O.D. Fridays
    The supergroup Child Rebel Soldier is Kanye, Pharrell, and Lupe Fiasco. They have one other track, on the Can’t Tell Me Nothing mixtape, but it’s all about Don’t Stop! The beat in this comes in hard and steady and so do the verses, one after the other without a hook, or even a breath. It’s addictive in it’s simplicity, and just when the repetition gives you the faintest notion of barely thinking about getting bored, it cuts in with a new sound for the outro. It’s virtually perfect. Play it loud.
  35. [1] Gone ft. Consequence & Cam'Ron - Late Registration
    If you want a radically different opinion, see Complex’s top 100 Kanye tracks (, where Gone is listed 78th, and we only have one song in common in our entire top 15! (All Falls Down.) Obviously I’m right, though they did remind me of the greatness of All of the Lights, which should probably be somewhere in the 20-30 range.
  36. (cont'd)
    One day, I was sitting in my car, listening to Gone many years after LR came out, and it hit me: this is the absolute best Kanye song there is, and nothing ever came along to change my mind. More chop-up-the-soul Kanye, more Otis Redding, and the best verse in all of Kanyedom…from Cam’Ron. Drums, strings, piano, and Otis. That’s it. It’s a pure mix of utility, value, and class, like, uh….handed-down real silverware.