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5 Underrated Kanye West Songs


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Kanye West may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, as his recent Kimmel fiasco would show, but his creative genius is unparalleled. He revolutionises the Hip-Hop landscape with each album release and has easily one of the genre’s best discographies.

With so much excellent music, many songs have been pushed into the shadows of his bigger releases. With that in mind, here is a spotlight on 5 of his most criminally slept-on songs.

1. 'Two Words', The College Dropout, 2004

Easily the most criminally forgotten song from Kanye’s classic debut. This song encapsulates the “old Kanye": a warm, sample-heavy beat, layered with vocal chops from the chorus’ choir and various brief instrumentals, all underpinned by the classic boom-bap style drums. The lyrical concept of the song is some of Kanye's more original and interesting; the full track (apart from some lapses in his verses) is rapped staccato with two words, two hard stresses, per beat. Mos Def and Freeway provide two quality guest verses with a focus on the strife of black America.

One of Kanye’s best-produced beats, over some of the most intricate rhyme schemes in Hip-Hop. 'Two Words' is a glimmer of genius.

2. 'Good Morning (Intro)', Graduation, 2007

As an album, Graduation operates as one metaphor: Kanye graduates from the rap game, and no longer is he a lowly student but a top player. ‘Good Morning’ is the perfect distillation of this sentiment. Kanye flexes his lyrical ability with a playfulness (“I’m like the fly Malcolm X, buy any jeans necessary”) whilst also delivering strong messages about the Western higher education system. The legendary kick-clap pattern and heavy use of Elton John's vocal sample are perfectly engineered in the song's production, while hanging piano and synth notes in the background give the track added warmth. For fans of the "old Kanye", ‘Good Morning’ is about as good as it gets.

3. 'Welcome To Heartbreak', 808s and Heartbreaks, 2008

The most underrated song on his most underrated album, 'Welcome To Heartbreak' perfectly encapsulates Kanye West's revolutionary sonic vision. The production here is so minimalist viz the instrumentation used and yet is layered so beautifully so as to provide an immense depth in sound. The booming 808 bassline accompanied by low-pitch strings, a simple piano melody and distorted vocals contrast sharply with a clear-cut chorus from guest feature Kid Cudi. Amounting to nothing short of musical excellence, this track is a journey through a distorted mindset and into a warped mind. This distortion is reflected in Kanye’s lyrics which tell us how he's progressing in his career but not in his personal life, whilst his family members are starting their own families, leaving him distanced and alone.

Adding to that theme of distortion is the song’s visuals, which should be watched for the full Heartbreak experience.

4. 'Murder To Excellence', Watch The Throne, 2011

Yes, ‘Watch The Throne’ counts as a Kanye album. And yes, the album is not very good…at all.

However, the album does have a few exceptional high points and 'Murder To Excellence' is one of them. The song is divided into two halves: ‘Murder’ and ‘Excellence’. ‘Murder’ chronicles the plight of escaping the poverty trap while ‘Excellence’ praises the positive, the side that triumphs “black excellence”. Jay Z's rhymes about religion and love wane in comparison to Kanye’s sharp and poignant insight throughout the track. The heavy sample of Indiggo Twins’ ‘La La Land’ in the beat, layered with simple piano chords, a busy drum pattern and the classic Kid Cudi hums make for an energetic experience. 

5. 'Saint Pablo', The Life of Pablo, 2016

‘The Life of Pablo’ is a sheer and utter mess and intentionally so. Full of euphoric highs and depressing lows; ‘Saint Pablo’ is one of those highs. The heavy sample of Jay Z’s iconic ‘Where I’m From’, layered over a minor key piano melody which transforms into piano synth notes produces a gripping Hip-Hop beat. This is easily Kanye’s best lyrical performance since his The College Dropout days. He allows his fans to get closer to his personal life than ever before: his financial problems, his strife with the media, issues with Jay Z, his self-esteem problems and lastly, the biggest theme of the track, religion. The soothing chorus from Sampha heightens this final theme by creating a direct parallel between Saint Paul and his religious conversion. Kanye looks up to God for help and doesn't hear anything back. A raw and emotional song, and a rare highlight for the "new Kanye".


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