This Lazy Friday Playlist is an ode to the “Most imitated, Grammy nominated hotel accommodated, cheerleader prom-dated barbershop player-hated” rapper alive. Love him or hate him, Kanye West will go down as one of the greatest and most influential artists of all time. In honor of his newest studio album, Donda, which is being released today, I’m proud to present this compilation of some of his finest pieces, including work from his storied career as a producer before he was a household name as a rapper.
Few other artists have been able to create such timeless work, all while continuing to evolve their style and maintain relevance. Donda, his tenth studio album, is named after the rapper’s late mother. She served as an inspiration for him and her premature death is widely believed to be the catalyst for some of his most less-than-graceful moments, including his impromptu hijacking of Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech for Video of the Year at the 2009 Video Music Awards.
Kanye had already been one of the most popular rappers around when he released My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, but the album cemented his legacy as more than just a rapper. Kanye had been a risk-taker since the genesis of his music career, but MBDTF was the culmination of his boldest ideas as an artist.
He became gradually more experimental with his work over time, with no project of his being more radical, unexpected, and out of the ordinary than 2013’s Yeezus. He was never afraid to create genre-bending art, working heavily with groups like Bon Iver and other artists who previously had little to no experience working on rap projects.
His meticulous preparation for MBDTF will go down in history. Sequestering all of his collaborators to a compound in Hawaii, doing everything possible to limit distractions during studio sessions, and even mandating black-tie attire while recording were all part of the strict regimen that went into making the album.
It all paid off. MBDTF earned critical acclaim and 11 years later can still be enjoyed as if it came out yesterday. The album is truly timeless. It earned the 17th spot on Rolling Stone’s 500 greatest albums of all time and was recognized as the #1 album of the decade by numerous publications.
Kanye’s tenacity and drive pushed every artist who played on the album to their greatest heights. The musical production and Rick Ross feature on Devil in a New Dress is nothing short of goosebump-inducing.
Kanye’s extensive career is littered with top 10 hits, and he will always be lauded as one of, if not the greatest rapper of this generation. Many words come to mind when thinking about Ye’s antics throughout his career, but perhaps none is more fitting than “controversial.”
Kanye has never once shied from controversy, not because he sees it as a way of growing his celebrity and getting his name in the headlines, but because he is his most authentic self in every way possible. He has no filter or off-switch, and that’s a huge part of what makes him such a genius. From the classic line “George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” spoken on live television to millions of people during a Hurricane Katrina relief fund event, to his albeit somewhat misguided attempt to run for president as a member of the “Birthday Party,” Ye has never been afraid to say or do what is on his mind.
For this and his valued contributions to music history, I thank Kanye from the bottom of my heart and wish him nothing but the best. The long-awaited and anticipated Donda is out now.
Meanwhile, here’s 33 of my favorite songs Kanye performed, produced or did both.