Presented by Spotify
Words by Daniel Isenberg (@StanIpcus)
Okay, I’m going to create the perfect Kanye West playlist. Twenty songs. This should be a cinch, right? Wrong. It ain’t that easy to smush and shape arguably the most talented hip-hop artist of my generation’s extremely dense catalog into one playlist. Between his solo joints, endless collaborations, and outside production, dude has infinite fire tracks in his discography. But I’m determined to make it perfect, and it will not only represent the wide scope of his work, but also my own taste and next-level playlist-flow mindset. So if you’re expecting a generic, Kanye West greatest hits playlist, please, go thataway. But if you’re ready to experience true Yeezy playlist nirvana, let’s get it poppin’.
1. Kanye West ft. Kid Cudi “Guilt Trip”
It’s a must that I start my perfect Kanye West playlist off with a personal favorite. “Guilt Trip” is my go-to track on Yeezus, the one I knew was “my jam” the moment I first heard the beat drop in. And it’s currently the Kanye West song I’m most obsessed with, so I’d be lying to myself if I didn’t set it off with this. Being obvious and predictable is wack. I’m a southpaw, so I’m bringing this list in from the left with a sleeper. Walk with me.
2. Kanye West “Hell of a Life”
“Guilt Trip” has sort of a futuristic vibe, it’s next level. So I want to keep that going right off the bat with “Hell of a Life.” This joint is a bit harder and more up-tempo with the crazy guitar riff, and ‘Ye’s spitting and singing some slickness on it, which will give my playlist an early jolt of energy after a somewhat slow, blunted opener.
3. Kanye West ft. DJ Khaled “Cold”
Okay, now it’s time to really get amped. This song is serious. Don’t ever doubt for a second that ‘Ye is nasty with the raps. He swagged out on this, and kept it a zillion with his feelings about Wiz Khalifa wifing up his old girl, and Kris Humphries marrying the woman of his dreams. No wonder Kim was smitten. This playlist is all the way turnt now. Early.
4. Lupe Fiasco “The Cool” (Prod. by Kanye West)
It’s time to bring some more new rap voices into the mix. I’ll admit, I don’t love what Lupe’s released since his first album. There’s been a couple gems here and there, but overall, he lost me a bit. That said, I was a huge Lupe Fiasco fan when he first came out, from the mixtape stuff he was doing, to songs like this. “The Cool” is one of the illest concept/story tracks I’ve ever heard, period. Dude raps about a guy who gets murdered and then digs himself out of his own grave to go back and find his killer. Awesome songwriting here, and Kanye laced him with the beat, too.
5. Common ft. Kanye West and John Legend “They Say”
I’m going to keep it in Chicago for the moment, but switch the feel up slightly by transitioning into some more soulful Kanye West material. I love when Common and Kanye connect, they have amazing chemistry. ‘Ye snapped on this beat, but his flow is crazy on this, too. And John Legend makes a nice guest appearance on the hook as well. They don’t call it G.O.O.D. Music for nothing.
6. Kanye West “Late”
Pardon me while I sneak another solo joint in, because, well, this song is ridiculous. It’s one of those Kanye West songs that to me makes him untouchable as a producer/MC. I love the whole “late” concept and how it matches up with the school themes presented on the Late Registration album, and his solo LP series in general. And the beat’s got one of those vintage Kanye West sped-up vocal samples, with some sweet background harmonies, and an ill breakdown before the verses drop in. There’s a lot going on here, yet he makes it sound very simple, stripped-down, and laid-back. Love this song.
7. Beanie Sigel “Nothing Like It” (Prod. by Kanye West)
The Roc is in the building! Who remembers when Beans got “Rhyme of the Month” in The Source for this? It was certainly well-deserved. I love Sigel’s second album, and ‘Ye gave him the dope opener for it with this joint right here. The beat knocks, and it’s got that Blueprint soul flavor that defined Roc-A-Fella’s sound in the early 2000s. This playlist is going in a nice direction right now, yeah. I like this.
8. Cam’ron ft. Kanye West and Syleena Johnson “Down and Out”
Cam’ron’s having a resurgence right now, and I can’t say I’m not thrilled about it. As a guy who grew up in New York, Killa’s always been one of my top-ranked rappers. And after that Beanie joint, it feels like the right time to drop this one in, and get the energy back up for a moment before I smooth it out again. Plus it’s fun to have some more singles in the mix too, without reaching for the played-out ones.
9. Nas ft. Kanye West “Still Dreaming”
Is anyone else absolutely in love with this song? This type of chilled-out Kanye West production is truly my favorite. Plus, the stories on here by Nas and Kanye are ill. I’d like to hear a full album of Nas rapping over Kanye West production one day. And yes, “We Major” is fire too, but I prefer this to be honest. And look what I just did. Beanie, Cam, then Nas. Owwwww.
10. Kanye West “Say You Will”
While the mood is mellow, I’m going drop in some 808s flavor. I love 808s & Heartbreak, always have. It didn’t grow on me, I messed with it first listen. “Say You Will” still sounds brand new, too. I’m going to let this ride out for a minute and use it almost as an interlude before I switch the mood up again. I like when Kanye sings, it’s fresh.
11. Kanye West ft. Charlie Wilson “Bound 2”
Let me transition back into ‘Ye rapping with some drumless, soul-sample flavor from his latest album. This song is hard for Kanye West purists to hate, even in the midst of all the experimentation on Yeezus. And lyrically, it’s one of the realest love songs ever written in the history of rap music. Uncle Charlie kills the hook, too! Instant classic.
12. Jay Z and Kanye West “Otis”
Okay, let’s continue with the soul samples, because I can’t get enough of them. Plus, I don’t think “Otis” gets enough credit in the grand scheme of things. “N***** In Paris” came through and out-shined it, but this is a raw, uncut, chop shop track. And Hov and ‘Ye do the in and out thing well on this, bouncing bars back and forth better than any other duo in the biz.
13. Jay Z “Lucifer” (Prod. by Kanye West)
I’m a major roots reggae head, so I always loved this sample flip. Watching the making of “Lucifer” scene in Fade to Black is probably my favorite part of the whole doc. When Jigga keeps starting the beat over, and all his boys walk in bobbing their heads to it, hearing it for the first time? Man, so good. This might be my all-time favorite Kanye West production on a Jay Z album. And it comes in nicely after “Otis,” don’t you agree? Straight organic.
14. Kanye West ft. Lil Wayne “Barry Bonds”
This beat is so tough, I have to bring it in after “Lucifer” to keep the fire scorching. People sometimes forget how hip-hop to the core Kanye is, but this is a reminder. He knows how to make hard beats for the streets, first and foremost (props to Nottz too, who also produced on this track). And lyrically, he’s right when he raps, “Top 5 MCs, you ain’t gotta remind me.” He knows he’s nice, and I’m not mad at him for that. As for Weezy, his verse is whatever, but I still like it. It’s a reminder of the era when Graduation dropped, and adds some more vocal diversity to what is shaping up to truly be a killer Kanye West playlist, if I do say so myself.
15. Kanye West ft. Rick Ross “Devil in a New Dress”
This beat is so tight! I can imagine Kanye hearing it for the first time and insisting to its producer Bink, “I need this for my next album.” And the whole Jamaican restaurant, “I ordered the Jerk, she said ‘you are what you eat’” bit is classic, as is when he sings, “Haven’t said a word, haven’t said a word to me this eve-niing.” Flames. Plus, Rick Ross makes a solid appearance at the end of the song, which fits well after Weezy’s guest spot on “Barry Bonds.” See what I did there?
16. Beyonce ft. Andre 3000 “Party” (Prod. by Kanye West)
This song is dumb fly. Kanye’s R&B production is underrated. You know he co-produced “You Don’t Know My Name” for Alicia Keys, right? And you probably slept on that Janet Jackson song he did “I Want You,” that joint is nice also, quiet as kept. But “Party” is the best of the bunch, and it’s another single to throw in the mix, too. The lead vocals and harmonies are insane, the ’80s-style production is bananas, and I even get a nice guest spot from 3 Stacks to add another legendary voice to my Kanye playlist. So yes, that was Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, then Andre 3000. Another hat trick people! Southern smoke!
17. Kanye West “White Dress”
Someone please tell me why I feel like I’m the only Kanye West fan who constantly listens to this song. Did y’all not get the memo that ‘Ye did a cut on a RZA beat for The Man With the Iron Fists soundtrack? Was the knowledge not done to this? This is one of those beats that I don’t even need to hear anyone rap over, just give me the instrumental to ride out to. But with Kanye on it spitting some real deal, heartfelt, well-composed relationship bars, it hits a peak of supreme excellence. And yes, I know, it would’ve been clever to put “Devil In a New Dress” and “White Dress” back-to-back, but musically, this is the flow I’m looking for. Pardon the sequencing, sometimes it’s the imperfections that make things perfect, ya dig?
18. Kanye West ft. GLC and Consequence “Spaceship”
I’m going to stay in a soulful space, and sneak my favorite joint in off The College Dropout, because I want to make sure I get something from each of ‘Ye’s albums on my perfect playlist, that’s important. And I think I’ve hit everything, including Watch the Throne and Cruel Summer, so we’re looking good. Love the Marvin Gaye sample here, too, and Kanye’s singing on the hook is money biscuits. And I’m not mad at GLC and Consequence’s verses on this song. That was ‘Ye’s core unit at the time before he graduated to doing full albums with his big brother Hov, and I’m proud to rep that towards the end of this playlist. Gotta paint the whole picture.
19. Jay Z and Kanye West “The Joy”
Can you believe this beat was on some old disc that Pete Rock had laying around since the ’90s? What a legend. I’m super-happy this finally found its way onto the end of Watch The Throne, even if it was just a bonus track. Hip-hop needs songs like this, and so does my perfect Kanye West playlist. I saved this gem for the end, just to spread things evenly. But with Kanye’s catalog, it’s pretty impossible to ever run out of jewels. His Spotify page is like a bottomless treasure chest.
20. Kanye West ft. Pusha T “Runaway”
I’m going to wrap things up with “Runaway,” which transitions nicely from “The Joy” being that they were both G.O.O.D. Fridays releases, and “Runaway” also borrows the drums from Pete Rock and CL Smooth’s posse cut “The Basement,” so there’s that connection, too (you like how I did that, right). The beat is dope, Pusha T kills his guest verse, and it has a catchy chorus that as a dude I find very fun to sing along to. So I’m going to let all nine minutes of it burn out while I close the curtain on my perfect Kanye West playlist.