A ranking of Kanye West's 50 best songs.
When alien scholars comb through the remains of civilization on Earth, they will inevitably conclude that, between 2000 and 2020, the man who stood closest to the center of human culture was Kanye West.
Kanye has been a wellspring of musical innovation and a source of inspiration since Roc-A-Fella hired him as an in-house producer in 2001, but music has only represented a fraction of his public identity. He introduced himself to a broad swathe of America in 2005, during a Hurricane Katrina telethon fundraiser in which he went off-script and declared that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” In 2009, his literal upstaging of Taylor Swift at the VMAs instantly became one of the most scandalous disses in history. In 2014, he married Kim Kardashian, avatar of social media and reality television. And until Donald Trump came to power in 2016, he was probably the most newsworthy voice on Twitter. (“I hate when I'm on a flight and I wake up with a water bottle next to me like oh great now I gotta be responsible for this water bottle.”)
Kanye distinguishes himself by virtue of his Herculean ambition and self-belief. Through his proposed communications company, DONDA, he seeks to change the world in every conceivable way by offering services from summer school to “wave power.” “My ego is my drug,” he said in a 2003 interview with W Magazine. “My drug is, ‘I’m better than all you other mother fuckers. Kiss my ass!’”
The definitive ranking of Kanye’s albums has been fiercely debated since more or less the beginning of time, and choosing his 50 best songs may be an even more arduous task. For whatever reason, we've decided to attempt this seemingly impossible feat. Before you get too riled up about the order or the exclusion of your favorite ‘Ye song, take a moment to appreciate the incredible music Kanye has given us so far, and pray he doesn’t wake up “wack” tomorrow, as he suggested in his 2005 Guardian interview. “What would I do then?” he asked. Well, he'd still have one of the all-time best catalogues in music history, for one. Take a look at some of his greatest achievements below.