If you hadn’t noticed, everyone’s favorite Kanye, Kanye West, has been Kanye-ing in the Kanye this Kanye. This post is not about that, because who really cares what Kanye thinks (NOTE – apparently everyone on the planet, including my mother). If you want that, I’m sure the Washington Post (good purchase Bezos!) has a long op-ed on Kanye’s heel turn. This was intended to be a chance to some lighthearted banter about Kanye’s most Kanye featured verses, but then I learned he has NINETY-TWO between 2004 and 2017, and a ton of which I am now realizing I am not especially familiar with.
So with that in mind, I went and found a handful that were interesting, well-written or otherwise notable for some reason that I happened to like. The full list is at the bottom is you are really that interested to see a list of 92 songs, but the following is a chronological order of verses I really liked or really think you need to be aware of — you will know exactly which ones I’m talking about when you see them.
Common – “The Food” (https://vimeo.com/194588109)
Specifically the Chappelle’s Show version. March 3, 2004: my first introduction with Kanye. I, like any teenage boy in 2004, LOOOOVED Chappelle’s Show, and like any teenage boy, I usually glossed over the musical guests because they didn’t have THE GOOD rap. 2004 me was a dumbass, but was smart enough to realize Kanye was cool as shit. Common was cool (I really liked the album “Be” at the time), but Kanye was clearly the second biggest star on the stage that night, just behind the guy fucking around with the microwave in the background throughout the entire video. Looking back, I think I really liked the line “So I had to did, what I had to did” because that is so wildly stupid. Not as dumb as toppling the incredible momentum of “Father Stretch My Hands” with an opening line about bleached assholes, or putting the pussy in the sarcophagus, but a contender.
This also led to Dave Chappelle later recounting how he knew Kanye was going to be a star. Dave talks about being backstage during the shooting of the show with Kanye, Common and Talib Kweli, and he sees Kanye’s phone ring. Kanye picks up, listens for a moment, responds with “I’m hanging out with Dave Chappelle.” After a short pause, Kanye says, “because my life is dope, and I do dope shit” before hanging up the phone. You can totally look this up.
Dilated Peoples – “This Way” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rbo9QlcLcX8)
I have no idea how I ever heard this song, because I have never heard the term “Dilated Peoples” in my life outside of this song. This is peak polo-Kanye, when he had some semblance of self-awareness and an image of being a grounded-in-reality rapper. The first lines of Kanye’s verse are, “my favorite girl want to leave me just because I got a girlfriend,” which is really just an A+ line. The inflection in, “I’m a Chicagoaaaan til Chicago ennnnnnds til we blow like Chicago wiiiiiiinds” is pretty great, plus the layered on irony that Kanye is now the least Chicago person on the face of the earth. There are alt-right secessionists in Alaska who are more Chicagoan than Kanye West in 2018.
T.I. – “Swagga Like Us” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjL-3Rlwh8U)
Kanye has the first verse on this track and opens with, “Mr West is in the buildin’ / Swagger on a hundred Thousand TRILLION”, and you can really skip the rest of the song after that.
Estelle – “American Boy” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ic5vxw3eijY)
Like Dilated Peoples, I have never heard another song by Estelle song, but I know this one because Kanye dominates the shit out of it. Based on this song, I am assuming Estelle is British, because Ye comes out with at least thirteen references to British pop culture. I’m not sure Kanye realized this song was not one of his own, because he drops a few bars for the intro and has a reeeeeal long verse for a feature. The song is about, YOU GUESSED IT, American boys, and Kanye proceeds to rap about… not American things. Who was going to tell him he couldn’t?
Young Jeezy – “Put On For My City” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1aEImx74gLA)
Regarding the Yeezy of this Jeezy – coming out in 2008, ie the 808s and Heartbreaks era of Kanye autotuning the shit out of everything and getting all “feelings”-y on his tracks after he and his fiance broke up about the same time his mother passed away. This verse is far less pompous than the preceding ones, and tips his hand with some of the darkness that was coming on “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”, with the best line being, “I got the Jesus on a chain, man that don’t mean shit / ‘Cause when the Jesus pieces can’t bring me peace.” On a lighter note, this was the song every white high school team played before whatever sporting event in order to fire themselves up. I’m sure Kanye and Jeezy are honored to be a part of my high school lacrosse team’s pregame soundtrack.
Jay-Z – “Run This Town” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MV5dB_3ANpA)
Rihanna is on this track, and I think we have really taken her for granted – can you think of one song she was on or released that didn’t totally bang? Okay besides “Work”, which was still good despite being annoying. You could make the argument this is where people started considering Kanye as hip hop’s top dog over Jay-Z , even though they were still going to release “Watch the Throne”. This was 100% confirmed after Jay farted out the lamest verse on “Monster” from “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”. That verse is SO trash. ANYWAY – Kanye throws out possibly my favorite Kanye line, “what you think I rap for / to push a fuckin’ RAV4?” We are still awaiting Toyota’s response to this punishing diss track.
Fall Out Boy – “This Ain’t a Scene, It’s An Arms Race (Remix)” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19dt0YMYdw0)
So yeah this happened. In 2007, Fall Out Boy tried to get Kanye West to do a remix for a bonus track for “Infinity on High”. I have no idea how this happened, and apparently neither did Kanye, because he starts with, “Now, I don’t know what the hell this song is talking ’bout – do you?”. No, Kanye, I do not – Fall Out Boy songs have really long titles and are too clever by half. Just get to the part where you beg for your ex to come back with the catchy chords.
This song proooooobably did not get wide release because Kanye spends his verse really shitting on the artist he’s supposed to be helping out – “One thing I gotta call out boy / take a look at Fall Out Boy / since they ain’t black / when they get the money they don’t ball out boy / they just buy tight jeans ’til they nuts hang all out boy”. Kendrick Lamar notoriously roasted Big Sean when he was featured on “Control”, but Ye was first to this. The only problem is NO ONE CARES IF YOU DISS FALL OUT BOY. Their entire existence is to be dissed by everyone.
N.A.S.A. – “Gifted” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=twpLBvg03YI)
Not that NASA, but this is my it, my favorite Kanye verse, on this song I am pretty sure no one else has ever heard . Kanye fully commits to full braggadocio here, and to dissect it is to really minimize the cockiness of each line, so lets do exactly that. He opens with, “I’m known for running my mouth / I will not be accountable for what comes out” — again, this was almost a full decade before one million thinkpieces were launched with “problematic” in the title based on whatever bullshit people are mad about. There’s a great Spinal Tap reference that I would bet a substantial amount of money was not intentionally made — “while y’all on ten, I’m on eleven” – and it leads into more remarkable foresightedness (it’s not a word, but roll with it) with, “I’mma make the news, be on at 7 / matter fact, I’m on this very second”. He bows out with “y’all motherfuckers know who this is / I’m gifted / Merry Christmas”. Right about here was when I moved from “I like Kanye” to “Kanye is the best and to say otherwise is to admit your ignorance”. Definitely listen to this song.
Stromae – “Alors on Danse” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLSYaAAjUOg)
Here’s Kanye, in front of the curve again, being featured on a European big-room styled EDM track before this was a popular thing. The song is super upbeat and dance-y, and lends itself to a few solid verses and a sample of Ye yelling, “throw ya hands in the sky right nooow”. A good line here is, “Live this life like there’s no tomorrow / Wake up in Paris with a Ruuuuussian model”. He and the Donald were always destined to be friends.
The pee tape is total real is what I’m trying to say.
30 Seconds to Mars – “Hurricane 2.0”
Remember when I promised there would be some real WTF songs here? Ta dah. I didn’t mistakenly not add the Youtube link. It’s pretty bad, and you should trust me here.
Oh do you not believe me? The most punchable face in music, Jared Leto, sincerely asks, “tell me, would kill to save your life?” Even Coldplay thinks this song is fucking lame.
Drake – Forever (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOEvBlNI-wc)
This was the first time I ever heard Drake, and even then I thought he was kinda lame despite loving this song, but having Lil Wayne, Eminem and Kanye on your first single will do that. Starting with, “Last name – Ever / first name – Greatest” really appealed to seventeen year old me, but has really become cheesy with the development of self-awareness in age. If it’s been awhile since you watched this video – go watch it again. It was 2009, Drake looks (more) like a baby, and LeBron is featured heavily, including a scene where he’s playing online poker in a limo. Uhhh… sure, whatever. (Not to get derailed, but this was a song about being the greatest ever, heavily in reference to LeBron, and it was NINE YEARS AGO. In the most recent game as of the writing of this, LeBron scored 44 points with 10 rebounds and 8 assists in the playoffs against the Pacers. LeBron very well may be the best ever.)
ANYWAY, Kanye is great, flashing more of his distaste for fame and Hollywood, talking about how much he hates Hollywood and all the fame and attention, ending his verse with, “They pull the cameras out and goddamn, he snap / I used to want this thing forever, y’all can have it back”. He rhymes “McLovin” with “Michelle’s husband”, “fuckin’ loser” with “Bueller”, and “granny back” with “fanny pack – the point I’m trying to make is Kanye is the best when he’s on one.
Lil Wayne’s verse is great; he ambles around the verse until he stumbles into something clever or insightful (sounds like my writing style!), but definitely one of the last really great verses he had. Eminem though… remember when Eminem was a force to be reckoned with, and not a grumpy old man? He sinks his teeth in here and really lays waste to the track. I remember being blown away with, “he’s wondering if he should spit this slow / FUCK NO, go for broke, his cup just runneth over oh no”. That was the last time anyone gave a shit about Eminem until he awkwardly yelled at the President, and we only cared because it was pretty bad.
Kid Cudi – “Erase Me” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICaTsTkBPV8)
This was from Cudi’s weird quasi-rock stage where he used way too prominent guitars and drums in his music, and it all kinda sucked. The video features McLovin’ (back-to-back McLovin’ references! Who knew he and Kanye had such a rich history together?) playing drums behind Kid Cudi impersonating Jimi Hendrix with lead vocalist Kanye acting like… Kanye. Cudi was featured on a dozen of Kanye’s tracks, and Kanye half assed on one of his.
Chris Brown – “Deuces” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p1AaWyyPrCQ)
My anti-Chris Brown stance is so fierce, I never knew he released a song with Kanye, Drake, T.I. AND Andre 3000. That said, this song is pretty boring (again, Drake is involved) outside Kanye’s line, “you gonna be hot a little while / I’ma be rich forever” and literally everything in Andre’s verse. I don’t understand how Andre can rap like he has never done this before, but it is still transfixing to hear. Everyone go listen to your favorite Outkast song after this is over and let’s all take a moment to appreciate what a magnificent weirdo he is.
Katy Perry – “E.T.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5Sd5c4o9UM)
I prefer the tracks where Kanye just starts right out of the gate with his verse so I don’t have to commit to a whole song, but in this case, I will listen to the whole thing because peak Katy Perry bangs, BUT THEN Kanye shows up again at the end, because that’s how he chose to operate. I had never seen the video, which has Kanye channeling his inner Backstreet Boys-in-the-“Everybody”-Music-Video, and then Katy Perry doing some mix of Chronicles of Narnia meets 2001: A Space Odyssey; in other words, it was real expensive and real dumb, which is pretty much the entire Katy Perry brand.
The most notable line here is, “you are not invited to the other side of sanity,” furthering the 2001: A Space Odyssey motif as well as the “Kanye is aware he a unaware” theme that runs through, oh, about his entire catalog.
2 Chainz – “Birthday Song” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y34jC4I1m70)
Finally, one of the most introspective rappers collabs with the least introspective rapper. This one did not get a ton of publicity when it came out, probably because 2 Chainz really only appeals to people who already like 2 Chainz. It’s an acquired taste. This song is interesting because it’s a notable difference from preppy/standard Kanye to “street cred” Kanye. If you know anything about Kanye, it’s probably something like, “he has no street cred”.
So in this video, Kanye is flanked by two women on both side of him in some drop-crotch leather pants with a black wife beater on a bike, noticeable NOT actually peddling, which leads me to the point – do you think Kanye can actually ride a bike? Without training wheels? I give it 75% he can’t.
UPDATE – I was wrong.
Future – “I Won” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2VrxrGcWl8)
A pretty normal Future song – he mumbles a bunch over some solid beats and his voice gets modulated at a few points, and it still results in a pretty catchy song. Kanye’s verse is a remarkable sincere love letter to Kim Kardashian, and its surprisingly endearing. I really don’t have anything else clever to add, but if you are an armchair Kanye psychologist, it’s a worthy addendum to “Bound 2”.
Schoolboy Q – “THat Part” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQ_DHRI-Xp0)
It bums me out that Schoolboy Q does not get more love. “Oxymoron” was one of the best hip hop albums of the last few years with ten legit classics, and he had the best lines on the all-star cast on the Black Panther album, including a dozen verses from Kendrick Lamar (“her tits are C cup / her ass an A-plus”). Listen to Schoolboy Q.
This song includes the lines, “I just left the strip club, got some glitter on me / wifey gonna kill me, she the female OJ” – how kind of Kanye to throw out a reference to Khloe’s father in a song!
Chance the Rapper – “All We Got” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Hi3nbs3bD4)
I loved doing this because it was fun to catalog Kanye matching up with different styles based on the artists he’s working with – street with 2 Chainz, backpack/conscious with Common, braggadocious with Jay-Z, showing he’s as good as anyone when lined up next to Eminem, Lil Wayne and Drake, topical with pop singers, and fucking stupid with 30 Seconds to Mars – here he embraces his chuch choir side, with the kid’s choir singing the chorus with him instead of a rap about his dick or Kim’s ass.
I’ve tried to describe Kanye to non-fans in reference to how a lot of rappers talk about gang life or glorifying violence (like Tupac or Notorious BIG) versus guys who rap about the Black Experience in America (Common or A Tribe Called Quest) versus guys who rap about partying and girls (Lil Wayne, 2 Chainz, Rick Ross), compared to Kanye. who really just raps about being Kanye. It’s what makes him so great. No one else could get away without having a message or some brightly defined genre – Kanye’s just out here bitching about shit that NO ONE who listens to his music identifies with, and it totally works. To really blur lines here, I’m going to sum up Kanye’s entire persona in one quote from Lemmy, the lead singer of British metal band Motorhead – “If you’re going to be a fucking rock star, go be one. People don’t want to see the guy next door on stage; they want to see a being from another planet.
Year Song Artist Appears on
2017 Dat Side CyHi the Prynce No Dope on Sundays
2017 Glow Drake More Life
2016 All We Got Chance the Rapper Coloring Book
2016 Ballin’ Juicy J Single release
2016 Castro Yo Gotti ft. Quavo, 2 Chainz & Big Sean White Friday
2016 Feel Me Tyga Rawwest Nigga Alive
2016 Figure it Out French Montana ft. Nas Wave Gods
2016 Pop Style Drake ft. Jay Z Views
2016 Pussy Print Gucci Mane Everybody Looking
2016 THat Part ScHoolboy Q Blank Face LP
2015 All Your Fault Big Sean Dark Sky Paradise
2015 Blessings Big Sean ft. Drake Dark Sky Paradise
2015 Jukebox Joints A$AP Rocky At. Long. Last. A$AP
2015 M.P.A. Pusha T ft. A$AP Rocky & The-Dream King Push – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude
2015 One Man Can Change the WorldBig Sean ft. John Legend Dark Sky Paradise
2015 Piss on Your Grave Travi$ Scott Rodeo
2015 SMUCKERS Tyler, the Creator ft. Lil Wayne Cherry Bomb
2015 U Mad Vic Mensa Single release
2014 Can’t Stop Theophilus London Vibes
2014 I Won Future Honest
2013 Thank You Busta Rhymes ft. Lil Wayne & Q-Tip E.L.E. 2
2012 Another You The World Famous Tony Williams King or the Fool
2012 Birthday Song 2 Chainz Based on a T.R.U. Story
2012 I Wish You Would DJ Khaled ft. Rick Ross Kiss The Ring
2011 Amen Pusha T ft. Jeezy Fear Of God II: Let Us Pray
2011 E.T. Katy Perry Teenage Dream
2011 Eyez Closed Snoop Dogg ft. John Legend Doggumentary
2011 Marvin & Chardonnay Big Sean ft. Roscoe Dash Finally Famous
2010 Blazin Nicki Minaj Pink Friday
2010 Deuces (Remix) Chris Brown ft. André 3000 & Drake F.A.M.E.
2010 Erase Me KiD CuDi Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager
2010 Hurricane 2.0 Thirty Seconds to Mars This is War (deluxe version)
2010 Live Fast, Die YoungRick Ross Teflon Don
2010 Start it Up Lloyd Banks ft. Ryan Leslie, Swizz Beatz & Fabolous H.F.M. 2
2010 Welcome To The World T.I. ft. KiD CuDI No Mercy
2009 Alors On Danse (Remix) Stromae ft. Gilbere Forte Cheese
2009 Ego (Remix) Beyoncé I Am… Sasha Fierce
2009 Forever Drake ft. Lil Wayne & Eminem More Than a Game
2009 Gifted N.A.S.A. ft. Santigold & Lykke Li The Spirit of Apollo
2009 Glenwood Big Sean Single release
2009 I Still Love H.E.R. Teriyaki Boyz Serious Japanese
2009 Kinda Like A Big Deal Clipse Till The Casket Drops
2009 Knock You Down Keri Hilson ft. Ne-Yo In a Perfect World..
2009 Make Her Say KiD CuDi ft. Common Man on the Moon: The End of Day
2009 Maybach Music II Rick Ross ft. Lil Wayne & T-Pain Deeper than Rap
2009 Run This Town Jay Z ft. Rihanna The Blueprint 3
2009 Supernova Mr Hudson Straight No Chaser
2009 Whatever U Want (Remix) Consequence Movies on Demand
2008 American Boy Estelle Shine
2008 Go Hard DJ Khaled ft. T-Pain We Global
2008 Put On Jeezy The Recession
2008 Swagga Like Us T.I. ft. Jay Z & Lil Wayne Paper Trail
2007 Down Chris Brown Exclusive
2006 Brand New Rhymefest Blue Collar
2006 Number One Pharrell Williams In My Mind
2006 Still Dreaming Nas ft. Chrisette Michele Hip Hop is Dead
2006 Wouldn’t Get Far Game Doctor’s Advocate
2005 Extravaganza Jamie Foxx Unpredictable
2004 Number One John Legend Get Lifted
2004 Talk About Our Love Brandy Afrodisiac
2004 This Way Dilated Peoples Neighborhood WatchAll Falls Down by John Legend
Anything Patti LaBelle
Back Like That [Remix] Ghostface Killah ft. Ne-Yo
Beat Goes On Madonna
Because of You [Remix] Ne-Yo
Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’) T-Pain
Digital Girl Jamie Foxx ft. Drake & The-Dream
Down and Out Cam’ron
Everybody Fonzworth Bentley ft. André 3000
Finer Things DJ Felli Fel ft. Jermaine Dupri, Ne-Yo & Fabolous
Go! Common ft. John Mayer
Grammy Family DJ Khaled ft. John Legend & Consequence
Higher Do or Die
Hold On [Remix] Dwele
I Changed My Mind Keyshia Cole
Like This DJ Clue
My Baby Janet Jackson
Plastic Really Doe
Pro Nails Kid Sister
Real Love Rell ft. Consequence
Selfish Slum Village ft. John Legend
Slow Jamz Twista
Stay Up! (Viagra) 88-Keys
The Bounce Jay Z
The Corner Common ft. The Last Poets
The Food Common ft. DJ Dummy
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Consequence
This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race Fall Out Boy
Walkin’ on the Moon The-Dream
What It Is Sofia Fresh