Few rap artists would even consider creating a new song around a 1969 prog-rock recording, but West has seemingly built his career around such left-field surprises. 'Power,' the first single from his 2010 release 'My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,' exemplifies classic Kanye, as the rapper declares his greatness with help from a sample of King Crimson's '21st Century Schizoid Man.'
Kanye talks often about pushing boundaries in rap music, and he did that convincingly on 'Stronger,' one of the few rap hits that prominently features electronic music. Based on a sample from Daft Punk's 'Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger,' the song became West's third No. 1 single on Billboard. West even convinced the reclusive French duo to perform the song with him at the 2008 Grammy Awards.
'Slow Jamz' With Twista and Jamie Foxx
'Slow Jamz,' a track by lightning-fast rapper Twista featuring West and Jamie Foxx, ascended to the No. 1 position in 2003, giving Kanye his first-ever chart-topper. True to its name, the song is a laid-back R&B hit that name-drops old-school soul acts like Luther Vandross, Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight and Anita Baker.
'Flashing Lights' Feat. Dwele
Deftly combining electronic elements with dreamy strings, 'Flashing Lights' was one of the most acclaimed songs on Kanye's smash 2007 release 'Graduation.' 'Flashing Lights' is one of four songs on the album with vocal contributions from Connie Mitchell of the Australian dance act Sneaky Sound System. Mitchell's recording of the song's title loops throughout the song while Detroit soul singer Dwele performs the chorus.
'Can't Tell Me Nothing'
The lead single from West's 2007 album Graduation, 'Can't Tell Me Nothing' is a slow, brooding track with dark synth lines. Kanye reflects on the materialistic temptations that come with having so much money and acknowledges some of his own faults, but still concludes with the defiant hook, "Excuse me, was you saying something? / Uh-uh, you can't tell me nothing."
West's 2008 album '808s & Heartbreak' took the rapper in a dramatically new direction, with most of the record featuring introspective lyrics about heartache and melodies that sounded more pop than hip-hop. Powered by a heavily-Auto-Tuned chorus, 'Heartless' was the record's most successful single, becoming his fourth No. 1 on the Billboard rap chart and one of West's best songs.
'Good Life' Feat. T-Pain
'Good Life' is one of Kanye's most carefree songs, with the rapper urging "Let's go on a living spree" over a clever sample from Michael Jackson's 'P.Y.T.' T-Pain adds a verse of his own, while John Legend and Ne-Yo provide background vocals. 'Good Life' won the 2008 Grammy Award for Best Rap Song, West's third win in that category.
The third single from West's 2004 debut 'The College Dropout' utilizes a children's choir and military-style chanting and drumming to create a feeling of urgency. "I wanna talk to God but I'm afraid cause we ain't spoke in so long," Kanye declares in his powerful religious statement song that is so unusual in the world of pop music.
'Gold Digger' Feat. Jamie Foxx
Featuring a cameo from Jamie Foxx, 'Gold Digger' was one of the biggest hits of 2005, reigning at No. 1 for 10 weeks. West creatively re-worked the 50-year-old Ray Charles classic 'I Got a Woman' into an attack on opportunistic women. Interestingly, Kanye originally wrote the song for Shawnna from the gold digger's perspective, but she opted not to record it.
'All Falls Down' Feat. Syleena Johnson
Topping our list of the Best Kanye West Songs is 'All Falls Down,' the Chicago native's first Top 10 hit from 2004. "The people highest up got the lowest self-esteem," West raps on the track, which examines why many people spend money to mask insecurities. Lauryn Hill earned co-writing credit since the track use lyrics from her song 'Mystery of Iniquity,' performed by Syleena Johnson.
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