The last two months has proved to be a busy time for Kanye West, as he challenged himself musically by producing a total of five highly anticipated albums over the course of five weeks. After a two-year hiatus, and a slew of controversial comments, Ye retreated back to the studio and decided to test the waters by unleashing 7-track albums for himself, Nas, Pusha T, Teyana Taylor, and a joint effort featuring Kid Cudi. With all of the new music that’s been served up, we can’t help but wonder: who had the best Kanye-produced album of the year so far?
The news of Ye grinding in his element sparked hope in the industry as a whole. When talk of cancelling Mr. West began to grow louder, the public perceived his announcing of new projects as a symbolic apology for his MAGA support and irresponsible statements. Upon hearing that each artist would only get seven songs to work with, many fans questioned whether or not the super-producer could bang out any classics in such a limited track list. Nevertheless, people were still willing to see what he had to offer.
First up on the Ye production docket was Pusha T’s long-awaited Daytona project, which was released on May 25. The Virginia emcee may have had one of the most controversial album rollouts of all time, because of what he did following its release. After dissing Drake on “Infrared”, the last track off of the EP, the Canadian rapper responded with “Duppy Freestyle”, where he mentioned Yhe Clipse member’s wife in one of his reciprocating bars. As a result, King Push unleashed a maleficent reveal about the “God’s Plan” rapper hiding a child with a porn star over Jay Z’s “The Story of OJ” beat, accompanied by a few questionable photos of Drizzy in black face. Not only did he make fans question if Drake had a hidden love child, but he made many question the legitimacy of his “nice guy” persona altogether.
In spite of the intense circumstances surrounding Pusha’s album, it was actually a really great project. There’s no denying his ability to deliver beyond quality bars, but Kanye actually came through with gritty hip-hop beats that ring true to the G.O.O.D. Music president’s style.
Kanye’s next effort, released on June 1st, was his self-titled Ye album. Feedback came quickly after the project’s release, but it wasn’t all positive. Many anticipated a record that showcased growth and maturity in the 41-year-old rapper, comparable to the gems Jay-Z dropped on 4:44 as well as an explanation for his ongoing support of all things Trump. However, some felt unfulfilled in what he had to offer in the Ye album. Another critique had to do with his sparse raps throughout the 7-song EP, which featured more singing from Yeezy. Regardless of how his latest project was received, I think it’s safe to say that Kanye West has still maintained his genius status… for now.
Another long-awaited effort Kanye made possible was Kid Cudi’s reintroduction on the pair’s joint project, Kids See Ghosts, which released June 8th. After voluntarily checking himself into rehab back in 2016 for depression, and dropping his sixth studio album later that same year, the avant-garde artist’s return has been well-received by fans and musicians alike. On the album, we witness a Cudi who is more at peace and has a deeper understanding of himself –– an understanding that allows him to provide comfort to a struggling Ye in song’s like “Reborn.” Although the album houses a raw and abrupt feel, it perfectly sums up the aura often given off by both artists. Throughout KSG, Kanye seeks to further understand the full ramifications of being a “free thinker,” and his admitted struggles with bipolar disorder. On the other hand, Cudi seems to relish in the knowledge he’s obtained through facing his issues with mental health and addiction. Overall, there’s no denying the chemistry that flows between both creators, and the fact that they turned out a solid project.
With three album releases accomplished, most fans doubted the arrival of Kanye’s fourth production out of disbelief that he had truly been able to acquire the legend he claimed he had been working with. NASIR, the 12th studio album from Nas — and first effort from the rapper since 2012’s Life Is Good — hit streaming services on June 15. When it comes to this top tier lyricist, fans were already aware of the superb bars that would inevitably come with any project from the Queens-bridge artist. A decent sector of the public were also in support of this union, still this position seems to come from those individuals who were secretly craving the return of the old Kanye. Ultimately, NASIR proved to be immune to any and all Ye “MAGA” antics and was instantly met with praise from all sides.
The last EP presented among Kanye West’s 5-album releases is Teyana Taylor’s K.T.S.E., delivered on June 22. It was to be the talented 27-year-old artist’s awakening, and the public was just as ready to experience it as she was. After streaming her album release party live via Twitter, fans were primed for its arrival. Unfortunately, the version that dropped was missing key elements that drew much excitement, including samples from Sade and Lauryn Hill. Teyana publicly expressed her disappointment with the release of an unfinished version of her album in an interview on Big Boy’s Neighborhood. “When the album dropped, I didn’t even know that much stuff wasn’t cleared,” Taylor said. “I would have waited that [extra] week.”
Although K.T.S.E. may not have showcased the full extent of Taylor’s musical creativity, the project still proved why we adore the young talent so much. The raspy tone of her vocal chords –– the sexiness of her being, which translates through the tempo of her music –– paired with the edginess of her Harlem swagger. All of these elements contribute to her ongoing success, and a great album.
With all of the dope music that has arrived over the last month and a half, courtesy of the manic mind of Kanye West, who do you think had the best Kanye-produced album of 2018 so far?