What’s Kanye West’s Third Best Album? – “808s” Don’t Count

Kanye West makes G.O.O.D. Music. Actually, he makes pretty damn great music. Over the course of his career, the Chicagoan has continually released projects that pushed the culture forward both musically and lyrically. He’s a self-proclaimed genius and, while most gave him the side-eye when he initially talked about making the switch from producer to MC, it’s kinda hard to argue with him at this point in the game.

’Ye made his solo debut in 2004 with The College Dropout, which earned a perfect XXL rating from this here magazine right out the bat. Lightening struck again, when his sophomore effort, 2005’s Late Registration, got the same high praise. Not since A Tribe Called Quest (or Sam Cassell), had a rookie achieved consecutive crowning glory right out the gate.

While Kanye’s third disc, 2007’s Graduation, didn’t earn him a hat trick (oh, yours truly wrote the review by the way **shameless plug**) it was hands down the album of the year. More remarkable than what rating ’Ye did or didn’t receive, the true testament of the project’s impact was the fact it bested perennial hip-hop bully 50 Cent’s Curtis during their promotional showdown on 9/11.

Rightfully, so the word “classic” was usually thrown around whenever someone brought up the Louis Vuitton Don’s catalog.

And then there was… 808s & Heartbreak.

For the most part, traditional rap fans panned the AutoTune-filled disc because there was more singing than rapping, but, personally, I loved it. In fact, I even professed my love for the disc HERE before the album even dropped.

Now, I know I’m in the minority but 808s & Heartbreak might just be my favorite Kanye album. Yeah, it was emo-heavy and the man can’t really sing, but the music was insane and what he was saying was some of the realest stuff to me. It’s kind of like what Murs said in his emo vlog a few weeks ago, it’s like American society refuses to accept a Black man expressing anything other than anger.

Well, I do and I embrace different.

With that said, I for one wasn’t mad at ’Ye or his experimental project, which bared his soul for the entire world to critique. Still, I, like everyone else, was ready for Mr. West to get back to rapping and his original idea of a four-part album series (The College Dropout, Late Registration, Graduation then Good Ass Job).

Although according to @KanyeWest his upcoming album is getting a new name; whatever it’s going to be called, people are bringing up the C-word once more.

Following a self-imposed hiatus, the rap megastar made his triumphant return to his roots with the aptly titled “Power.” The song immediately erased any tarnish that had befallen the Kanye West brand after the Taylor Swift incident at the last year’s VMAs. Then, earlier this week he popped up at both the FaceBook and Twitter HQs to spit a capellas from the new album for the respective staffs (When do we get our show, ’Ye?). Even without a beat, people are anticipating yet another classic outing from Kanye.

Okay, so here’s where I swerve left…

When it comes to someone like ’Ye, with a near flawless catalog, there has to be a chink in the armor somewhere. Even if you feel that all his albums are certified classics, one of them has to be your favorite. As a result, that would mean one has to be the lesser of greatness by default. It’s simple mathematics.

You already know how I feel about 808s & Heartbreak and I’m sure y’all will have no qualms telling me how crazy I am for loving it, but besides that disc, which is your least favorite Kanye album? With three classics in the catalog and a possible fourth (or fifth in my case) on the way, it’s a tough decision to make.

If I had to place Kanye’s catalog in order, this is how I’d rank them from greatest to slightly-less-than-greatest:

  1. 1. Graduation
  2. 2. 808s & Heartbreak
  3. 3. The College Dropout
  4. 4. Late Registration

Graduation is excellence at its finest, I already told y’all how I feel about 808s & Heartbreak, and The College Dropout set everything off. While I love Late Registration just as much as the rest of the catalog, by default it’s Kanye’s less best, IMHO. And I use the term “less best” very lightly because it’s such a great album, too.

I know most would peg 808s & Heartbreak as being ’Ye’s “less best,” but if you take that album out of the equation; which album would you put in that bottom spot? Speak on it. —Anslem Samuel

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  • Malik

    Graduation first?! It was over produced for a good part of the album. All of his singles were weak despite the fact that they great music videos. Everything I Am, Big Brother, and Homecoming are the only ones that get any rotation.

    • Anonymous

      ummm Stronger, The Good Life, Can’t tell me nothing were all hits

      • Malik

        I didn’t say there weren’t hits off the album. I said they were “weak” aka bad or not up to par.

        • javonelbanga

          can’t tell me nothing is one of the best songs he’s ever made. imo

  • jozeppi

    I personally, along with many others, hold The College Dropout & Late Registration above Graduation because at that time Kanye was still the old raw Kanye. Graduation is Ye West in his prime, but theres a certain feel to CD & LR that I really don’t get from Graduation.

  • Harry

    Damn i think you got the wrong order.

    1)Late Registration – It pushed more boundaries than College dropout and IMO had better production, lyrics and incredible songs

    2)College Dropout – Incredibly dope and original, a tad overated but it bought kanye to the mainstream and shifted from the gangster scene

    3)Graduation – Sometimes the production was too experimental and lacking and has two weak songs (drunk n hot girl and barry bonds) Too commercial in plaes but had some classic joints.

    4)808′s – I don’t hate this album like most and I respect Kanye for doing it but to me the production was weak and like you said kanye cant sing too well. But it poured his heart on the line and i respect that

    • crease

      your buggin, drunk n hot girls was the shit!

  • M. Baby!

    I’m going with 1. Graduation 2. College Dropout 3. Late Registration. Graduation was a masterpiece. The production was crazy. He stepped up his stadium music by giving you an overall album. Graduation appealed to whites, blacks, chinese, everybody with “Stronger”. “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” had the hood. “Wonder” & “Flashing Lights” were amazing. One of his best singles ever, “Goodlife.” “Big Brother” was amazing as well. This was a great album. College Dropout was crazy too, it was the raw Kanye, but u can tell he gets better with time…so am I the only person that thinks The Blueprint is better than Reasonable Doubt??? Just because it’s your first album doesn’t mean u can’t get better and still keep it raw.

  • jozeppi

    ahh man so many people voting Late Registration… LOL i know everyone here realilzes it’s every bit as classic as the other two but i really thought it was universal law that LR was Ye’s most complete album. “Touch the Sky”, “Drive Slow” <—- (especially that one), “We Major”, “Crack Music”, “Diamonds”, it doesn’t get anyy better than that. But hey, we all have opinions and that’s what makes discussing this fun. Good lookin yall

  • A.K.

    I was just at my mom house yesterday and saw College Dropout in my sister room, had to take that back..but anyways, I’d put Graduation above them all, I can listen to that from start to finish without skippin a track, least favorite track would be drunken hot girls. I do agree though, College Dropout has a certain feel to it, had something to prove at the time. I need to go back and take in late registration.

  • DV8

    i think people are not understanding the question being asked or maybe im not getting the question asked.

    Anyway Graduation is the Kanye’s 3rd best album (excluding 808′s which i still havent heard the whole album)

    Drunk and Hot Girls really was just out of place.

    But all of Kanye’s rap albums are ill. Dude really loves the art you can tell in his music.

    Kanye is about to kill the game again with “Good Ass Job” or whatever the title is going to be.

    • Anslem

      Yeah, i’m not sure if they got the question either. lol

      Was a little different in approach

  • jonny bizness

    This is a hard 1 but im have 2 go with graduaton then lr and college dropout last simply by the fact that kanye got betta lyrically with each album big brother and can’t tell me nuthin r my favourite kanye joints plus good life is my favourite single that he released dude is in my top 5 doa off topic, the can’t tell me nuthin is my favourite mixtape of all time that set summer 2007 off right

  • hater

    College Dropout one, bc Ye had that fire, and it brings me back to my college days


  • phil

    1. late registration. best combo of beats and lyrics
    2. the college dropout. had soulful production while everybody else was getting crunk. the rhymes were good too
    3. graduation. although it had some of his best songs(flashing lights,homecoming, big brother) it also had him talking almost exclusively about himself except for big brother. it didnt have the socially conscious songs from his first two albums (crack music, spaceship, diamonds,heard em say)
    4. 808′s. some of his best beats and the first half of the album was on point. the second half wasnt that good. this had the potential to be a classic

  • ff1one@yahoo.com

    Late Registration has to be last. I put it last even behind 808. Late Registration had some bangers on it BUT it wasn’t as complete as the others.

    1. College Drop Out. The impact of that album alone. Kayne was an underdog. He shot his on video for the wire. We, the fans got it played. Jesus Walks was another banger that wasn’t suppose to get any play. It was demanded. All falls down. incredible. Two words. Space ship. the intro. the skits. Oh Ya, Hov had an incredible verse on it.

    2. Graduation. I mean, kayne himself was a lil dissapointed with late registration. He had the big head. I mean, he was loosing buzz AND then he droped can’t tell me nothing. This album shows complete kayne. He still isn’t the best lyrical rapper BUT he went in on this. It is a complete album.

    808′s is a great album too. some of you are like ugh, hes singing and ugh he’s using that t pain thing. But its actually good grown folk music. Again, great concepts good beats and lyrics.

    LR isn’t a dud its just not his best. the songs are like scattered al over the place.

  • ILLfate

    1. Late Registration
    (One of a handful of albums that I could bump from start to finish and not skip a single track, the “Stillmatic” of his catalogue, Classic)

    2. College Dropout
    (Straight fire, the “illmatic” of his catalogue, definite classic)

    3. 808′s & Heartbreak
    (Pinocchio Story could’ve been left out)

    4. Graduation
    (drunk n hot girls was the only flaw)

  • yoprince

    1. 808′s & Heartbreak – original, inventive, soul-baring, daring, classic, only knock on this could be that it isn’t for everybody. if you’ve never been in and out of love, you probably didn’t get it.

    2. Late Registration – perfected his flow on dope hip-hop records like We Major, Gone, Late. Big awesome records like Golddigger, Touch the Sky, Heard Em Say really showed off ability to make HIT records. Great and timely features: Lupe, Adam Levine, Cam’ron, Nas, Paul Wall, Jamie Foxx, Jay-Z. Great album.

    3. Graduation – i’ll be honest and say this album really grew on me. the only reason it’s number three is b/c the other two were so good. drunk n hot girls was kind of a let down minus a funny moment or two. good life got played out and homecoming was a rehash, but otherwise great records on here.

    4. College Dropout – still a very mediocre rapper at this point in his career. skits kinda annoying. still a dope album and a watershed moment in hip-hop.

    damn writing this makes me realize just how dope ‘ye is.

  • RR

    The author of this column chose Late Registration and The College Dropout as his two WEAKEST albums!?!?!? hahahaha, are you on drugs?

  • RR

    The author of this column chose Late Registration and The College Dropout as his two WEAKEST albums?!?!! Hahaha, are you on drugs?!

  • tonyblunt

    crack music
    the lupe joint
    heard em say
    the nas and jay joints

    Late Registration! i think its the best mix of graduation and college dropout. it had doses of the experimental sound graduation would have but still the hip hop roots feel. plus his rapping made the greatest strides in that album.

  • jozeppi

    okay okay my Late Registration guys are starting to show up… i’m not the only one lol.

  • http://j-mace.deviantart.com Shawty J

    1.) Late Registration
    This album was on point lyrically and production wise. You could hear the hunger in Kanye’s voice as he rapped. And the production was excellent, it sounded like the score of a movie. When I think of well executed albums both lyrically and production wise of think of this.

    2.) The College Dropout
    I think this album was an incredible debut. I connected with the lyrics, I dug the beats. I don’t have any complaints about the album at all, except the skits. This is ranked below Late Registration, because I liked the production a little more, other than that these albums are on par everywhere else.

    3.) Graduation
    I think this was well executed as well. But the other albums stand out, and this one seems standard by comparison. While I don’t have any complaints about this album, it just doesn’t resonate with me as much.

    4.) 808s & Heartbreak
    I don’t hate this album. But it was too hit or miss. I enjoyed “Welcome To Heartbreak”,
    “Street Lights” and “Heartless” but hated “Robocop”, “Love Lockdown” and “Saw You Will”.

  • Choc

    Late gets the nod from me no question from a music/lyrics standpoint alone. The sounds of the instruments and samples in that album are second to none. It seems to play out like a movie when deleting “Gold Digger” and the Broke phi broke snippets. Graduation is a close second even though I was dissapointed with Graduation because when I saw that there were only 13 tracks my first thought was “quality not quantity” but that was thrown out the window with the Mos Def assited track that shall remain nameless. Dropout is third becasuse to me it was just another nice hip hop album..nothing exceptional about it. 808 is the ish though! I must have played “say you will” 3 times before i got to anything else. It gets more play than any of my girls R&B albums!

  • Axeo

    We also gotta take into mind that Roc-A-Fella
    wanted him to do nothing but production (common knowledge but still very important).
    For me College Dropout proved for him ‘hey i can do more then production i can make classic complete songs and deliver a great album’

    Late Registration he had to prove that it wasn’t just a fluke he can expand and do better then before lyricly and production wise.

    Graduation he was comfortable with his skills and abilities

    3rd best for me is Graduation
    2nd best is College Dropout
    1st is Late Registration

  • Peso

    808 &…was for his moms that passed, thats why that album is what it is and I actually liked it and you can tell he got fan base cause that shit even went platinum. The joint with Rihanna plus the video was still killing the game BUT I love when Ye spit so dont get that twitted lmfao

    you can damn near say the first 3 joints was classics…period

    I guess LR would get the third spot but he had joints on there like crack music etc.

    Graduation is ill as hell and on the College Drop Out he really was a underdog in the rapping department, just ask Dame Dash who wanted him to make that first album with Beans & Cam all over it cause he didnt think Ye had it lyrically and Hov always wanted to keep him for the beats but he didnt know Ye was gone blow the way he did either along with Biggs to.

    just listen to the last song on College Drop Out and he explains everything on how he came in the game and all that…he did his first beat for Beans on The Truth album before doing “this cant be life” on Hov Dynasty album…he explains everything up until the release of his first album…CLASSIC lol

  • Peso

    We major and heard um say was killing LR as well…man I love Kanye, dude is a beast and damn near got my #2 spot behin Hov…Wayne had my #2 spot from tha Carter 1 until the release of tha Carter 3 which was a dope album concept wise but lyrically it made me think for the first time dude (gillie tha kid I think it was) actually was writing his rhymes

    hmmmmmmmmmm something to think about lmfao


  • kedordu


  • http://www.bboycult.com $yk

    I think y’all are voting #1.

    3. The College Dropout

    2. Graduation

    1. Late Registration

  • Brahsef

    4. 808s
    3. Graduation
    2. College Dropout
    1. LR

    Late Registration is up there with my favorite CD lists where I can’t differentiate which one is actually my favorite

  • http://www.emcdl.com EmCDL

    By default, “Graduation” IMO is Kanye’s third best album; to me it just felt like he was overdoing it with the production. But ‘Barry Bonds’ and ‘Flashing Lights’ was that ish.

    It’s obvious that ‘Late Registration’ wins the best out of the 3 (or 4 if you count that 808 mess) albums, so I won’t even get into that.

  • smitty

    i know longer listen to xxl opinion on music ,rap music is soft and hardcore hiphop is fading because the people behind xxl and these other sites are soft they do not want to hear that agressive hood stories from the hood u need a balance of both because they both exist.these dudes just dont have nothing in commmon with me and my taste. college dropout is no1,late registration,and those other 2.

    • Anslem

      The staff is a mix of different folks, man. We got people from NY, Cali, Baltimore, NC etc on staff. Just cause I like 808s or what you call “soft”, don’t mean the entire staff does. TRUST they dog me out for it, but everyone is free to have their own opinion, especially at a magazine. We can’t all have the same train of thought cause then you get only one side reflected. And a true music fan/listener has an ea for different sounds, not just one lane. True, not everything is for everyone but sometimes you can switch it up—or not.

  • Justin

    1. Late Registration
    2. College Dropout
    3. Graduation

  • Peso

    Drake is 808 & Heartbreak and Graduation put together BUT Thank Me Later isn’t as good as Graduation…I’m just saying his style is from them 2 Ye albums, 4real. 2 songs off his new album “thank me later” reminds me on Kanye a lot BUT its no secret he follows Ye and looks up to dude so it’s like paying homage not swagger jackin’ or is it?

    “find your love” sounds like 808 &…”show me a good time” sounds like graduation

  • Capt. Obvious

    kanye is like one of the best things to happen to hip hop in the last 10 years…all 4 of his albums are incredible! If his next one is his best he’ll prolly go down as one of the Greats of ALL TIME dead or alive! kanye=2pac ?????

  • Y.Doogie

    Man, For all my LR lovers you pretty much stated the obvious when you have to rate Ye’s work! Its the “Head Liner” for sure, and in my opinion, because of the bonus track “Late” that ish right there gets my soul workin for personal reasons alone but the mixture of live instruments and his production is timeless man, as for the rest, it goes like this

    2. Graduation
    3. 808′s
    4. CD

    Honestly! how the hell can you rate classics anyways, the word “classic” is enough already, the man just makes DOPE A** music, time after time after time! Period!!

  • dontworry

    best albums
    1. graduation- nuffin but hits
    2. college dropout- good but 2 many unecessary skits
    3. 808 heart break- auto tune but still gud
    4. late regristration- average

  • W. J. Rice

    Great albums but College Dropout and Graduation are ill and I still have them in constant rotation. I barely listen to Late reg or 808.

  • eesco

    U kno what all of Kanye’s albums have a different feel to them so its hard to say which is better than the others. College DropOut had a backpack rap feel. It resonated with a lot of people who were kinda tired with the whole gangsta music scene. Late Registration had a darker tone to it. Graduation had the stadium status feel. It had more mass appeal than the previous two. And 808s was just so emotionally charged. I think that the majority of people that didnt feel it either didnt give it a chance or havent been through a rough relationship. With that said I will try to seperate the three in terms of greatness.

    1. Late Registration : (I mean it had one of his coldest lines ever’ “take your diamonds and throw em up like ur bulimic, yeah the beat cold but the flow is aneamic”)

    2. College DropOut

    3. Graduation

  • jonny bizness

    u know what all of kanye’s albums r classic name me another rap artist who had there first 3 albums that was as dope as his i can’t think of no one who has been that prolific

    • epinz

      a tribe called quest
      little brother

  • Yeezy new Album

    should B called “REUNION”

    1 L.R.
    2 C.D.
    3 Grad.
    (808 & H’s was a step sideways:naming conv. only)
    4 Then comes the “REUNION”

  • lawrence

    in all honesty, i listen to these new cats “4th & Inchez” everyday. They are this rap group from brooklyn but they moved to TX, Their style is kinda fresh i must say, its real eclectic. u got to hear it for urself. i got it off their myspace page. its ummm…
    myspace.com/4thinches. They are great

  • javonelbanga

    i think each album was better than the last.

    college dropout – broke kanye, striving for success.

    late registration – kanye made it in the door, getting to know what the games like.

    graduation – kanye’s rich and successful, but now too arrogant. can improve a little.

    ? – he is a full fledged king.

  • YoUtopic

    Look at 808′s and Heartbreak. Even though I rank it last, lets be real: It gave The Dream, Drake, and Boi-1da the opportunity to blow up.

    I think his best album is College Dropout. Kanye spits flames all over the tracks and the production is brilliant. In my opinion its a hip hop classic.

    Next I think Graduation and Late Registration are a tie. Great production and great lyrics.

    808′s is last. I loved it, but it was very experimental. I thought that some of the experiments were successful (Paranoid, Street Lights, and Love Lockdown) and others weren’t.

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