A Happy Beginning: Top 10 Kanye West Intro Tracks
"Do you think Kanye West is a G.O.A.T?"
I hear that question too much. Whoever said there is no such thing as stupid questions was a cold-blooded liar. This is a stupid question. I do believe Kanye is a Top 50 rapper, if we want to bring the Top 50 argument back. Even with the speculations of him using ghostwriters, he has come up with too many bars on his own to discredit his immense collection of quotable lyrics.
I do not think he is a G.O.A.T. rapper (MC, lyricist), but Kanye West is a G.O.A.T artist. You could easily find fans with "classic album" arguments for each of his eight solo albums. He comes back every time with something new and refreshing. His sound is reinvented with each album, as they represent a different time in the life of Mr. Kanye Omari West. Each album shows the growth of a man and his musical abilities in the pursuit of musical perfection.
Track 1 does a lot for an album. It sets the tone and shows where an artist is coming from. Kanye's first tracks have some of his best songs and do an incredible job of introducing you to THAT Kanye West. Two of Burbs' many Yeezy Disciples, Howard Butler & Carter Ferryman, came together to present to you, our list of...
Kanye West's Top 10 Introduction Tracks.
1. Ultralight Beam
CARTER: 2016’s The Life of Pablo is, in my humble opinion, Kanye’s most underrated musical composition. In summary, Ye projects faith, product and art through three different characters, or “Pablos” if you will (hence the album cover’s “Which/One” artwork). Due to this conceptual triad, TLOP feels more like a playlist – a beautiful culmination of the different soundscapes and themes Kanye mastered over the past decade and a half.
Okay, I don’t know why I’m rambling on about TLOP; allow me to cut right to the chase: “Ultralight Beam” (barring “New Slaves,” “Runaway,” and “Jesus Walks” respectively) is Kanye West’s greatest creation to date. On this earth-shattering introduction, Kanye is submitting himself to his faith – a higher power that has been sprinkled across each and every album in Kanye’s extensive discography.
Kanye is the modern Paul the Apostle here – a man who, through trials and tribulations in the public eye, has held his relationship with God firmly above all other facets of his life.
“Ultralight Beam” is Kanye’s penultimate expression of his faith. The records existence is nearly surreal in nature; a 30-person choir roars throughout the track, accompanied by angelic vocals from The-Dream and Kelly Price – two artists whose melodies strike heavily in the realm of gospel music, effectively fitting into the songs sonic range perfectly.
On “Ultralight Beam,” Kanye is using elements from every project he has culminated to that point. The choirs, the pitched vocals, the sweeping beat, the flawless bars – it’s all here, but it’s presented in such a fashion that makes you wonder how one man could create artwork like this. That’s what “Ultralight Beam” is: artwork in audible format.
Then there’s Chance the Rapper.
This is Chance’s greatest verse to date.
This is the best rap verse of 2016.
I rest my case.
Incredible Video from an Incredible YouTube Channel with tons of Kanye videos
1.5 No Church In the Wild - *Bonus*
HOWIE: Jay-Z and Kanye West together are all kinds of iconic. Take the Throne and add the cryptic king of R&B, Frank Ocean, combining these three superpowers might just make the most talented trio on a track of the 21st century.
Religion is a common theme across the lyrics with Hova referencing ancient Rome, philosophers, and the Holy Ghost. Following a Frank Ocean hook so monumental and memorable that I can guarantee you've heard it in some movie trailer or commercial. Yeezus speaks on being Jesus-like as he declares that he's formed a new religion, one that sounds entirely based around sex, partying, and living life to the fullest.
The song's intensity feels like the beginning of a revolt, with some of the drum patterns sounding like crowds marching. The guitar section of the beat doesn't make you wanna run through a wall any less. Watch The Throne was the collaborative album that executed confidence and glamour perfectly, with No Church being it's larger-than-life opening ballad.
This video will make you want to destroy any form of establishment
2. Dark Fantasy
HOWIE: MBDTF was an album that definitely conveyed a mood. Kanye's exceptional production pushed the feelings of glamour and luxury to monumental heights. Tracks like Gorgeous, So Appalled, and Devil in a New Dress ooze class.
Is that from a TV show? Ooze class? Let me know if you heard someone say "I ooze class" in a show.
However, they begin to fade in comparison to the intro track. Dark Fantasy set the course from the get-go.
Nicki Minaj delivers her gangster take on Roald Dahl's Cinderella poem as Ye once again astonishes with his use of the Human Voice. Choirs are beautifully weaved in between vocals from Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) and Teyana Taylor (G.O.O.D, Fade Video, Married to Iman Shumpert).
Kanye hits listeners lyrically with materialism, insight, motivation, and even a few jokes. His pen is sharp, and his delivery is mean. He commands attention, and as long as you have the ability to hear, he has it. His wordplay is on point; puns, references, and homophones scattered throughout both verses.
3. I Thought About Killing You
CARTER: “I Thought About Killing You” could be about two things:
1.) Kanye’s wildly vulnerable battle with himself, finding unhinged duality between “personal life” Kanye and “musician” Kanye.
2.) Kanye speaking directly to his Big Brother, Jay-Z. (I know, this is a conspiracy, but the D.O.A. line and the one about the “wave cap” are both too much too ignore).
For the sake of logic vs. speculation, we’re going to dive into how the first of the two points above makes ITAKY one of Kanye’s greatest works to date, and easily on the top half of his intros.
I’ve done a lot of research on this song. Honestly, that 1st bullet point above is way too basic, so allow me to explain my interpretation of this mentally powerful masterpiece.
In one of my college courses last year, we dissected the work of the late Carl Jung, one of the most influential psychologists in modern history. Jung’s works all referenced the idea of the “shadow self” – or the subconscious version of oneself that can only exist alongside the surface, or “light self.” On ITAKY, Kanye is vulnerable to his shadow. The duality that exists is macabre in nature, but Kanye takes his interpersonal struggle and paints it onto a musical canvas – essentially laying his ever-evolving brain onto the table for our ears to dissect.
Was that too much? I don’t think so. Wake up and smell the psychology professor.
Honestly, that may be an understatement – words don’t do this song enough justice. Go give it another listen, it’s a beautiful record.
I have no words. Beautiful.
Kerwin Frost has a very entertaining vlog of the Wyoming Listening Party linked here
4. Good Morning
CARTER: WAKE UP MR. WEST
Wait… was that the last album?
Ah, okay. He’s graduating now – and damn does it sound amazing.
The 3rd edition in what I consider Kanye’s intro-trilogy is a wonderful way to close off the “college series.” “Good Morning,” Graduation’s opening record, is a gateway into a project that sees Kanye murdering stadium-rocking anthems. As far as intensity goes, “Good Morning” is slightly slower than a lot of the album’s songs – regardless, it’s EASILY top 3 on the project.
I don’t know what it is about the first 6 seconds on “Good Morning”, but I absolutely adore the way Kanye starts it with a simple set of “UH’s” and a booming, yet simple beat.
It’s almost as if… it’s his alarm clock?
Wait a second... Kanye’s waking himself up?
And now he wants to kill himself on ITAKY?
Woah, woah woah, I’m just now realizing this.
Probably a stretch though (lol).
Okay… back to the topic at hand: THE BARS.
In my opinion, “Good Mornings” lyrics are “Old Kanye” in his purest form. It’s comedic, yet centralized to a specific topic.
Like, seriously – the Rosie Perez bar?
Who else but Yeezy.
You're right Angela, Jazz is stupid!
5. On Sight
CARTER: If Howie and I formed this list purely based on importance to Kanye’s career, I would more than likely have “On Sight” at 1 or 2 on this ranking.
“On Sight” is a musical gateway, a turning of a page in the sonic Orpheus of rap’s most complex brain space – it’s the acid-soaked, visceral introduction of what the public eye now considers the “New Kanye.”
He knows you listen to other artists. He doesn’t care. Rap is the new Rock N’ Roll, and he is the biggest rock star of them all. His unapologetic tendencies are so outwardly intentional that, despite illustrating “How much do I not give a fuck? Let me show you right now before you give it up,” he also feels the need to include one of the most bizarre instrumental pivots in Kanye’s discography – a sample from the Holy Name of Mary Choral Family, where they say:
Kanye has fully metamorphosed into Yeezus, a true-to-life character that, in an industry that was at the time fairly radio washed and chart reliant, conjured one of the most unorthodox musical introductions. Some two years after his maximalist masterpiece in My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye made the boldest choice of his career, going bare bones minimum.
“On Sight” is ugly and beautiful simultaneously. It’s an exhibition in musical diversity, in simplicity – if you don’t love it (which I’m sure more than a few of you don’t), at least appreciate it for what it is.
The wildest musical statement from the mad genius of modern music.
6. Heard 'Em Say
HOWIE: Kanye's second crack at an opening track came with the Adam Levine assisted track, "Heard Em' Say." Serving as one of West's more introspective cuts on Late Registration, West delivers some memorable bars in the first verse about some of the broken aspects of life in Chicago, religion, and government. Levine supports West on the chorus as he takes a lullaby approach as he sings in a soothing and high pitched tone. West begins to give us a taste of his god-given gift of experimentation as he layers drums and vocals with a symphony rather than the soul samples that he used so well on The College Dropout.
This video shows Ye masterminding many tracks on Late Registration
Skip to 1:54 to see Heard 'Em Say
7. We Don't Care
HOWIE: There isn't a bad song on this list.
Even though We Don't Care isn't the bottom song, it has definitely aged the worst. West really did not care, chopping up the soul samples back in 2004. While The College Dropout sounds perfectly soulful now, back in the day it was an oddity. It had youthful, uplifting tones that were set off when Kanye was requested to sing a song for the kids by the album's narrator. Instead he gathered the kids, a chorus of them, to help him sing about the struggles they face growing up in the Chi. Struggles such as no expectation of college, impoverished friends and family, and drug-dealing criminal role models.
Having the choir of children singing the "drug dealin' just to get by" part adds a little weight and humor to the song.
West has truly been a genius from the start.
Peep the vintage Don C, lookin all cute and spinnin in the back
7.5 Feel The Love - *Bonus*
HOWIE: Feel The Love is an experience to say the least. Not many songs on West & Cudi's collaborative masterpiece Kids See Ghosts deliver the experimental feeling of the album better than Feel The Love.
The duo both bring an extraordinary energy; some for better, but not all. Kid Cudi kills his part, his feeling of the love was contagious. Kanye gets unique with it and raps a whole verse in just ad-libs.
Even thought Kids See Ghosts is Kanye and Cudi's supergroup, Pusha T steals the show with his opening featured verse.
"We not worried 'bout no other niggas, we them other n****s
His bars set the dark and passionate themes felt throughout the remainder of the track.
It's a wild ride.
Pusha T at Wooly's in Des Moines, Iowa
8. Say You Will
CARTER: By this point, any rap aficionado with functioning ears is well aware of the musical versatility that Kanye West possesses.
In 2008, this wasn’t necessarily the case.
Despite coming off of a landmark, three-album trilogy, Kanye’s sound hadn’t wavered “too” far from 3 or 4 different lanes (Graduation was a sonic pivot from Late Registration and The College Dropout, but all three held relatively similar rhyme schemes and lyrical patterns).
Enter 808s & Heartbreak.
808s introductory track “Say You Will” makes it very clear that this time around, Kanye was focused on melody, booming 808 drums and layered synths/vocals. While “Say You Will” is fairly simple in its message, the tracks triumph comes in Kanye’s incredible ability to allow for the beat and the cadence to mesh like PB&J… or 808s & Heartbreak (that was horrible, I’m sorry).
Seriously though: for one, you’ve got the speaker knocking 808 drums, kicking at a hypnotic, uniform pace. On the other hand, you’ve got Kanye’s stripped down, pleading voice – sleepless at night contemplating a relationship at odds.
This record lands lower on our list, but that does not mean it’s lower quality. Kanye is a master of introducing an album, and like “On Sight,” and “Good Morning,” “Say You Will” accomplishes just that – the song fits the album so naturally it seems effortless.
Then again, Kanye makes a lot of the things he does look effortless.