6 Deep Cuts from Kanye West

Kanye West is a man whose reputation precedes him. However, while his antics outside of the studio can surely be condemnable and ghastly, his discography is undoubtedly one of the greatest of any hip-hop artist in the 21st century. And naturally, when you have a catalog full of classic albums and all-time hits, there are some album cuts bound to be overlooked.

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Since you don’t need us to remind you of the chart-toppers, we at American Songwriter decided to instead refresh your memory of some B-sides. Below, we’ve listed six of our favorite West deep cuts, most of which contain some of the most impressive work from West’s career, and all of which deserve a revisit.

1. “Diamonds From Sierra Leone” (2005)

When Kanye released his sophomore album Late Registration in 2005, many fans gravitated toward the thirteenth song “Diamonds From Sierra Leone (Remix),” and for good reason. The song saw West include a verse from his mentor and close friend Jay-Z, where the rapper-turned-mogul crafts ferocious raps expelling rumors of the downfall of his record label Roc-A-Fella.

People lined up to see the Titanic sinkin’
Instead we rose up from the ash like a phoenix

However, the original version of “Diamonds From Sierra Leone,” which West included as a bonus track, may be even more impressive and enjoyable. Crafting bars about his rise to rap ubiquity and relationship with Jay-Z, West’s introspection and lyrical intensity are some of the best he’s displayed in his two-decade career.

What more could you ask for? The international asshole
Who complain about what he is owed?
And throw a tantrum like he is three years old
You gotta love it though: somebody still speaks from his soul
And wouldn’t change by the change or the game or the fame
When he came in the game, he made his own lane
Now all I need is y’all to pronounce my name
It’s Kanye, but some of my plaques, they still say “Kayne”

2. “Murder to Excellence” (2011)

Though West and Jay-Z’s 2011 collaborative album Watch The Throne boasted radio hits like “N****s in Paris,” “No Church in the Wild,” “Gotta Have It,” “Otis,” and “Who Got Stop Me,” one of the best written and most meaningful tracks on the LP came in the form of “Murder to Excellence.”

Reflecting on their journeys from street life to global acclaim, Jay and West juxtapose “murder” and “excellence” in a two-part masterpiece deserving of a listener’s undivided attention.

3. “Highlights” (2016)

For West’s 2016 album The Life of Pablo, only six of the 20 songs on the track list have less than 100 million Spotify streams. One of these is “Highlights,” which sees West’s ability to manipulate his vocals and turn the track into absolute gold.

On top of the auto-tuned mastery and majestic Young Thug background vocals, though, West’s raunchy lyrics with Ray J and Diddy namedrops make the song even more entertaining. No pun intended, “Highlights” is truly a highlight of TLOP.

21 Grammys, superstar family
We the new Jacksons, I’m all about that action
I’m about that Farrakhan, life is a marathon
I’ma shift the paradigm, I’ma turn up every time
I’ma bust a coach’s head open on some Diddy shit
If he ever talk to my son like an idiot

4. “I Thought About Killing You” (2018)

It’s rare for an album intro to end up being a deep cut. But, due to “I Thought About Killing You”‘s unorthodox, startling nature, it’s understandable why fans may have stayed away from this one.

However, as West speaks more so than he raps in the song about his intrusive thoughts, which include sentiments of suicide and homicide, he encapsulates the feeling of being mentally ill perfectly. Arriving around the same time he publicly announced he was bipolar, this song and the entire album that it lands on, ye, see West do a terrific job of opening up and depicting the inner workings of his thought processes.

5. “Everything We Need” (2019)

Ty Dolla $ign has always been loyal to West ever since the two collaborated for the first time on the latter’s TLOP song “Real Friends.” This became especially evident when Ty Dolly made an appearance on West’s 2019 Christian album JESUS IS KING, which came in the midst of West ditching secular music and professing his love for the widely polarizing Donald Trump.

On JIK‘s “Everything We Need,” though, Ty Dolla’s stunning We began after the storm inside intro and We have everything we need hook steal the show, completely outshining West regardless of how magnetic his presence can be.

[RELATED: Kanye West and Ty Dolla $ign Joint Album Imminent, Being Shopped Around]

6. “Jesus Lord” (2021)

While West’s most recent album, Donda, saw him touch on his faith, his spirituality, and his yearning for his deceased mother for most of the lengthy track list, no song does it better than “Jesus Lord” and its subsequent “pt. 2.” in the first rendition of the song, West’s anecdotal raps and feature guest Jay Electronica’s biblical allusions make for a captivating cut.

Then, for “Jesus Lord pt 2,” which is placed towards the end of Donda, West includes the same verses as the original version, while including contributions from iconic Yonkers rap group The LOX. With back-to-back-to-back potions from Sheek Louch, Jadakiss, and Styles P, the song showed just how much West appreciated the artists that paved the way for him to be successful, proving why he’s such an important figure in hip-hop.

(Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Coachella)

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