Producer deep focus: Kanye West

Story posted March 21, 2022 in Arts & Entertainment by Caelan Chevrier.

Rapper, Producer, Fashion Icon, Kanye West is considered to be one of the most influential and important people of the 21st century.

He was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1977, and moved to Chicago when he was three. This is where he grew up, and it would become a large part of his identity when he started to produce music.

Before he was a rapper with multiple platinum albums and singles, he strictly produced. He got major recognition when he produced five tracks off of JAY-Z’s smash hit record, “The Blueprint.” A few years later, he was signed to Roc-A-Fella Records, where he released his debut album, “The College Dropout.”

Since then, he has continued to produce for himself, and other artists as well. West has won 22 Grammys and has been nominated for 75. He has 107 Billboard Hot 100 entries and four number-one singles. West is tied with Eminem for the most No. 1 debuts in a row on the Billboard 200 with 10 of his studio albums.

Needless to say, West is one of the most accomplished musicians of all time. He is also one of the only black billionaires in the United States. He is unpredictable, some of his comments may be unwarranted, but it is apparent that he is one of the most dominant forces in the music industry.

Because West has so many incredible tracks he has credit for production, the list was limited to tracks that he solely produced.

Five Essential Kanye West Produced Songs:

“Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” - JAY-Z (2001)

Izzo was the track that allowed West to finally work with the top dogs.

The first single off of The Blueprint was Jay-Z's first top 10 single on Billboard. West also samples ​​"I Want You Back" by The Jackson 5.

This was the last track to be recorded on the album, with many demos being scrapped initially.

“Overnight Celebrity” - Twista (2004)

The track marks the third collaboration between West and Twista.

The song samples "Cause I Love You" By Lenny Williams, and features the same violinist that appears on “All Falls Down.”

It reached No. 6 on the charts and was nominated for Best Rap Solo Performance. West features the intro and chorus of the track.

“Gone” (ft. Consequence & Cam’ron) (2005)

Despite being a non-single, “Gone” features some of the best production on a West song to date.

Featuring an Otis Redding vocal sample, the track is also accompanied by live orchestration and a beat switch on the closing minute of the song.

“Gone” reached No. 18 on the charts, and is a fan favorite.

“Runaway” (ft. Pusha T) - Kanye West (2010)

One of West’s longest songs to date proves that doing so little can have so much impact. The song opens on just one note and then transitions into a gorgeous piano beat.

The last three minutes of the track is West singing using a vocoder, and listeners are unable to understand what he is saying.

It is a sorrowful yet beautiful song that helps define his legacy. The song has sold over three million copies alone.

“Otis” - JAY-Z & Kanye West (2011)

The song quite literally is a tribute to singer Otis Redding.

Chopping up his vocals makes for a high-quality yet simple beat. “Otis” was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rap Song and won a Grammy for Best Rap Performance.

The song reached No. 12 on the charts and has sold over two million copies.

Essential Kanye West Produced Album:

“The College Dropout” - Kanye West (2004)

“The College Dropout” proved doubters of West that they were indubitably wrong about him.

After being signed to Roc-A-Fella, Ye was still not given the opportunity that he had worked so hard for.They wanted him just to produce for other artists and did not give him the funding for his album.

Using his own money, and finding studio time independently, he wrote, recorded and produced arguably his greatest album to date.

Producing every single track aside from one interlude that he sampled, he combined so-called “chipmunk soul,” “conscious rap,” and pop into a 20-track package full of greatness.

He tackles religion on “Jesus Walks,” materialism in “All Falls Down,” and the concept of higher education on “School Spirit.”

His debut single, “Through the Wire” was recorded while his mouth was wired shut after enduring a near-fatal car crash. It also features notable artists such as JAY-Z, Twista, Ludacris, Common, Talib Kweli and more.

The album is soulful, heavily gospel-inspired, but infectious when combined with his programmed drums.

“The College Dropout” debuted No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and is certified four-time Platinum. Rolling Stone ranked it No. 74 on its list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

Needless to say, Ye’s debut record brought him to superstardom and changed the hip-hop landscape forever.

Caelan Chevrier is a second-year majoring in journalism. To contact him, email cjc6789@psu.edu.

About the Contributors

Caelan Chevrier's photo

Caelan Chevrier

Second Year / Journalism

Caelan Chevrier is a second-year student in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications at Penn State University studying broadcast journalism and marketing with the goal of graduating with a bachelor’s degree in four years. His plan is to get involved in numerous media-related clubs during his stay. His career goal is to spread informative, meaningful and entertaining content across various platforms and to be a positive impact on the community. He has also spent time working at The Westport Local Press in his hometown of Westport, CT. If you’d like to contact him, email him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).