Kanye has the incredible knack of coaxing out the best performances from his collaborators. He’s been doing it since The College Dropout days, all the way to Donda.

A big part of that is because most rappers who appear on his albums know that this is their one opportunity to truly shine in front of a huge audience, so they give it all they’ve got. The result is a lot of rappers deliver their best performances on Kanye songs.

So let’s get into it, we rank the top 20 best guest verses on a Kanye West album.

20. King Louie on “Send It Up”

Released: June 18, 2013

Album: Yeezus

Best line: “Tattoos, how they break the news / It was real if you made the news”

On the tightly focused Yeezus, King Louie was the only rapper who was given space for a guest verse on the album (Justin Vernon, Frank Ocean, Assassin, Kid Cudi and Charlie Wilson all contributed vocals). It couldn’t have been a better choice; the Chicago rapper’s cold, monotone flow fit perfectly over the nightmarish production.

19. Paul Wall on “Drive Slow”

Released: August 30, 2005

Album: Late Registration

Best line: “It’s a star-studded event when I valet park / Open up my mouth and sunlight illuminates the dark”

“Drive Slow” low-key might be the best song off Late Registration, with the way Kanye sampled Hank Crawford’s “Wildflower” for the woozy beat, and especially for the way Paul Wall kicks his way into the verse.

18. GLC on “Spaceship”

Released: February 10, 2004

Album: The College Dropout

Best line: “Thirsty on the grind, Chi state of mind / Lost my mama, lost my mind”

Over an immaculate loop of Marvin Gaye’s “Distant Lover”, Kanye, GLC and Consequence all lament the working, blue collar life. Ye and Cons both deliver solid verses, but GLC is the shining star on this track.

17. Cam’ron on “Gone”

Released: August 30, 2005

Album: Late Registration

Best line: “Yes I know you wanna see my demise / Yeah you church boy, acting like a thief in disguise”

On “Last Call” Kanye remembers Damon Dash signing him as a rapper, with the back-up plan of having Cam’ron come on every track to save it if necessary. Sadly, that never panned out, but “Gone” is a reminder of what we could have had if Cam’ron rapped over an album entirely produced by Kanye.

16. Mos Def on “Two Words”

Released: February 10, 2004

Album: The College Dropout

Best line: “Two words: B-K, N-Y, Bed-Stuy / Too harsh, too hungry, too many, that’s why”

Mos Def has never sounded as hungry as he did on “Two Words,” his flow on here is incredible, jumping around seemingly random topics while keeping a cohesive theme running through his verse.

15. Lupe Fiasco on “Touch the Sky”

Released: August 30, 2005

Album: Late Registration

Best line: “Yes, yes, yes, guess who’s on third? / Lupe steal like Lupin the 3rd”

“Touch the Sky” is one of those moments where a rapper recognises that this is his moment to shine so they grab it with both hands and run with it. Lupe’s verse grabs your attention instantly, and by the time you finish listening to the album, you’re still left remembering his bars.

14. Jay-Z on “Diamonds From Sierra Leone (Remix)”

Released: August 30, 2005

Album: Late Registration

Best line: “I’m not a businessman; I’m a business, man! / Let me handle my business, damn”

I mean, one of the most iconic verses of Jay-Z’s career, and one of the most quoted lines in hip hop history. Nothing more you can say about it.

13. Raekwon on “Gorgeous”

Released: November 22, 2010

Album: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Best line: “I done copped Timbs, lived in lenses, kid / Armani suits, fresh fruits, Bally boots, and Benzes”

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was Kanye living his hip hop golden age fantasy, running a rap camp where ’90s icons like RZA, Raekwon and Pete Rock all showed up to contribute to his masterpiece. The way this song breaks down for Chef to make his entrance is incredible.

12. Jay-Z on “Never Let Me Down”

Released: February 10, 2004

Album: The College Dropout

Best line: “Hov’s a living legend and I’ll tell you why / Everybody wanna be Hov and Hov’s still alive”

The greatest thing about this song, aside from Hov and Kanye spitting their hearts out, is towards the end, just as you feel like it’s wrapping up, after J. Ivy finishes his sermon, Hov comes back on for an encore.

11. Jay Electronica on “Jesus Lord”

Released: August 29, 2021

Album: Donda

Best line: “It’s Jay Elec-entendre-nica comin’ through your monitor / Back from the great beyond like the Son of Man or the Son of Donda?”

Jay Electronica is one of those artists who you never know when he’s going to pop up or what he’s going to do, but when he drops a verse, it’s a goddamn moment.

10. Young Jeezy on “Amazing”

Released: November 24, 2008

Album: 808s & Heartbreak

Best line: “Standing at my podium, I’m trying to watch my sodium / Die high blood pressure, either let the Feds catch ya”

Between “Put On” and “Amazing”, all we wanted in 2008 was a full-length Young Jeezy and Kanye collaboration project. The bulk of this track is basically Kanye hyping the listener and getting us ready for Jeezy’s verse, and the Snowman sure delivered.

9. Kendrick Lamar on “No More Parties in LA”

Released: January 18, 2016

Album: The Life of Pablo

Best line: “You’re dealing with malpractice, don’t kill a good nigga’s confidence / Just ’cause he a nerd and you don’t know what a condom is”

Hip hop heads couldn’t get more nerded out than on this highlight off The Life of Pablo. Kanye with Kendrick over a Madlib beat? Forget about it. Kendrick rips through his verse over a choppy sample and we’re left wondering why he hasn’t rapped over more of Madlib’s productions.

8. Pusha T on “Runaway”

Released: October 4, 2010

Album: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Best line: “Split and go where? Back to wearing knockoffs, haha / Knock it off, Neiman’s, shop it off”

During the making of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Complex Editor-in-Chief, Noah Callahan-Bever, was invited out to Hawaii to watch a masterpiece being made. While there, Noah was able to interview several of Kanye’s collaborators, including Pusha T on the making of “Runaway.” I’m going to let Push take it from here:

Pusha T: He’s the most meticulous individual ever. I’ve never penned so many verses for one particular record. ‘So Appalled’? That’s a one-take verse. He was like, ‘Go, please. I love this. Thank you, goodbye.’ But I wrote ‘Runaway’ four times—and what he does not know to this day is that I was going through a relationship scandal in my life. So this man is asking me to write a song about a relationship and to say that I’m the biggest douchebag ever. He’s telling me, ‘Yo, you need to be more douchebag. We need more douchebag!’ I didn’t want to say to him, ‘Dog, I don’t know if I even have douchebag in me right now.’ I’ve been jammed up, and it’s hard for me to even tap into that part, because I’m remorseful. [Laughs.] And he’s fucking beating me for fucking more. All I hear in my head is, ‘More douchebag. More douchebag. More douchebag!’ Finally, after a couple of days, I said, ‘I’m going to go upstairs and get in total solitude and just do what I need to do.’ And: ‘24/7/365, pussy stays on my mind.’ It starts from there.

Project Runaway | Complex

7. Fivio Foreign on “Off the Grid”

Released: August 29, 2021

Album: Donda

Best line: “If you got a voice, then you gotta project it / If you got a wrong, then you gotta correct it / If you got a name, then you gotta protect it”

Fivio Foreign blacking out on “Off the Grid” is not only the best guest verse on Donda, it was the best guest verse of 2021.

6. Chance the Rapper on “Ultralight Beam”

Released: February 14, 2016

Album: The Life of Pablo

Best line: “I made “Sunday Candy,” I’m never going to hell / I met Kanye West, I’m never going to fail”

2016 was the peak year for Chance the Rapper. While readying his third mixtape, Coloring Book, which would cement him as one of the leading independent rappers in the music industry, the young Chicago rapper was tapped by Kanye to open up The Life of Pablo. “Ultralight Beam” is another example of a rapper on a Kanye song recognising that this is their moment; Chance delivers quite possibly the best verse of the year with his gospel-laden bars.

5. J. Cole on “Looking for Trouble”

Released: November 5, 2010

Album: N/A

Best line: “What you been praying for? What you been screaming ’bout? / Ironic, you been sleeping on the one that you been dreaming ’bout”

For any rap fan who wasn’t checking for J. Cole around 2010-2011, they definitely were after listening to his verse on “Looking for Trouble.” As a producer and conductor, Kanye has this great way of rolling out the red carpet for collaborators, and the way the beat switches to let the listener know Cole was coming is an example of that.

4. Pusha T on “So Appalled”

Released: November 22, 2010

Album: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Best line: “I speak the gospel, hostile / Tony doing time for what he did to nostrils”

“So Appalled”, the hardest track off My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, finds Pusha T battling for the best verse against his drug dealer-turned-rapper idol. It’s a coin-flip between the two and my opinion changes every day.

3. Jay-Z on “So Appalled”

Released: November 22, 2010

Album: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Best line: “And Hammer went broke so you know I’m more focused / I lost thirty mil’, so I spent another thirty / ‘Cause unlike Hammer, thirty million can’t hurt me”

The late-00s was a strange time for Jay-Z. Now in his post-retirement phase, having released Kingdom Come, American Gangster and The Blueprint 3, it felt like Hov was caught in a world that was moving very quickly past him. On “So Appalled” he took a moment to remind everyone who he was, delivering some of the most memorable lines of his career. Those MC Hammer shots were brutal.

2. Rick Ross on “Devil in a New Dress”

Released: November 22, 2010

Album: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Best line: “Cherry-red chariot, excess is just my character / All-black tux, nigga’s shoes lavender”

Talk about rolling out the red carpet. After Kanye is done with his part, the beat breaks down and Mike Dean comes through with a gorgeous guitar solo, before the Teflon Don enters with the verse of his life. This would have been the best verse off My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy if it wasn’t for…

1. Nicki Minaj on “Monster”

Released: October 23, 2010

Album: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Best line: “So let me get this straight, wait, I’m the rookie? / But my features and my shows ten times your pay? / 50K for a verse, no album out / Yeah, my money’s so tall that my Barbies got to climb it”

Nicki Minaj on “Monster” is like Nas on “Live at the Barbeque” and Busta Rhymes on “Scenario” – it’s a moment so thoroughly engrained in hip hop culture, launching a decade-plus long career with one of the greatest and most important guest verses in hip hop history.

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