Kanye West’s Greatest Non-Album Cuts

After Kanye West released the track list for his highly anticipated upcoming record Waves (previously titled Swish), some of his recent singles were missing. While the excellent “Real Friends,” “No More Parties in L.A.,” and “Wolves” made the cut, “All Day,” “Only One,” and “FACTS” didn’t appear (thankfully, that last atrocious single wasn’t added). But for many, including myself, “All Day” and “Only One” were great songs, built on by unconventional production (shout-out to Paul McCartney) and a deeper thematic and sonic exploration into modern hip-hop. While it’s unfortunate that the two songs will remain in the abyss of Kanye’s non-album singles, here are a few of my favorite Kanye West songs that didn’t make onto the track list of his records (or at least, didn’t appear on the standard album version).

“Late” (Late Registration)

OK, technically “Late” is a hidden track from West’s acclaimed sophomore album Late Registration. But that doesn’t go without saying that it’s a mesmerizing, criminally underrated song from mid-2000s Kanye.

“Bittersweet Poetry [feat. John Mayer]” (Graduation)

This Graduation outtake seemed like a match made in heaven. Like West’s “Heard ‘Em Say,” which featured Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine, “Bittersweet Poetry” is blessed with a lighthearted production, catchy lyrics, and a hook from a pop singer, this being John Mayer.

“Pinocchio Story” (808s & Heartbreak)

Though “Pinocchio Story” did appear in the bonus track version of 2008’s experimental 808s & Heartbreak, the only recorded version of the song that exists is from a live performance in Singapore. Though Kanye’s singing isn’t his strongest suit, his vocals on “Pinnochio Story”, coupled with a searing production, make the song a poignant, dramatic ballad that’s a masked standout from Kanye’s fourth record. Perhaps listening to the live version makes “Pinnochio Story” all the more fascinating — we hear fans scream with delight as Kanye belts his heart out. As listeners, we get a vivid sense of Kanye’s vulnerability and universality.

“See Me Now” (My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy)

As if My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy wasn’t already fantastic enough, West made the record’s bonus track “See Me Now” into an astounding star-studded anthem. With assists from Big Sean, Beyoncé, and Charlie Wilson, “See Me Now” represented a microcosm of MBDTF, in that every element of the music — the production, lyrics, and artists — work so well when pieced together. Also, I don’t think Kanye has had a more unexpectedly clever lyric than “If you fall on the concrete/That’s yo’ asphalt.”

“White Dress” (The Man with Iron Fists OST)

This song was written for the RZA-directed martial arts flick The Man with Iron Fists. And while the movie wasn’t a critical or commercial success, the soundtrack was fantastic, particularly West’s standout “White Dress.” Backed by a twinkling beat, “White Dress” sounds like retro hip-hop, but Kanye’s lyrics about romance and sex infuse the song with his signature unprecedented freshness.

“Awesome” (Yeezus)

This leaked outtake from 2013’s raucous Yeezus probably deserved to stay off the album, as it would have conflicted with the record’s dark themes. But honestly, “Awesome” is just as cheesy and romantic as Yeezus‘s closer “Bound 2,” except Kanye doesn’t want “fuck [Kim] hard in the sink.” Instead, he just tells her that she’s awesome and even though that’s a pretty simplistic way of expressing love, Kanye makes it sound so sweet and strange at the same time.

“All Day” (Swish/Waves)

It’s a shame that Kanye’s “All Day” didn’t make it onto Waves, considering its catchy trap influences and unconventional features — never would you think to see Theophilius London, Allan Kingdom, and Paul McCartney on the same song credit. Regardless, “All Day” is a multi-layered supersonic explosion of a song. It starts as a club banger, segues briefly into a McCartney-assisted whistle, and ends with a synth-heavy conclusion. It’s masterful, odd, and bubbling with originality and there’s no doubt that it breaks down hip-hop conventions.

“Only One” (Swish/Waves)

Since the beginning of his career, Kanye has done some crazy things, both in real life and, more recently, on social media. He’s notoriously interrupted Taylor Swift, a then soon-to-be pop superstar, in front of everyone at the VMAS. He’s called out George Bush for not caring about black people during a televised Hurricane Katrina event. Just today, he wrote a series of incredible yet hostile tweets towards Wiz Khalifa, simply because of a misunderstanding about how Wiz referred “kk” as weed and not Kanye’s wife Kim Kardashian. But at the heart of it all, Kanye is just like everyone else, even if his over-inflated ego and self-proclaimed “greatest rock star of all time” status beg to differ. “Only One” proves that, in that Kanye sheds all his narcissism to sing a beautiful, Auto-Tuned lullaby to his daughter North, from the perspective of his late mother Donda West. The music video for “Only One,” directed by “Her” filmmaker Spike Jonze, also showcases the truly heartwarming nature of Kanye’s role as a father.

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