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Five of the Best: Kanye West beats for other artists

Jimmy Coultas dissects some of the greatest productions Kanye West has played a part in for other artists.

Becca Frankland

Last updated: 19th Jan 2016

Despite what the haters may say, Kanye West has some serious talent. His ego may have caused complete consternation over the years but the plaudits come just as readily as the dismissals, making him one of the most captivating artists of the twenty first century.

But beyond his ability on the mic, what really sets West out is his acumen as an auteur. Whether it's curating the producers and artists on his own LPs or masterminding the output of others, West's talent is his ability to not only create wonderful music, but to harness the way others do too.

As the world readies itself for his seventh studio album Swish - even more excitably after the utter brilliance of the Kendrick Lamar assisted 'No More Parties in LA', above - we take a look back at the beats he's gifted others over the years. Here's five of his best productions for other artists.

Jay-Z 'The Takeover' (2001)

Kanye's breakout move as a producer was when him and Just Blaze helped push sampling back to the forefront of mainstream hip hop via Jay-Z's 2001 album The Blueprint. The record was the New York emcee's coronation as the king of rap, and done so via a sound of deeper moves that involved a flurry of sped up soul samples and gentler grooves.

It was a move away from the synth heavy sounds of the time and the space age drums popularised by the likes of The Neptunes, Timbaland (who also appeared on the album) and Swizz Beatz - Kanye ironically claimed the latter was the greatest producer hip hop had ever seen in 2010.

But for all the dusty soul of 'Never Change' and 'Heart of the City (Ain't no Love)', and the phenomenal reinterpretation of the Jackson 5 on 'Izzo (H.O.V.A.)' where he first showcased his deft pop touch, this record remains the first sign of West's true versatility.

Utilising the rampaging 'Five to One' from The Doors as the basis, West deftly weaves in David Bowie and KRS-One as aural backdrops for Jay-Z to accost Nas and Mobb Deep's Prodigy in one of the greatest diss records of all time. Jay-Z of course steals the show with quotable after quotable, but it's the grandiose backing Kanye gives him which allows this to elevate itself to greatness.

It's a debate that rages about whether this or Nas' retaliation 'Ether' won the battle between the pair, but no one talks about Ron Browz beat for the latter. A musical maestro was now with the world.

Dilated Peoples 'This Way' (2004)

Much like the 'Takeover', this track was all about a sample, the whistling riff of bluesy funk number 'Old Men' by Jimmie and Vella. But West's penchant for the grandiose saw him enlist a choir for the chorus, gifting the underground west coast trio their biggest ever hit in the process.

Kanye West feat. DJ Premier 'Everything I Am' (2007)

Including this is cheating, as the end result is quite clearly a track Kanye himself performed on. But as he states in the opening gambits ("Common passed on this beat, I made it to a jam")  it was a beat initially intended for Common, the Chi town rapper somehow spurning this laconic classic built on the mournful keys of Prince Phillip Mitchell's 'If We Can't Be Lovers'.

The rejection then powers West to detail all the things he isn't as a way of affirming the strengths of his personality and difference powering his career. Common turned down a lot of beats during the production of his 2005 LP Be (West contributed 9 out of the 11), with many being good enough to feature here, but this enabled the most West like of artistic gestures.

Who else could make something so majestic out of another rapper's cast off, getting a co sign from all time great DJ Premier in the form of his trademark scratches (cutting up Public Enemy's 'Bring the Noise') in the process? The hip hop equivalent of turning your leftovers of a roast into a gourmet meal.

Lil Wayne 'Let The Beat Build' (2008)

2008 saw a marked change in direction for Kanye, the auto-tune drenched album 808s and Heartbreak the first in a series of departures from his soul sample template. It saw him broaden his musical horizons like never before, particularly on the spellbinding My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

This track, released on Lil Wayne's world conquering The Carter III, was one of the final true great efforts of the old West. Yet at the same time it managed to showcase the dexterous development he was undergoing - a sneak glimpse at the artist he was becoming as the old one disappeared.

Although built on the yelp Eddie Kendricks showcases on 'Day by Day', it constantly develops and shifts, relentlessly adding and removing textures on a near four bar basis whilst Wayne cavorts in his own transfixing rambling manner. Simply sublime.

Pusha T 'Numbers on the Boards' (2013)

Kanye's work for other artists hasn't been as prolific this decade, the vast majority of his key efforts reserved for his own projects or appearances. This, alongside the mechanical groove that underpins Drake's 'Find your love', is one key exception.

Produced in tandem with ATL beatsmith Don Cannon, it's a million miles from anything else in hip hop, let alone Kanye, with Anthony King and John Matthews 'Pots 'N' Pans' the sampled backdrop alongside a number of Jay-Z career high points.

The clunking percussion enables Pusha T to ream off multiple reasons why he's better than everyone before asking "How could you relate when you ain't never been great?" One thing is for sure - he wasn't talking to Kanye.

Love Kanye? Check out the Dedicated to Kanye parties in Notting Hill Arts Club, the next taking lace on Monday 25th January with DJ Semtex at the helm.

Like this? Try Just Blaze Spotify playlist.