Warning! There will be crude language and heavy themes in these songs and in this article. Go at your own risk.
I’m a huge Kanye fan, and there is no way that I can even understand his genius in his songs and in his sayings. His career is unbelievably fascinating, and it’s just a joy to listen to his stories through his music. I’ve tried to combine 10 mindsets with 10 Kanye songs from different eras of his career, and tying some Navalisms from Naval Ravikant in there as well.
Doing things that make sense:
Through the Wire, The College Dropout, 2004
Through the Wire tells the story of Kanye’s disastrous car crash where he had to get his jaw wired shut. Following the car crash, Kanye decided to rap instead of just produce beats. Looking at his music 17 years from his first album, it was a fantastic decision. Kanye gave hope and confidence to millions, and created a household name in the process. Doing things that make sense is simply the idea that value comes in action, and that you have do to things that make sense. Kanye follows the Navalism of enjoying whatever he does, as he’s able to pour his heart and soul into his music.
Touch the Sky, Late Registration, 2005
Touch the Sky tells the story of shooting for the stars, much like Kanye attempted to do with this album. He was able to compound off his massive success from his first album, The College Dropout. One outstanding Navalism here would be leverage. Kanye could leverage from his point of greatness into even more greatness, where he really started to come into his element.
Stronger, Graduation, 2007
“What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger”. Anti-Fragility is getting stronger in the face of danger. Creating a stronger person is necessary to create great things. It is the act of building yourself up, getting ready to defeat any challenge.
Pinocchio Story, 808s and Heartbreak, 2009
One of Kanye’s saddest songs, Pinocchio Story comes as a soul searching, deep reflection of Kanye’s glitz and glamour. It is nothing but sorrow, and it is understanding how Kanye’s fame and his hurt ties together. He took on his accountability and his leverage, creating a fantastic album through his pain. We can feel the autotune and the breaking of Kanye’s perspective. There was no other way for Kanye to express his pain other than song. Especially with Pinocchio Story, the album version was taped at a Singaporean concert, where we can hear the screams of being able to meet Kanye and being at a Kanye concert, while he is in unbelievable pain.
Runaway, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, 2010
This is my favorite Kanye song by far. Every part of it dives me into Kanye’s world of sorrow, regret, and understanding. This song directly comes off the back of Kanye’s 2009 VMAs incident, with Taylor Swift. He dubbed it an apology track for his alcohol abuse, his actions, and his faults. He returned to the big stage of the 2010 VMAs, performing this song with Pusha T, the featured artist. Following his redemption from failure, Kanye created his magnum opus, with this song being the cream of the crop. Pusha T’s verse is one of the greatest ever versed from him, which comes from his failures (or at least what Kanye considered failures) from his previous verses. Kanye scrapped verse after verse until Pusha T was able to produce something unbelievable. Everyone fails. Everyone. The only thing that we can do is iterate and move on.
Lift Off, Watch the Throne, 2011
Watch the Throne was created in tandem with Jay Z, both arguably at the top of their game at the time. Lift Off combined the aforementioned artists with Beyonce, creating a track that was studded with 3 stars. We are introduced to the track with an uplifting beat along with Beyonce’s chorus, featuring the lyrics “We gon’ take it to the moon, take it to the stars / How many people you know can take it this far?” Activation is starting something great, and pushing yourself to create greatness. This once again ties into leverage, but Kanye’s leverage grew exponentially from 2005. He is now at the throne of his field, and he now has a different challenge; protecting his field.
On Sight, Yeezus, 2013
Stoicism is the idea of controlling what you can control, and it is braving through the hardship. Every mindset has this idea as a backbone: We can’t control everything in the world, but we can control what we can. We can’t control bad things, but we can control our reactions. We can listen to harsh music and tolerate (or maybe even enjoy) it. The start of the album Yeezus is unbelievably harsh. It sounds like battery acid. The song starts to get mellower from the start, but it is still abrasive. We have to brave through the abrasiveness to get to the rest of the album, a la Stoicism.
Only One, Single, 2014
This is by far Kanye’s saddest song. It references his mother and his grandmother being in heaven, while his daughter is coming up in the world. He is the bridge between 4 generations, and he sees all with love. Produced with Paul McCartney, we have a melancholy, layered song that makes you want to cry. Kanye has nothing but appreciation for his family and those that helped him grow up, through all of his struggles and pains.
Done > Perfect:
The Entire Life Of Pablo Album, The Life of Pablo, 2016
The reason I chose this entire album as opposed to a singular song from the album is because of the story behind it. Kanye delayed and delayed this album until he determined that it was perfect. He then altered it post-release, improving upon each song until 2018, where he decided to work on other projects. Where the mindset of being “Done > Perfect” comes in is with his timing. He delayed the release time and time again, only to come out with an album that was, to his standards, not perfect. This was a great album, and this is still a great album, but it serves as a cautionary tale on what countless delays can do.
I thought about Killing You, Ye, 2018
By this point in his life, Kanye has been diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, and he displays that in his album in two ways: One, displaying his experiences with Bi-Polar disorder, and two, going in manic and depressive states withing his songs. We can even see it in the album cover, where he has two major feelings of being Bi-Polar. The specific song which I chose, I thought about Killing You, is a reflection on one of his darkest thoughts, both of premeditated murder and of suicide. Kanye has never shied away from using Christianity in his songs, and he doesn’t here; ‘Ye’ is often used in the Bible as “you”, meaning the album title could also be considered as ‘You’. The selected song could also be considered “I thought about Killing Ye”, showing a double meaning in his own titles. This entire song is an ode to mental health. Kanye needed help, and he found some of it in his music. He could share his story well, and he could normalize his own ideas and thoughts into song. Health is the most important thing we have.
Reborn, Kids See Ghosts, 2018
Kids See Ghosts is the duo of two artists: Kid Cudi, and Kanye West. At this time, both artists had a history spanning almost a decade, starting with Cudi’s album of The Man on the Moon and Kanye’s 808s and Heartbreak. Both had unique styles and songs, and had often worked together well. Following the album Yeezus, the relationship began to deteriorate. There was a seemingly final crack between the two following a series of tweets in 2016, but quickly grew back up. In 2018, both Cudi and Kanye combined their skills to create this album. The album is short but unbelievably heavy, creating an album full of creation, destruction, and mental health. The song Reborn is arguably the highlight of the album, with both artists talking about their struggles with addiction and mental health. Even at the height of fame and leverage, Kanye still struggled. Leverage, power, money, status, all of that means nothing when you yourself aren’t happy in that moment. Naval’s almanac talks about this exact thing, where the present is all you have. There are no future moments, there are no past moments, there is only now.
Listen to Kanye, read Naval’s almanac.