Westworld: Quarantine with Kanye

The CT's Braden Hajer decided to turn a quarantine obsession into a sprawling evaluation of hip-hop star and cultural lightning rod Kanye West's catalogue. Here, Hajer explains his project.

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Braden Hajer, Copy Editor & Columnist

I had never really listened to Kanye West much before this. I kept up with his work from 2018 onward with the dropping of “Ye,” and I knew a couple of tracks here and there thanks to my dad, but I was largely unaware of his discography for most of my life.

Oh boy, did that change quickly.

Since the beginning of quarantine, and really since three weeks ago, I’ve listened to every single Kanye album multiple times. That’s 12 albums, many of them over an hour long. I thought it’d stop with the tier list I then created (we’ll come back to this in more detail later). What a fool I was, thinking I could keep my mouth shut about an obsession.

Realizing I was surrounded with no fully-knowledgeable Kanye fans and stuck with an endless number of observations and opinions, I decided it was time to take my voice to the void that is the internet. So…

Welcome to Westworld: Quarantine with Kanye, my chronological review series of every single Kanye West album. Reviews of two albums will be available for your reading pleasure every week, starting next week.

Many of these may slowly morph from review to analysis and back to review as certain albums and songs come up. I have a lot to say about a lot of albums, so expect some of these to be on the bulky side. To compensate, for the longer reviews I am going to include a “Too Long; Didn’t Read” mini-review of only a paragraph or two at the top. I hope you find them digestible and helpful.

Now, how about that tier list? What does that mean? Well, a tier list looks like this, and this list will be included on the side of every review:

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Graphic by Braden Hajer

A tier list is a way of organizing and categorizing a group of something. On the left are the “tiers.” All the albums of that row are that level of quality. The quality descends as you go down the list, with “S tier” being the top of the line and “D tier” being the weakest. Where does the “S” come from, you may ask, when the rest is alphabetical? I’m unsure, to be honest, but imagine it stands for “super.”

Tiers lists are often ordered. The leftmost album in the tier list is the strongest, the rightmost the weakest. I’ve tried again and again to order S and A tier, but my opinions shift around constantly and I don’t imagine them stabilizing any time soon. This list will be included to make my broadest opinions on his albums no secret. I don’t want my thoughts to be a surprise, as this is about the evolution of Kanye above all else.

Ultimately, this project is indeed about the journey of Kanye West through time, but this also has the potential to be uniquely communal and interactive. I highly encourage you to listen along with me in the coming weeks and then yell at me in the comments section for my wrong opinions. Maybe you’ll even want to create your own tier list by the end…who knows?

But that’s enough setup, isn’t it? Look for my first review of West’s debut, “The College Dropout,”  on Monday next week.

Happy listening!