After my previous article defending Kanye West in spite of all his tactless nonsense, it's going to sound a lot like I've got a throbbing hard-on for the guy... well, hell, I guess I might. He's pretty bloody awesome in such a myriad of ways I couldn't even list them on all my digits (including toes). Kanye's musical prowess – ignore everything else for a minute – is unparalleled. As a rapper, he basically turned the genre of hip-hop on it's head almost single-handedly; his back catalogue is diamond encrusted, it's a golden lecture on how to dominate a genre. His style of pop-hop shunned the genre staples of violence, misogyny and lavish partying – there's still an element of that, I suppose, but it's never the focus. Where 50 Cent or Eminem have a large focus on gang culture and the 'traditional' aspects of hip-hop, Kanye has subverted that and commandeered the reigns, ushering in a new era and acting as forefather to pop as we know it today with his songs dealing with self-image, loss, loneliness and religion.

He's always had a diverse taste in music. Stating (perhaps unsurprisingly) Wu-Tang members Ghostface Killah, RZA and Ol' Dirty Bastard as some of his biggest influences, he also values Franz Ferdinand, Modest Mouse and Radiohead as acts that have made a mark on him. He's leant a helping hand to other musical acts and respected their endeavours, regardless of genre – he's collaborated with Lykke Li, Bon Iver and, recently, Daft Punk ('Stronger' was a sample). His new record, Yeezus, is due out imminently, after one of the strangest PR campaigns in history, and just before his daughter is due to be born.

Without further ado, here's our selection of Kanye West's best tracks.

'Jesus Walks' is a neo-gospel hit. Focusing on religious persecution in the media and how God flows through all mankind – from the depraved to the brave – it wasn't exactly what people were expecting from a rapper. If anything, it was an antithesis of the rap-game standard when it was released in 2004 – it's about love, not hate. It was considered too unmarketable and controversial by record execs, who actually turned him down on the basis of the original demo.

Kanye was sued by Evel Knievel for the video of 'Touch The Sky', due to the immense likenesses between 'Kanyevel' and Knievel (eventually it was settled out of court). Lupe Fiasco features on the Late Registration effort, and Just Blaze is the producer – the only track on the record not to be produced by Kanye. It's deliciously optimistic, funk-riddled (the main hook is a Curtis Mayfield sample) and summery. It's nothing like the Kanye of today, but still essential as a part of his journey.

'Homecoming' is one prime example of his collaborative chops – he's worked prominently with Estelle, Mr. Hudson, Katy Perry and La Roux. The song features Coldplay's crooner Chris Martin on piano and providing backing vox. Where a lot of rap is centred around NYC, LA or even Detroit, 'Homecoming' serves as a heartwarming paean for Kanye's home city – Chicago.

The lead single from controversial LP 808s & Heartbreaks, 'Love Lockdown' is a vital link between Kanye's modern style and his 'Golden Era'. It's a desolate electropop number with rampant tribal percussion and organic keys, as Kanye's autotune-laden voice dances over the top. The piano and personal introspection hark back to Graduation, while the futuristic aloofness nod towards things like My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Speaking of which...

One of the most ambitious rap albums of all time, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy essentially rewrote the rulebook for hip-hop. It's a concept record, with an accompanying short film and a parade of Kanye's pals lending their talents. Opener 'Dark Fantasy' isn't necessarily the best portion of the record – a then virtually unknown Nicki Minaj has a hideous faux English accent on the album version (who does she think she is, Madonna?). The album was ludicrously overworked, flamboyant, utter bananas and capable of cringe-inducing pomp. It's still Kanye's most pretentious release, yet potentially his best. 'Dark Fantasy' introduced us to this new, star-spangled world of Kanye – via orchestral flourishes and distorted choirs as well a Mike Oldfield ('Tubular Bells') sample.

Jay-Z and Kanye have been thick as thieves for years. Back when Kanye was still mostly a producer, he worked with Jay on the seminal Blueprint album. Eventually their partnership would lead to the Watch The Throne events – 'Niggas In Paris' becoming an insane chart force, despite it's title and content. The obscure comedic tripe that should've been buried, Blades Of Glory is sampled here. It' seemed like a baffling choice, but looking back now, it's become part of an iconic breakdown. It ended up soundtracking a campaign video for François Hollande (which has been subsequently scoured from the Internet). Cool.

The vigorously vitriolic 'New Slaves', dripping with ice-cold-killer synth riffs and sparse pulsing beats is a cut from Kanye's upcoming Yeezus. His SNL performance caused quite the stir, and given the tone of this and other track 'Black Skinheads', we're going to see a more militant Kanye come June 18th. Those who thought he'd soften up with a mini-Kanye due to be dropped off by the stork, think again.

Here's our Spotify playlist of the best offerings from Kanye's back catalogue.


Yeezus is out tomorrow (18th June) on Def Jam.