Seven years ago this month, we were all giddy with the hype and secrecy behind Kanye West’s upcoming fifth studio album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Many consider that album to be Kanye’s magnum opus (not me … that honor belongs to Graduation) and the last vestige of the “Old Kanye” before he completely succumbed to whatever peyote he was smoking to create a clothing line for which he asks hundreds of dollars of people to dress like the nigga I periodically give change to on the off-ramp of Diversey and California avenues.
Kanye gave us what was probably the best promotional lead-up to an album in hip-hop history: the GOOD Fridays series. Almost every Friday from late August until MBDTF’s Nov. 22 release, Yeezy dropped 14 free tracks—each loaded with a stellar mix of guest artists and producers—on his website. Four of the tracks ended up on the final version of MBDTF in some remixed fashion; the 15th track, “Christmas in Harlem,” came out Dec. 17.
When taken in concert with MBDTF, Kanye’s GOOD Fridays output arguably marked the apex of his skills as an artist before his music became more experimental and divisive. It was also, presumably, the last time we’d see him working with artists he looked up to at the dawn of his career (Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Common, etc.).
Even the cover art of each track is dope: gigantic bold red Impact typeface on top of either a blacked-out cover or a filtered photograph. If taken as a full-length album, GOOD Fridays is not quite as good as MBDTF, but it’s definitely stronger than Yeezus or The Life of Pablo (Editor’s note: This is categorically false. Continue, though. —D.Y.) or most hip-hop albums from anyone this decade.
In honor of the seventh anniversary of GOOD Fridays, I rank them all in reverse order (not counting the three tracks he dropped in advance of TLOP in 2016). Yeezy fanatics: Stay out of my direct messages, yes?
15. “Chain Heavy”
This track was so unmemorable that I had to go back and listen to it just to write about it. One of the only GOOD Fridays total misfires, not even Q-Tip on the boards or a Talib Kweli verse can help this abomination.
14. “Don’t Look Down”
Despite an always reliable Lupe Fiasco verse, this downtempo song is generally uninteresting. I’m sure everyone involved in the creation of this track was on Xannies at the time.
13. “Lord Lord Lord”
Brian Bennett’s “Solstice” is an entirely overused sample in hip-hop, which automatically undercuts the impact of this track. Uncle Charlie Wilson is always welcome, but “Lord Lord Lord” won’t go down as a shining moment for Ye, Mos Def or Raekwon.
12. “Looking for Trouble”
Nothing’s actually wrong with “Looking for Trouble” outside of, maybe, the presence of Big Sean—it actually sounds like it came from the cutting room floor of The College Dropout era. But at No. 12, it’s the song that I like least of all the GOOD Fridays songs that I like.
11. “Take One for the Team”
Noteworthy for having what might be the funniest, shit-talkingest Kanye verse ever, which is saying a whole hell of a lot. The beatboxing bass line is also pretty dope. I’d love to get my hands on a remastered version.
10. “Good Friday”
Feel-GOOD hip-hop for your soul. Pusha T bodies Common while Big Sean brings up the rear, as Big Sean is wont to do.
9. “Runaway Love (Remix)”
A track that features a Raekwon verse and a pre-voice-break Justin Bieber singing the hook over a sample of “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing ta Fuck Wit” had no reason to work, then or ever. That it does is all the proof anyone needs of Kanye’s genius musical ear.
8. “Don’t Stop!”
Among the biggest disappointments of early-21st-century hip-hop (Jay Electronica with no goddamn album is the biggest, so we’re clear) is that Child Rebel Soldier only released two official songs: “Us Placers” and “Don’t Stop!” At the beginning of the decade, Kanye, Lupe and Pharrell Williams were all razor-sharp and a perfect fit for a hip-hop supergroup. An album from them could’ve been an easy classic. Alas …
I am so averse to Nicki Minaj’s star-making verse on “Monster” that I always turn the song off before it comes on. Otherwise, it’s a great song—from the beat to the hook to everyone else’s verse. Virtually no one agrees with me on this, and that’s quite OK. The line to fight me starts in the back, around the corner. Please don’t block sidewalk traffic.
Editor’s note: You’re right. No one agrees with you here. —D.Y.
Seconded. I almost took out the word “virtually” for accuracy’s sake. —N.D.
6. “Christmas in Harlem”
The only GOOD Fridays track to drop after MBDTF, “Christmas in Harlem” is probably the best Christmas rap record next to Run-DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis.” A reminder of simpler times between Cam’ron and Jim Jones, this will be on repeat on my iPhone in about a month.
5. “Devil in a New Dress”
Kanye didn’t produce this beautiful-ass beat, which samples Smokey Robinson’s “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” but it sounds like his handiwork. The MBDTF version with Rozay has essentially rendered the GOOD Fridays version obsolete; I didn’t fully appreciate it until years later when I started appreciating Rozay himself, but I always appreciated that added guitar solo.
4. “Power (Remix)”
As far as I’m concerned, the remix of “Power” with Jay-Z and Swizz Beatz is the definitive version, mainly because it improves upon the MBDTF version in some crucial ways—namely an added Jay-Z verse and a beat switch during which Kanye snaps over, well, a sample of Snap’s “I Got the Power.” Seven years later, it still gets me hype in the gym.
3. “Christian Dior Denim Flow”
I generally have John Legend issues, but even I couldn’t stop humming the hook of this joint. I, too, don’t know why they keep calling.
2. “So Appalled”
Probably my favorite cut on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Everyone brought something to the track, including RZA’s confusing marble-mouthed hook. “So Appalled” might be most notable for introducing the world to CyHi the Prynce, who’s a solid emcee despite having seemingly Saigon levels of drama in getting that debut album released.
1. “The Joy”
One of my top 10 favorite Kanye songs of all time. Pete Rock did what only producers of his caliber can do: take a completely worn-out sample like “The Makings of You” and turn it into some minimalist gold that Kanye and Jay both glide over effortlessly. That this was a bonus track on Watch the Throne made it the best track on that album.