The chipmunk soul joints for Jigga. The car-crash and the broken jaw. The paradigm-shifting debut. The political "Diamonds Are Forever" video. The outburst on the post-Hurricane Katrina Red Cross telethon. Donda West's tragic passing. The Taylor Swift upstaging that led President Obama to label Yeezy a "jackass." And much, much more, besides.
The aughts were producer/rapper/blogger Kanye West's decade the way the nineties were Quentin Tarantino's. On one level or another, the dude's been up, down, around, and in the face of everybody who hasn't spent the past 10 years dwelling in a cave. You couldn't escape him, no matter how hard you tried.
Since West's singles, albums, and productions have been endlessly poured over, we've decided to revisit his best '00s guest raps.
1. Kanye West, Jamie Foxx, and Twista "Slow Jamz"
Yeah, yeah: "Slow Jamz" appeared on 2004's The College Dropout, but given that it popped up on Twista's Kamikaze around the same time, we say that makes the track fair game. West's verse here was nicely cheesy-sleazy, nowhere near as nihilistic and crude as he'd later become, a chummy, horndog lead-in to Twista's Guiness Book-tongue tornados and Foxx's smooth roll-call of R&B-greats on the choruses. Choice verse: "Man, I swear she fine, holmes/Why she always lyin', though?/Telling me they diamonds, when she know they rhinestones/She got a light-skinned friend, look like Michael Jackson/Got a dark-skinned friend look like Michael Jackson."
2. Brandy feat. Kanye West "Talk About Our Love"
Wow! Remember back in the day, when people cared about Brandy? No? Us neither. "Talk" is a sorta generic R&B post-Mary J. Blige banger - albeit limned with one of West's soul-patrol beats - about bullshit relationship rumors. (If you're a female singer, you're contractually obligated to have at least one of these.) Brandy's contribution is negligible to these ears, but Kanye's corny-yet-heartfelt retort somehow references Juwanna Man and Donovan McNabb without seeming gimmicky.
3. Clipse feat. Kanye West "Kinda Like A Big Deal"
Now, it's not like the Thornton brothers ever quite made the leap to hip-hop royalty: they rap, unabashedly, about coke, being rich, and not a whole lot else, and they're as limited creatively as they are conceptually. So for their do-or-die third album, they rope in Kanye to help move units - and he smokes them, just slays them, makes 'em look like never-gonna-get-it wannabes by getting all tangental and special-needs unfriendly in the middle of their shit. (Later on the same album, Cam'ron does exactly the same thing without breaking a sweat, but West's verse is way more quotable.)
4. Rhymefest feat. Kanye West "Brand New"
Basically the Webster's dictionary definition of "butt stoopid," "Brand New" was a chance for West and old pal Rhymefest to act the fool, show out, smirk, milk the titular chorus sample for everything it was worth. (i.e. "I don't like it unless it's brand new/You might see me in my brand new whip with my brand new bitch/Pumping my brand new shit/If you don't like it, get off my brand new dick")
"I'ma talk shit until I'm out of hits," West brags, later boasting "I'm leaving you haters like when Shaq left the Lakers just to heat it up." This was mid-decade, remember - the point where West's cockiness and sense of entitlement was just beginning to veer out of control.
5. Pharrell feat. Kanye West "Number One"
Despite its placement on this list, "Number One" is our hands-down favorite. Not because we're big fans of metaphors comparing relationships to singles-charts dominance. Not because we're gay for Pharrell's glossy falsetto. Not even because we dig on all the neon synth light-saber crap. (Though it's fun!) No, we love "Number One" because West's propensity for groan-inducing puns meets and makes nice with his eloquently-expressed desire for manogamy - even if, as he admits, the long hours and weeks away from hom necessary to keep lighting up the charts is bound to strain whatever healthy, sustainable relationship he eventually finds himself in.