Album: Late Registration
One unique art that Kanye West has mastered is orchestrating posse cuts that put his collaborators in the best possible light, while still allowing his own verses to set the tone and ultimately get center stage. The epic pre-bonus track closer to Late Registration is a prime example: If the song ended at the 4-minute mark, you might've been able to say that Kanye got upstaged, both by peak era Cam'ron and Consequence, phase one G.O.O.D. Music's most lyrical spitter in a career-defining performance.
Instead, Mr. West returned to the mic for 30 relentless bars over Jon Brion's playfully textured string arrangement, already showing signs that he was bristling at the limitations of the music industry that had just begun opening its doors for him: "I'm ahead of my time, sometimes years out/So the powers that be won't let me get my ideas out." As 'Ye might say, "Primus inter pares." —Al Shipley