14 Songs You Forgot Kanye West Produced

Kanye has been in the game a long time. Do you remember these forgotten gems?

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Complex Original

Image via Complex Original

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Even if he hadn’t become the most successful hip-hop artist of the last 10 years, Kanye West’s music career was sure to be remarkable. Whether it was his breakthrough work on Jay-Z’s era-defining classic The Blueprint, or guiding heir apparents like Drake and Lupe Fiasco to early career highlights, Ye’s other career as a freelance beatmaker has been full of triumphs.

But not everything he’s touched in the studio has turned to gold. For years (from roughly 2000 to about 2010), Kanye was one of hip-hop’s (and music’s) most active producers, crafting tracks for literally hundreds of artists, from T.I. and Trina to Talib Kweli.

During that span he’s helped artists make masterpieces that were slept on by the same general public consumed with his own work, had his hand in musical monstrosities that would have been better off aborted, and produced numerous tracks that were hyped in their day only to fall into obscurity. To refresh your memory on some of these highlights and low points, here’s 14 Songs You Forgot Kanye West Produced.

Written by Jesse Serwer (@JesseSerwer)

RELATED: The 100 Best Kanye West Songs

RELATED: Kanye West's 50 Best Beats for Other Artists 

The Madd Rapper f/ Eminem "Stir Crazy" (2000)

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Album: Tell 'Em Why U Madd

Derrick "D-Dot" Angelettie was the "Captain" of Bad Boy's Hitmen production squad in the mid and late '90s, responsible for the beats on such classic tracks as Biggie's "Hypnotize" and Puff Daddy's "All About The Benjamins." He was also responsible for the Madd Rapper character first heard on the intro to Biggie's "Kick In The Door," a role he later played over an entire album on 2000's Tell Em Why U Madd. While D-Dot naturally was credited with producing the bulk of the album, he entrusted production on (at least) six tracks to a then unknown Kanye, including this early appearance by a still-on-the-rise Eminem.

Nas "Poppa Was a Playa" (2002)

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Album: The Lost Tapes

Kanye's work with Jay-Z in The Blueprint era is what put him on in the game, but Ye's history with Jay's old rival Nas actually goes back at least as far. "Poppa Was A Playa" was included on Nas's 2002 compilation The Lost Tapes, but it was recorded at least several years earlier, likely during Kanye's apprenticeship with Hitmen producer Deric "D-Dot" Angelettie, who received credit for the track from Nas' old label, Columbia—a matter of contention that's since led to a war of words between the two beatmakers.

Trina f/ Ludacris "B R Right" (2002)

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Album: Diamond Princess

Kanye was the toast of East Coast rap after The Blueprint dropped in 2001, praised by purists for engineering a return to soul samples in hip-hop production, along with Just Blaze. He took a different path the following year with Trina and Luda's "B R Right," a slept-on Dirty South banger with skittering hi-hats and trippy strings that felt more like a Timbaland production than a beat from Roc-A-Fella's golden boy, hinting at the diversity yet to come in his catalog.

Scarface "In Cold Blood" (2002)

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Album: The Fix

Scarface's The Fix is one of the most revered rap albums of the 2000s, and the Kanye-produced "Guess Who's Back" (which brought the trio of 'Face, Jay-Z, and Beanie Sigel back together over a Kanye beat, following that quartet's work on 2000's "This Can't Be Life") was a big reason why people loved it so much. Even so, you probably forgot that Kanye had another track on the album, the highly slept-on "In Cold Blood," a tale of hustling without a conscience with an appropriately bluesy beat sampled from Gladys Knight and the Pips' "And This Is Love." 

Knoc-turn'al "Muzik" (2002)

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Album: The Transporter Soundtrack

Not everything Kanye's touched over the years has turned to gold. Knoc-Turn'Al's 2002 single "Muzik" is Exhibit A. "Muzik" was originally released as a single to promote the Long Beach rapper's L.A. Confidential Presents: Knoc-turn'al EP (which also featured production from Dr. Dre) in 2002, but it's probably best known as the theme from Jason Statham's first Transporter movie, released later that same year.

Barely recognizable as a Kanye production, the track bears few of West's production trademarks (sped-up soul samples, etc.), instead opting for a repetitive, slow-building guitar loop that feels like a poor man's version of Eminem's "Lose Yourself," mixed with a little bit of The Knack's "My Cherona."

T.I. "Let Me Tell You Something" (2003)

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Album: Trap Muzik

T.I.'s Trap Muzik was defined the sound of trap music but, squeezed between the 808-based tracks from DJ Toomp (whom Kanye would later collaborate on Graduation and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy), were a pair of soulful tracks from Kanye: the Zapp and Roger-inspired "Let Me Tell You Something" and "Doin' My Job," featuring a sample of '70s group Bloodstone in Kanye's then-trademark chipmunk soul style. If you find yourself listening to Trap Muzik today, Kanye's touch is kinda obvious on "Doin' My Job" but less so on "Let Me Tell You Something." 

Ludacris f/ Shawnna "Stand Up" (2003)

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Album: Chicken-N-Beer

Ludacris and Kanye West both have a ton of classic singles. But "Stand Up" is actually the first song either one of them had hit No. 1 on the Hot 100. Despite this shared landmark, "Stand Up" somehow gets overlooked in discussions of Kanye's production discography, probably because his catchy but not particularly ostentatious beat works so seamlessly with Ludacris' charismatic flow that it hardly calls attention to itself.

D12 "D-12 World" (2004)

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Album: D12 World

With Eminem busy working on Encore at the time, Detroit's D12 were without their leader for much of D12 World, their sophomore effort from 2004. (The hit single "My Band," a humorous take on Em's superstar status within the group, being one notable exception). Even the Kanye-produced title track was Marshall free, which might explain why you're scratching your head right now trying to remember it. 

Mobb Deep "Throw Your Hands (In The Air)" (2004)

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Album: Amerikaz Nightmare

Mobb Deep's forgettable 2004 album Amerikaz Nightmare was the album where Mobb Deep officially lost their touch and began their slide into into irrelevancy. But Prodigy and Havoc's sixth release was not without its highlights, including "Throw Your Hands (In The Air)." The Queensbridge duo's first and only Kanye collaboration is classic mid-aughts Kanye, with a prog rock sample (Esperanto's "Still Life") layered over the chunky, familiar drums of Love's "Doggone," the same breakbeat sampled on Talib Kweli's "Get By."

Lupe Fiasco "The Cool" (2006)

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Album: Food & Liquor

Lupe Fiasco was really the first rapper of the post-Kanye era, a weirdo auteur with a backpack, mainstream ambitions, and a very distinct view of the world and music. Naturally, he looked to his fellow Chicagoan for some sonic direction on his debut album, Food & Liquor, scoring a stray beat from 'Ye for "The Cool." While the track wasn't released as a single, it was one of the LP's most memorable tunes, inspiring the direction of Lupe's follow-up LP of the same name with its spacy sound (courtesy of Dexter Wansel's "Life on Mars") and introspective, narrative-driven lyrics.

Diddy f/ Nas & Cee-Lo Green "Everything I Love" (2006)

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Album: Press Play

Press Play, for the most part, was an effort by Diddy to move away from traditional hip-hop towards a sound more influenced by the global dance pop that was emerging in the mid 2000s. In this sense, it was ahead of its time, predating Graduation, Kanye's own internationally-minded move to the left, by a year. Kanye's contribution to the 2006 album, "Everything I Love," was classic soulful Kanye, though, with a clipped horn sample over the drums from Love's "Doggone," a staple breakbeat which had already been used by Kanye on numerous tracks at this point. (See also Mobb Deep's "Throw Your Hands In The Air").

Lil Wayne f/ Babyface "Comfortable" (2008)

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Album: Tha Carter III

Tha Carter III was easily the most hyped and anticipated rap album of its day so, naturally, hip-hop's most in-demand producer was called on to add his two cents. "Let the Beat Build," co-produced with New Orleans' beatmaker Deezle, was acknowledged by many as one of the album's standout tracks, but Kanye's other contribution, the Babyface-guested "Comfortable," might actually be its least remembered tune despite becoming a charting single.

Drake "Show Me a Good Time" (2010)

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Album: Thank Me Later

Thank Me Later was one of the first major projects Kanye contributed to after jettisoning his sample-based production style for a more stripped-down and emotive, electronic-based sound on 808s and Heartbreak (he also contributed on Jay Z's The Blueprint 3). His production for Drake's debut album follows in a similar vein as 808s. "Find Your Love" is the track everyone remembers (it's essentially an 808s leftover) but Kanye, Jeff Bhasker, No I.D., and Mike Dean (the cabal behind much of 808s) also came together on "Show Me A Good Time," which featured DJ cuts from A-Trak, distorted bass, and a discordant, clipped vocal sample.

Saigon f/ Marsha Ambrosius "It's Alright" (2011)

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Album: The Greatest Story Never Told

Recorded in the mid 2000s and released in 2011 by indie label Suburban Noize after several years on the shelf at Atlantic Records, Saigon's The Greatest Story Never Told primarily showcased beats from executive producer Just Blaze. Kanye was among four other producers (Red Spyda, Scram Jones, and Buckwild) who contributed beats to the long-delayed album, sampling Luther Vandross' "Superstar/Until You Come Back to Me (That's What I'm Gonna Do)" for the socially conscientious "It's Alright" featuring Marsha Ambrosius.

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