-By Christianna Wiggins
Kanye West is best known for his outspoken attitude, fashion sense, and most recently, his high profile family. Amidst all his talents, it may be easy to forget where the Yeezus musician started. In the late ’90s, West focused on producing music for artists under the Roc-A-Fella brand. Although he was relatively unknown, he was behind the beats on many songs from Jay Z, Memphis Bleek, Beanie Sigel and more.
By 2000, more artists began to pick up on West’s talent. Before he got a chance to stun the world with the College Dropout, he was making tracks for the biggest names in hip hop and R&B.
Today let’s appreciate how far Mr. West has come by taking a look at 12 popular songs that most people don’t know he produced.
“Turn It Out” – Jermaine Durpi ft. Nas
Album: Life In 1472 (1998)
Kanye West produced this track at the very start of his music career. The song, which features Jermaine Dupri and Nas rapping along to an infectious beat, was a frontrunner on Dupri’s second studio album.
“Chi Town” – Da Brat
Album: Unrestricted (2000)
Da Brat was one of the leading female rap artists at the turn of the millennium. When she came out with this Chicago anthem, it’s no surprise that Yeezy, a fellow Chi-town native, couldn’t resist being a part of it.
“It’s Bigger Than Hip Hop” – Dead Prez
Album: Let’s Get Free (2000)
Arguably one of their biggest hits, “It’s Bigger Than Hip Hop” became a staple for this rap duo. It was no coincidence that a book about the rise of hip hop culture borrowed the name a few years later.
“Let’s Get Married (Reception Remix)” – Jagged Edge
Album: J.E. Heartbreak (2000)
This chart topping ballad had ladies swooning in 2000. The group hit gold with this song, but what most people don’t know is that the G.O.O.D. Music CEO. was behind the music on this heartfelt record.
“You Don’t Know My Name” – Alicia Keys
Album: The Diary of Alicia Keys (2003)
Alicia Keys captured the struggle of every woman with this musical tale of unrequited love. From Mos Def playing the romantic interest to Keys’ amazing voice, everything about this song was perfection.
“’03 Bonnie & Clyde” – Jay Z ft. Beyoncé
Album: The Blueprint 2.1 (2003)
The King and Queen of hip hop + R&B officially declared their love with this song. Before the new Bonnie and Clyde debuted, West had produced many of Jay Z’s songs— but this was the first time that the three collaborated. West later went on to produce more Beyoncé hits, including “Party.”
“Came Back For You” – Lil Kim
Album: La Bella Mafia (2003)
Known for her explicit lyrics, the original first lady of rap came back for her fans with this single. The smooth rhythm paired with Lil Kim’s steady flow put this track on the map.
“Knock Knock” – Monica
Album: After The Storm (2003)
West worked with fellow producer and musician Missy Elliot to create this popular song. An instant classic, Monica showcased her vocal versatility by rapping and singing.
“Another Summer” – 213 (Snoop Dogg, Warren G, Nate Dogg)
Album: The Hard Way (2004)
The self-proclaimed original gangstas welcomed the summer of 2004 with this single. The combination of the mellow beat and sweet chorus is a little unexpected for this group, but it’s refreshing like a cool drink on a summer day,
“Where You Wanna Be” – Brandy ft. T.I.
Album: Afrodisiac (2004)
Brandy and T.I. teamed up for this romantic single, in which Brandy warns her man that he’d better choose where he wants to be. The answer is with her, of course.
“Stay the Night” – Mariah Carey
Album: The Emancipation of Mimi (2005)
This ballad was released just as Kanye started to gain hype as a solo artist. He switched it up from his dance-worthy tunes to make this slow jam, and it was quite a successful venture. The Emancipation of Mimi sold over 6 million copies.
“Comfortable” – Lil Wayne ft. Babyface
Album: Tha Carter 3 (2008)
Lil Wayne and Babyface sweetly told ladies not to feel too irreplaceable in this 2008 single. The beat is so smooth, a couple women may have been too busy singing along to get the message.