Kanye West has crafted a discography that few other artists can even hope of creating. Since his debut album “The College Dropout”, West has gone on to release eight chart-topping albums. All of Kanye’s albums helped propel him to superstar status, making him one of the most prolific artists of his generation.
The special thing about Kanye’s albums is the fact that each one is unique. While there are some similarities that are carried from project to project, Kanye never fails to reinvent himself. Because of this, it has become a trend recently to describe Kanye’s albums by using clips from different TV shows. The most popular one being “Kanye West albums described by The Office”
Today, we are going to take this trend and shift it into the world of the NBA. Each Kanye album will be compared to an NBA player (Current/Historic). Then there will be a short explanation for why that player was picked to represent that specific album.
The College Dropout – LiAngelo Ball
Starting off with Kanye West’s first album, we are going to select a player who has not yet reached the NBA. However, LiAngelo Ball is set to enter the upcoming 2018 NBA draft and there isn’t another player that could better represent this album than LiAngelo.
The title and theme of this album heavily focus on going against the school system and becoming your own man. That is exactly what Ball did. Before the 2017-18 College basketball season began, Ball chose to drop out from UCLA and play professional basketball overseas. Furthermore, Ball became a member of the Big Baller Brand, a company created by his father, Lavar Ball. Because of LiAngelo’s decisions, he managed to do two very important things. First, he avoided playing a year of college basketball in which he would not be paid. Then, he turned it into a year of playing paid professional basketball overseas while also cashing in on his new business. I would say LiAngelo did a great job of finessing the system.
“School Spirit” – “Told ’em I finished school and started my own business/They say ‘Oh you graduated?’/Nah, I decided I was finished”
Late Registration – Magic Johnson
This album has a very distinct Jazz influence on almost all of the songs. One of the first NBA names that I could think of with a jazzy playstyle would be Ervin ‘Magic’ Johnson. Magic played with a unique style. From his no-look passes on the court to his flashy personality, Magic was the embodiment of jazz.
Much like one of the smooth instrumentals on Late Registration, Magic commanded the basketball court with an unparalleled confidence and composure. Not to mention the fact that tracks like “We Major”, “Touch the Sky” and “Celebration” sound like perfect anthems to the success that Magic was experiencing during the 80’s. The triumphant vibe of Late Registration matches the theme of the Showtime Laker team that Magic was the captain of.
Conveniently, there is even a line about Magic in the album:
“Roses” – “If Magic Johnson got a cure for aids/And all the broke mother***** passed away”
Graduation – Stephen Curry
“Jazz is stupid” – Dwight Schrute
If Magic Johnson’s playstyle matches the sounds on Late Registration, then Stephen Curry gives us the complete opposite by being paired with Graduation.
This album took everything that Kanye West built in his previous project and threw it out the window. Graduation is a flashy album filled with pop-influenced songs and braggadocious lyrics. In parallel, Stephen Curry flipped the NBA world upside down when he displayed his ability to become an offensive juggernaut. Curry transformed the point guard position from someone who simply runs the show, to the man that is the main event of the show. Curry combined playmaking with deep range shooting, becoming the first player to successfully combine the two skills.
Much like how Graduation was a contrast to Late Registration, Curry shows a completely opposite playstyle to what Magic Johnson showed us.
“Can’t Tell Me Nothing” – “Old folks talking ’bout ‘Back in my day’/Well homie, this is my day”
808’s and Heartbreaks – Allen Iverson
This one was the toughest to decide. Choosing Allen Iverson may seem questionable at first, but hear me out.
The album 808’s and Heartbreaks shocked the hip-hop world when Kanye released it. Nobody expected Kanye to change his style so drastically and deliver an album like 808’s. Although the project received mixed receptions when it was first released, it is now seen as one of the most important pieces of music when discussing modern artists. Musicians such as Drake, The Weeknd, Lil Uzi, and Frank Ocean take huge inspiration from the foundation set in 808’s and Heartbreaks.
This is where the similarities to Allen Iverson begin. Iverson brought a huge cultural change to the game of basketball. His style on and off the court inspired an entire generation of hoopers. It’s obvious when looking at today’s NBA that Iverson was crucial to forming some of the league’s biggest stars. Players like Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving, and Stephen Curry have obviously been influenced by Iverson’s playstyle. All of this is extremely similar to the way 808’s and Heartbreaks impacted the music industry.
“Amazing” – “I’m a problem/that’ll never ever be solved”
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – Michael Jordan
This album by Kanye West is highly regarded as the most perfect ‘masterpiece’ he ever created. When thinking of perfection in the NBA, the only player that comes to mind is Michael Jordan. Six finals appearances, six NBA championships. Jordan never even let his opponent reach a game seven. If that isn’t the definition of perfect, then I don’t know what is.
There is one more reason why this album is perfect for Jordan. Before releasing this album, Kanye West flew away to Hawaii, where he isolated himself to focus solely on creating music. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was Kanye’s big return to the spotlight. Kanye’s return to glory is similar to Jordans. As Jordan retired for two year’s in the middle of his prime, only to come back and win three straight championships.
“See Me Now” – “We stay Jordan fresh/Suits and Ferraris”
Watch The Throne – LeBron James and Dwyane Wade
In the summer of 2010, LeBron James made his infamous decision to team up with Dwyane Wade in Miami. These two stars created the NBA’s first official superteam. One year later, Kanye West and Jay-Z teamed up to create one of the best duos in hip-hop history.
James and Wade used their combined talents to reach four straight NBA Finals. Led by James, the Miami Heat won back to back championships in 2012 and 2013. Much like the superstar tandem of James and Wade, Kanye and Hov used their music ability to compose a classic collab album. Watch the Throne won the BET Hip-Hop award for CD of the year in 2012 and was nominated for a Grammy in the same year.
“Gotta Have It” – “Ain’t that like LeBron James?/Ain’t that just like D. Wade?”
Yeezus – Russell Westbrook
Kanye West delivers a number of crazy, industrial, minimalistic beats throughout the course of Yeezus. When trying to picture what these instrumentals would sound like in the form of an NBA player, no one other than Russell Westbrook comes to mind. Imagining Westbrook rampaging up and down a basketball court with his phrenetic energy is something that seems to compliment the vibe of Yeezus.
During much of Yeezus, Kanye sounds angry and delivers some of his most brutal punchlines. This is similar to the way Westbrook plays basketball. Everytime Westbrook drives to the hoop it’s almost like he is trying to physically attack the rim.
“I Am a God” – “So here’s a few snake ass n***as to bite you”
The Life of Pablo – Kyrie Irving
The Life of Pablo is often seen as the outcast of Kanye’s discography. To the casual listener, it may seem like a mess of out of place and quirky songs. But, the people that have been able to appreciate this project can see all of the complex thoughts and ideas that Kanye is displaying in this album.
This is how the album relates to Kyrie Irving. Irving has proven to have one of the most unique personalities in the NBA. Whether it be his claims that the Earth is flat or him saying that his favorite music growing up was the “Phantom of the Opera”. Irving has always been an oddball.
However, the thing that ties Irving and The Life of Pablo together is their tendency to be unpredictable. When listening to The Life of Pablo for the first time, the varying sounds on the album may surprise you. Kanye goes from a gospel-themed beat on “Ultralight Beam” to a hard-hitting instrumental that sounds like it could be a leftover from Yeezus on “Freestyle 4”.
This unpredictability relates to Irving in two ways. First is obviously the way Irving manages to be completely unpredictable on offense with his vast array of dribble moves. But, more notably, Irving made one of the most unpredictable decisions in NBA history this summer. Nobody on this flat Earth could have predicted that Irving would request to be traded away from Cleveland. That is why Irving and The Life of Pablo are so strongly related.
“30 Hours” – “You say you never saw this coming/Well you’re not alone”