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by Raymond Cummings

June 19, 2013

Kanye West Cameos, 2003-'09

by Raymond Cummings  |  June 19, 2013

Kanye West's mix-and-mingle prime wasn't what anyone could truly call profligate. Unlike the wild, winding way of pre-decline Lil Wayne, a deep hard-drive trawl of mid-'00s borderline mixtape muck won't return much in the way of a lost Yeezy feature. Yet those highs achieved in the days when stakes for a West drop-by were low to nil could be giddily stratospheric without verging on full, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy-style douchebag antics.

There he is, stunting dizzily in the eye of The-Dream's cotton-candy R&B storm ("Walkin' on the Moon"); stealing Clipse's weakest album out from under the brothers Thornton whilst boogie boarding on an Anchorman ad-lib ("Kinda Like a Big Deal"); kicking off an M.I.A.-indebted event-rap summit ("Swagga Like Us"); and passing rope-a-dope head-knock microphones with Common and Rhymefest ("Southside" and "Brand New," respectively). His braggadocio squares with N.A.S.A.'s Xanadu production gloss and Lykke Li's over-enunciated hooks ("Gifted") as readily as it complements Estelle's raspy London-town sass ("American Boy"). You'll notice, perhaps, the varied company West kept on this playlist's selections -- and, perhaps, that most of their stars have dimmed considerably since these songs were new, while their onetime guest is still transfixing, confusing and angering thousands of people every week simply by continuing to draw breath.

Above all, the West on display here really seems to be having fun -- how could one describe the Lady Gaga-baiting of "Make Her Say" or the throwaway glee of "Pro Nails" without using the term "playful"? He's removed, at least somewhat, from the conflicted consciousness of College Dropout and Late Registration, and is reveling in the spoils of success without quite resenting the press, his audience or the world of fashion. Yet.

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