The last time we checked in with Kanye West, he was as active as any other platinum-selling rap superstar. Between the release of 2010's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and his Jay-Z collaboration Watch the Throne, he made dozens of cameos, from big pop anthems like Katy Perry's "E.T." to deep cuts like T.I.'s "Welcome to the World." But in the 20 months since Watch the Throne was released, he has only featured on a total of six tracks. When compared to such overachievers as Lil Wayne and Rick Ross, Kanye's relative silence was nearly Eminem-like.
This paucity of recent cameos is unusual in a genre where top earners are usually ubiquitous. But it's not like Kanye hasn't been busy, and we're not talking just about his sundry tabloid adventures with girlfriend Kim Kardashian. Last August, he assembled a Cruel Summer compilation spotlighting his G.O.O.D. Music roster, and hits like "Mercy" and "Clique." This year, he brings Yeezus, and judging by tracks like "New Slaves" and "Black Skinhead," he's reconsidering his role as luxury rap's chief spokesperson. Then again, it's not easy to anticipate the next move by hip-hop's greatest provocateur.
Here, we replay his recent output, pre-Yeezus, from his hilarious "hubby wants a ménage à trois" lyric on 2 Chainz's "Birthday Song" to standout singles from Watch the Throne and Cruel Summer, like "N#gg#s In Paris" and "New God Flow."