Have you ever day dreamed about what it’d be like to work with Kanye West in the studio? In this edition of By the Numbers, contributor Ben Carter digs deep into the data to measure the commercial impact of having authentic Yeezy production on your music. Does Kanye West have the Touch of Gold?
2018 is shaping up to be “The Year of Kanye”. Yeezy season is coinciding with a wave of projects from Kanye’s label GOOD Music. By Kanye’s own admission, Teyana Taylor, Pusha T, Kid Cudi, Nas, and Kanye himself are all sitting on projects scheduled for this summer that were produced by Kanye.
There is a reason why all of hip-hop is salivating at the thought of FIVE Kanye-produced albums this summer. The production that’s made Kanye’s solo career one of the most influential in hip-hop history (and one of the most successful) has also created wild success for other artists that Yeezy has collaborated with, from Common to Jay-Z, Pusha T to John Legend. When Kanye rapped “N***s hustle every day for a beat from Ye” on 2011’s “Made In America”, he was merely expressing a fact.
Until now, the “Kanye-Effect” on an artist’s career was well known but had yet to be quantified and measured. This article now exists as proof that Kanye West’s talent as a producer has a measurable and defined impact on the success of every artist he’s substantively collaborated with.
The “Kanye Effect”
The “Kanye Effect” is measurable. By analysing the success of albums and singles that Kanye produced for other artists like Jay-Z, Madonna, Common, John Legend, Rihanna, Pusha T, Twista, and others, a fascinating picture can be created to illustrate the statistical impact Ye has on the success of the artists he locks in with.
Represented in these numbers:
- “Kanye” Category: Includes all albums Kanye has produced 4 or more beats on
- For singles, the Kanye Category includes every song he has produced for another artist that has charted in the top 10
- “Non-Kanye” Category: These numbers come from the two albums released either side of a Kanye-produced project. For example, Kanye produced 4+ tracks on Jay-Z’s The Blueprint, so Jay’s 2000 album The Dynasty is part of the “non-Kanye” category
- The “Non-Kanye” Category for singles includes data on every single that artist released the year prior and the year after the Kanye-produced top 10 single
The Kanye Effect explains why artists are desperate for Ye’s production. All artists included in this analysis (Jay-Z, John Legend, Common, Pusha T, Madonna) are top-tier, with very successful careers outside of Kanye. Yet these numbers suggest that even well-established musicians can benefit dramatically from Kanye’s production.
The Kanye Effect: Singles
Kanye West has produced 11 stand-alone tracks for other artists that have charted in the Hot 100 Top 10. Of those 11, he has performed as a guest (or joint lead artist) on 5 of them. As the above graphic shows, Kanye-produced singles have significantly outperformed comparable non-Kanye-produced singles from these very same artists.
Kanye West / Twista
Twista was the beneficiary of Ye’s very first number 1 single, “Slow Jamz”. The track first appeared as a single, and then on Twista’s album Kamikaze, released 2 weeks prior to Kanye’s debut The College Dropout in 2004.
Kanye also provided Twista with production for “Overnight Celebrity”, the second single from Kamikaze. “Overnight Celebrity” went on to chart at #6 on the Hot 100, making it the second-highest performing single of Twista’s career.
The above graph includes every Hot 100 charting single Twista has released, and compares those that were produced by Kanye with those that weren’t. Twista was an established artist when Ye dropped by to provide “Overnight Celebrity” and “Slow Jamz”. These singles represent Twista’s peak on the charts – nothing he did before or after ever came close to the success he experienced with Kanye behind the boards.
Kanye West / Jay Z
Kanye and Jay-Z will forever be linked. Their iconic collaborative relationship began in 2000 with “This Can’t Be Life” off Jay-Z’s The Dynasty. From there, Kanye provided Jay-Z with his highest charting to single to date on 3 occasions: 2001’s “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” peaked at #8, which was then bettered by 2002’s “‘03 Bonnie & Clyde” peaking at #4, which was then bettered again by 2009’s “Run This Town” which hit number #2. Kanye also produced Jay’s highest selling single to date, their 2011 collaboration “N****s In Paris”, certified 6 times platinum.
Jay/Ye collaborations rarely fail. Jay-Z has a distinguished and accomplished singles discography, and his success on the charts and with single sales can clearly be attributed in part to Kanye’s production. When it comes to singles, no other producer has achieved as much commercial success with Jay-Z, including super-producers like Just Blaze, Timbaland and The Neptunes.
The Kanye Effect: Albums
Few artists have been lucky enough to receive 4 or more Kanye West beats on a single album. Grav was the first, scoring 8 Kanye beats and even a Kanye feature on his 1996 album Down to Earth. Since then, Yeezy has provided 4 or more beats for 13 albums that weren’t his own, nearly all for artists he was either signed with at the time, had signed himself, or had a close personal relationship with.
Kanye West / Common
Common was one of the earliest signees to Kanye’s GOOD Music label, penning a deal in 2004 and releasing his next 3 albums (Be, Finding Forever and Universal Mind Control) on the label. Kanye and Common enjoyed a fruitful collaboration during this period, sharing beats, verses, and hooks across their respective solo records.
By the time Kanye locked in to produce Be and Finding Forever, Common was 13 years deep into a commercially and critically successful rap career. His pre-Kanye peak was arguably Like Water For Chocolate, his first Gold certified record, which placed him in the Billboard 200 Top 20 for the first time and generate universal acclaim.
Yet despite Common’s lengthy and relatively successful career up until that point, it was Kanye who helped propel Common to commercial and critical levels he’d yet to scale (and would never again approach). Despite the fact that neither album had a massively successful single, both Be and Finding Forever went Gold and charted in the top 2 on the Billboard 200 (Be actually hit #1). Be is regarded as a classic hip-hop album, and has an 83 on Metacritic.
Post-Kanye, Common’s numbers dwindled. He hit #6 with 2014’s Nobody’s Smiling, but no post-Kanye album has an RIAA certification and only 2016’s Black America Again (88) has come within 4 metacritic points of Be.
Kanye West / Pusha T
Pusha T is slated to drop his Kanye-produced album King Push in the summer of 2018. Pusha T will certainly be looking to tap back into the “Kanye Effect” he experienced with his first solo record, My Name is My Name (2013). Whilst Push achieved commercial success in 2012 with Clipse’s Lord Willin’, he was unable to replicate that achievement until Kanye came on board in 2013. My Name is My Name dropped on the GOOD Music and benefitted from 7 Kanye beats.
Kanye West / John Legend
John Legend was initially signed to GOOD Music, playing the role of Kanye West’s hook singer. Legend had been struggling to pick up a deal, but this partnership ended up being the perfect fit. John Legend’s debut album Get Lifted debuted at #4 and sold 4 million copies worldwide. It was the first album Kanye’s label ever released. Legend is still signed to GOOD, and his 2013 album Love In The Future features 12 Kanye beats, the most Kanye has ever provided to a project that wasn’t his own.
The sales differences between Legend’s non-Kanye discography and his Kanye produced albums are stark, and serves to highlight the commercial dynamism of the “Kanye Effect” in full force.
Predicting the Success of Kanye’s 2018 Albums
Kanye on Nas’s New Album
Kanye revealed he was producing the next Nas album, due June 15th. It will be the first ever full project with the two hip hop legends.
But how will it perform?
Nas’ career numbers are similar to Jay-Z’s, and this is the “Kanye Effect” as applied to Jay’s career album numbers:
The numbers are small enough to dismiss, although Jay has never failed to hit number 1 on the Billboard 200 with Kanye in charge of production. Nas’ last 3 solo albums have all hit number 1, it seems likely his next record will continue the trend.
Kanye on Teyana Taylor’s New Album
Kanye is also reportedly set to apply the “Kanye Effect” to GOOD Music’s Teyana Taylor, for her next record due in June 2018.
Ye’s success with R&B and pop records is mixed. Kanye’s results with Madonna for example, the only pop artist and female he’s produced 4 or more beats on an album for, is less impressive. Kanye locked in for 5 beats on Madonna’s last album, 2015’s Rebel Heart. It was her first album not to go number 1 since 1998, and her lowest selling album of all time.
Despite the disappointment with Rebel Heart, Kanye’s effect on John Legend’s career is immense, with Legend experiencing a 154% increase in sales when Kanye locks in for an entire project with him. Teyana Taylor’s last album sold 24,000 copies, so a 154% increase would push her sales figures over 60,000.
Hopefully, Kanye saved some of that magic John Legend dust for Taylor’s album.
Kanye on Pusha T’s New Album
Kanye’s impact on Pusha T’s commercial success is clear. There’s only question left.
Can King Push out-perform his landmark 2013 project My Name Is My Name?