On Feb. 11, Kanye West will release his seventh studio album, the mysteriously titled The Life of Pablo (formerly known as Waves, Swish and So Help Me Good at different times throughout the past year). Judging by West’s initial borderline-illegible, hand-written tracklist—which has now turned into a yearbook-like piece of music history, with all his famous friends adding their signatures—the album could feature some high-profile guests besides the ones we already know about (including Sia, Kendrick Lamar and Ty Dolla $ign). Here’s a look back at some of his most memorable collaborations:
“Get Em High” featuring Talib Kweli and Common
Picking a favorite verse on this bouncy ode to getting high and getting laid probably doubles as some kind of personality test, but the best guest spot might actually belong to Sumeke Rainey, an ex-girlfriend of West’s who provides the endlessly quotable “You mean Talib? Lyrics stick to your rib?” exchange. Amy Schumer knows all the words to it, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t either.
“All of the Lights” featuring Rihanna
Rihanna is the only artist officially featured on this embodiment of the “everything but the kitchen sink” philosophy, but its credits read like the kind of genre- and generation-spanning lineup usually only the Grammys are crazy enough to conceive: Elton John, Drake, La Roux’s Elly Jackson, Alicia Keys, Fergie (whose part is sadly cut from the video version) and others all contributed vocals.
“On Sight” and “Send It Up” (both co-produced by Daft Punk)
The rapper and the helmeted highnesses of dance music proved they weren’t such unlikely bedfellows when West sampled them on “Stronger,” but on 2013’s Yeezus they took their partnership into a distorted new dimension with “On Sight” and the sinister “Send It Up.” Think the TRON: Legacy soundtrack, hacked by cyberpunk supervillains.
“FourFiveSeconds” (with Paul McCartney and Rihanna) and “Only One” (featuring McCartney)
Kanye West has called himself a deity, the next Steve Jobs and the greatest living rock star, so it was only a matter of time before he teamed up with one of popular music’s GOATs. The surprise was just how vulnerable the fruits of their labor would be: who knew a Beatle, a hip-hop titan and the princess of prolific club-bangers would make magic on songs that have zero drums? (Too bad Yeezy and Riri have both left them off their new albums.)
"Ni--as in Paris" with Jay Z
Two rappers performing a song that samples a Will Ferrell comedy a dozen times in a row in concert is indulgent to say the least—some might say it’s, well, cray—but this opulent bragfest doesn’t lose its luster during back-to-back listens. Carry on, gentlemen.
“Good Life” featuring T-Pain
The third single off of West’s Graduation album had a more lasting impact on his career than any of the others that year. The light-hearted party track found him teaming up with Auto-Tune pioneer T-Pain, who would later inspire West to make his highly influential 808s & Heartbreak—an album that brought West tremendous acclaim while T-Pain more or less became the butt of jokes for his association with the trend.
“Runaway” featuring Pusha T
The rappers’ verses function like the little angel and devil sitting on your shoulders: West plays the reformed workaholic “douchebag,” showing you how to own up to mistakes after an unfavorable period of media scrutiny; meanwhile, future G.O.O.D. Music president Pusha is happy for you and is gonna let you finish, but he sticks to his a-hole offensive after West pushed him to write crueler rhymes in the studio. Good call on Ye’s part: the song is all the better for that balance.
“Gold Digger” featuring Jamie Foxx
When West asked Jamie Foxx to dust off his Ray Charles impression, he was no stranger to getting around sampling-related red tape by hiring one vocalist to impersonate another. (See: Syleena Johnson covering Lauryn Hill on “All Falls Down.”) The more out-of-the-box idea? Recruiting film composer and Fiona Apple collaborator Jon Brion to add orchestral flourishes to this and other tracks from 2005’s Late Registration.
“Bound 2” (with Charlie Wilson)
Closing out Yeezus was a jarringly tender tribute to what West would probably consider his greatest collaboration of all: his romance with then-girlfriend, now-wife Kim Kardashian. All that sweetness would have seemed out of place were it not for Charlie Wilson, who slices through West’s slurry cheer with a melancholy chorus so fragmented you can practically hear the punctuation marks.
"Monster" featuring Jay Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj and Justin Vernon
Of course this song would be here: when in music history has a main attraction been so gloriously upstaged at its own event? (Besides this weekend’s Super Bowl halftime show.) Most songs are over by the 3 ½ minute mark, but that’s just where “Monster” just gets started thanks to a Nicki Minaj verse so iconic it makes the song’s weirdest attribute—a Bon Iver appearance—seem almost pedestrian.