The College Dropout received universal acclaim from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 87, based on 25 reviews. Kelefa Sanneh of The New York Times dubbed it "2004's first great hip-hop album". The A.V. Club's Nathan Rabin praised its "substance, social commentary, righteous anger, ornery humanism, dark humor, and even Christianity", calling it "one of those wonderful crossover albums that appeal to a huge audience without sacrificing a shred of integrity". Dave Heaton of PopMatters called the album "musically engaging", writing that "every single one of these songs comes off like a genuine extension of Kanye's personality and experiences". URB wrote that the album "manages to be both visceral and emotive, sprinkling the dancefloors with tears and sweat." Mojo dubbed the album "manna for hip hop fans starved of basic but ballistic beats-and-breaks fare in an increasingly litigious age."
Late Registration received rave reviews from contemporary music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalizedrating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 85, which indicates "universal acclaim", based on 31 reviews. Rolling Stone magazine's Rob Sheffield deemed the album "an undeniable triumph, packed front to back, so expansive it makes the debut sound like a rough draft", while calling West "a real MC". In his review for Uncut magazine, Simon Reynolds found most of the album brilliant and highlighted by West's unparalleled use of vocal samples. Josh Tyrangiel of Time praised West's storytelling ability and musicality, particularly the sample and string arrangements on "Gone", which he felt may persuade listeners to believe his own hype. Alexis Petridis, writing forThe Guardian, commended West's topicality and subversive studio production: "Late Registration suggests an artist effortlessly outstripping his peers: more ideas, better lyrics, bigger hooks, greater depth." The Observer called the album a significant milestone in hip hop and West "the Brian Wilson of hip-hop" who "plays up the struggle between conscience and covetousness, the pop mainstream and what can be achieved within the notional boundaries of hip hop". In his review for the Los Angeles Times, Robert Hilburn compared West's dignified execution of pop crossover to that of The Beatles, Johnny Cash, and Bob Marley. Sean Fennessey of Pitchfork Media felt West avoids the sophomore slump with an "expansive, imperfect masterpiece" that draws on his enthusiastic, ambitious, and scattered personality. Robert Christgau of The Village Voice wrote that every song has "exquisite details", many of which are lyrical as well as musical, and concluded that West is "as good as he thinks he is—a backpacker at heart who, like many brilliant nerds before him, has accrued precious metal by following his dream. He wants everybody to buy this record. So do I".
Graduation received generally positive reviews from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 79, based on 32 reviews. Allmusic's Andy Kellman credited West for "being his shrewd, occasionally foolish, and adventurous self", and stated, "Those who have admired Kanye as a sharp producer while detesting him as an inept MC might find the gleaming synth sprites ... to be one of the most glaring deal-breakers in hip-hop history." Pitchfork Media's Mark Pytlik complimented the accessibility of West's sonic experimentation, noting his visionary proficiency with interweaving seeminly disparate elements and bridging musical gaps. Greg Tate, writing in The Village Voice, dubbed him "the most genuinely confessional MC in hip-hop today" and said, "bouts of narcissism aside, Graduation contains killer pieces of production." Spin called the album "mesmerizing and alienating, like all the purest forms of pop culture." Stylus Magazine's Jayson Greene said that it "serves as a document of West's maturation" and, "musically, at least, it's the most accomplished thing he's ever done."
808s & Heartbreak received generally positive reviews from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 75, based on 36 reviews. Alex Macpherson of The Guardian praised its "stylised, minimal music". USA Today's Steve Jones commented that "West deftly uses the 808 drum machine and Auto-Tune vocal effect to channel his feelings of hurt, anger and doubt through his well-crafted lyrics". Dan Cairns of The Times stated, "This so should not work...Yet 808s & Heartbreak is a triumph, recklessly departing from the commercially copper-bottomed script and venturing far beyond West’s comfort zone." Tom Breihan of The Village Voice found it to be "a work borne of depression" and dubbed it as West's "superstar-freakout album: his Low, his Trans, his Kid A. The one where he decides that frozen remoteness is the only thing that makes sense". Rolling Stone's Jody Rosen commended West's incorporation of the Roland TR-808 drum machine and described the album as "Kanye's would-be Here, My Dear or Blood on the Tracks, a mournful song-suite that swings violently between self-pity and self-loathing". Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly wrote that its "frosty, minimal sound backs lyrics of surprisingly raw emotion".
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy received rave reviews from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalizedrating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 94, which indicates "universal acclaim", based on 45 reviews. Andy Gill of The Independent called it "one of pop's gaudiest, most grandiose efforts of recent years, a no-holds-barred musical extravaganza in which any notion of good taste is abandoned at the door". In her review for the Los Angeles Times, Ann Powers called the album's music "Picasso-like, fulfilling the Cubist mandate of rearranging form, texture, color and space to suggest new ways of viewing things". Time magazine's David Browneviewed it as West's most lavish album and said that it proves again that few other artists have his ability to adeptly combine diverse elements. Dan Vidal of URB highlighted West's ability to bring out the best out of his collaborators and found it comparable to that of Miles Davis.
Watch the Throne received generally positive reviews from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted meanrating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 76, based on 42 reviews.Nathan Rabin of The A.V. Club wrote that "exhilarating messiness and go-for-broke spontaneity infect Jay-Z and push him outside his comfort zone and into a realm of intense emotional reflection." Pitchfork Media's Tom Breihan felt that it "works best when Jay and Kanye are just talking about how great they are," adding that "Kanye is this album's obvious guiding force ... He displays levels of unequaled audacity." Claire Suddath of Time called it "a beautifully decadent album by two of hip-hop's finest artists — men with a lot of things to say and a lot of money to spend." Neil McCormick of The Daily Telegraph praised West's "attention to detail" and found their "wit and absurdity [...] entirely suited to the epic scale of productions." Kitty Empire of The Observer stated, "Some find this sort of branded gloating distasteful, but at their best both rappers can still make you laugh."
Upon its release, Yeezus received rave reviews from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from music critics, the album received an average score of 84, which indicates "universal acclaim", based on 45 reviews. Steve Jones of USA Today called the album "immediately stunning [...] he created a polarizing, multi-layered body of work that probably will be debated all summer." Jon Dolan of Rolling Stone called Yeezus a "brilliant, obsessive-compulsive career auto-correct," comparing it to similarly abrasive records: "Every mad genius has to make a record like this at least once in his career – at its nastiest, his makes Kid A or In Utero or Trans all look like Bruno Mars."Pitchfork Media writer Ryan Dombal viewed it a "razor-sharpened take" on West's fourth album, 808s & Heartbreak, concluding that "Cohesion and bold intent are at a premium on Yeezus, perhaps more than any other Kanye album. Each fluorescent strike of noise, incongruous tempo flip, and warped vocal is bolted into its right place across the album's fast 40 minutes."