7. Cruel Summer (2012)
Technically, Cruel Summer is a showcase for the entire GOOD Music crew, but considering the title is preceded by "Kanye West Presents," and the album's got Kanye's fingerprints all over it, and it produced a string of Kanye-centric singles that more or less defined 2012, it seems more like a part of his canon than a side project. Which is a shame because other than that brilliant string of singles ("Mercy," "Cold," "New God Flow," "Clique," and the remix of Chief Keef's "I Don't Like"), Cruel Summer plays like pure afterthought. Granted, the hits are absolute monsters, and Kanye is in virtuoso form throughout. He goes to entertaining lengths to out-Kanye himself, whether jamming absurd amounts of clever innuendo into his "Clique" verse or dropping lines like "R. Kelly and the god of rap / Shittin' on you, holy crap" that probably make Big Sean believe he can get away with the corniest garbage ever. But when the leader's not around, it's a snooze fest. Sadly and tellingly, the best non-Kanye appearances come from guys who aren't even signed to GOOD Music (R. Kelly on "To The World" and 2 Chainz on "Mercy"). The coherence that separates album from iTunes playlist is lacking. And when Kanye pops up later in the tracklist on "The One," he seems to be dragged down by mediocre company rather than bringing out the best in his collaborators as usual.