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20 Songs You Didn’t Know Kanye West Produced

Mos Def, Lil Wayne, Mariah Carey and more deeper cuts from the hip-hop icon

Kanye West

Kanye West produced songs for many rap stars before he got famous.

J. Emilio Flores/Corbis

Kanye West is one of music's biggest stars and his roots as an in-demand beatsmith are well known – he ­produced huge hits for Ludacris ("Stand Up") and Alicia Keys ("You Don't Know My Name") and played a major role in the sound of Jay-Z's classic The Blueprint. Still, West produced dozens of tracks, often for major label releases, that went under the radar. Sometimes the track languished on a low selling album, did little damage to the singles charts or simply wasn't associated with him because of the absence of a shout-out or his signature chipmunk soul samples. Here are 20 Kanye West productions that you may not know.

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Hot Karl, “Armand Assante” (2003)

Jensen Karp has had a strange career that's included art dealing, podcasting and writing for the WWE. But one of his most unusual scrapes with fame was a short-lived stint as battle rapper Hot Karl, who signed with Interscope and recorded a song with Kanye West in 2003. There's probably some backstory to "Armand Assante" to be learned this June when Karp releases his memoir, Kanye West Owes Me $300: And Other Stories From a Jewish Rapper Who Almost Made It Big.

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Royce Da 5’9″, “Heartbeat” (2003)

Detroit rapper Royce Da 5'9" signed with three different labels before finally releasing his debut, Rock City, in 2002. Through the years of working on that album, a lot of unreleased material piled up, some of which was released on the 2003 compilation Build & Destroy: The Lost Sessions, Pt. 1. Rumor has it that West never got paid for producing "Heartbeat," and after the song's release prevented him from selling the beat to another artist, he vowed to never work with Royce again.

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DJ Kay Slay feat. Jaheim, N.O.R.E., Nature, Left Gunz, “No Problems” (2004)

Before the rise of DJ Khaled, Kay Slay was one of the biggest radio jocks who successfully used the format of hip-hop mixtapes for a major label album. The Drama King's second album for Columbia, The Streetsweeper Vol. 2, featured a beat from Kanye West, hot on the heels of the success of The College Dropout.

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D12, “D12 World” (2004)

On the title track to D12's second album, the Detroit supergroup's most famous member, Eminem, took a break to let the rest of the group shine, sneering shock raps over a funky Kanye West beat.

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Petey Pablo, “I Swear” (2004)

Tucked away in the second half of Petey Pablo's 2004 album Still Writing in My Diary: 2nd Entry, between raucous Lil Jon and Timbaland bangers, "I Swear" was a surprisingly clubby Kanye West production, cut from the same cloth as the Ludacris chart-topper "Stand Up."

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Mariah Carey, “Stay The Night” (2005)

In 2002, Kanye West almost placed a track on Mariah Carey's Charmbracelet, but it's for the best that it didn't happen – the beat wound up as Talib Kweli's classic single "Get By." Instead, West ended up with a track on Carey's blockbuster comeback LP, 2005's The Emancipation of Mimi.

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Alicia Keys, “Unbreakable” (2005)

About a decade ago, Kanye West and longtime collaborator No I.D. were so enamored of a particular sample from the 1978 Eddie Kendricks hit "Intimate Friends," that it wound up anchoring three different songs. West used it on the west coast supergroup 213's "Another Summer" and No I.D. flipped the sample similarly on Rhymefest's "Sister." But the sample most famously inspired the Alicia Keys song "Unbreakable," a studio outtake produced by West that Keys performed on MTV Unplugged.

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Diddy feat. Cee-Lo, Nas, “Everything I Love” (2006)

A few weeks ago, Kanye West tweeted, "Puff Daddy is the most important cultural figure in my life. His influence means everything to me." Given that influence and how many mutual friends they share, it's surprising how little the two producer/rapper/moguls have actually collaborated. Their most notable work together is "Everything I Love," a West-produced track from Diddy's 2006 album Press Play, a moody and R&B-heavy album that preceded 808s & Heartbreak by a couple years.

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Lil Wayne, “Did It Before” (2007)

Kanye West nearly signed with Cash Money Records before he solidified his relationship with Roc-a-Fella. But it wasn't until years later that West began working heavily with one of their artists, while Lil Wayne was recording his blockbuster 2008 album Tha Carter III. West wound up with two productions on the final album, but "Did It Before" was among Wayne's many studio outtakes that mixtape DJs leaked in 2007.

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