Review: Kanye West – Graduation
by Winston "Stone" Ford
Let’s just put it out there–I won’t even bother to review 50’s album. Curtis is so weak that its just not worth my time and digital ink. So instead, here is a review of the lesser of two evils. Yes, I know that picking the “avant garde” choice over the “street” choice is predictable on my part, but anyone who believes these two actually live up to their persona is kidding themselves. Honestly I’m so disappointed in myself for getting drawn into Universal Music’s fake battle for the future of hip-hop (both Kanye and 50 are employed by UMG), but fortunately Kanye’s album is actually pretty damn good so in the end its worth it.
Good Morning – On the leak this song is stuffed way in the middle, however on the full album its at the beginning, which actually is better because it does a good job to establish the flow of the disc. Having that said, its nothing spectacular.
Champion – The first of many songs that I have on repeat. I like how Kanye mixes in some subtle reggae vibe in this track as well.
Stronger – Yaaaaaawn. Compare this single to every other one of Kanye’s (“Jesus Walks,” “Goldigger, “Through The Wire”) and you’ll see that this is probably Kanye’s second worst single of all time. Kanye was going for the pop/Dancefloor vibe with this one, but like I said before, the Daft Punk sample would have been cutting edge if Swizz Beatz didn’t do it first.
I Wonder – Amazing song. As much as I hate Kanye as a rapper and for his whining, the dude knows how to produce a damn good hip-hop record, proving that even mainstream dudes can weave obscure samples into their beats and this one will get respect from the OKP crowd as well as mainstream America. Even though Kanye comes close to ruining this song with his rhymes, I found myself putting this song on repeat more than once.
The Good Life (feat. T-Pain)- As much as Kanye hates MTV, his highly lip synced rendition of “The Good Life” at the MTV VMA’s was one of the best performances of the night and actually persuaded me to take a second look at this album, so I guess that channel is good for something. Seriously though, “The Good Life” is becoming the perfect summer song for me. The beat sounds like a laid back version of something Trackademicks would do and Kanye actually raps on beat and T-Pain manages to put the vocoder down and lays down some decent hooks (I’m not the first to point that out).
Can’t Tell Me Nothin’ – I hated this song at first, but its a decent single. 50’s singles were still better though. Ayo!
Barry Bonds – People are going crazy over this song, but honestly it is the weakest song on disc by far, and sounds like a mixtape track that was put on the album at the last minute. The beat sounds like it was bought off of MySpace and honestly Lil’Wayne adds nothing to this track. And on a side note, is there anything that Lil’ Wayne won’t do a verse for??
Drunk and Hot Girls – My friend said that “this sounds like something from the UK,” and I gotta agree with him. (I could see this song fitting in well with The Mitchell Brothers catalog.) Most songs are pretty defined, but this song isn’t rap, isn’t r&B, and not exactly techno. It’s probably best described as a clusterfuck of major proportions, feturing a lead rapper who sounds as drunk as the title and a Mos Def bridge that seems like it was copied and pasted from another song entirely. But in the end it works. How? I don’t know.
Flashing Lights – Again, another monster song, and yet another song that really doesn’t play by the mainstream hip-hop rules. The beat again pulls from the Sa-Ra playbook, yet makes the whole song more accessible. Surprisingly Kanye recruits Dwele to sing the hook here which probably had the people at Universal Music scratching their heads. Regardless, this has replaced “We Major” (from Late Registration) as my favorite Kanye album of all time.
Everything I Am – The beat sounds like something that would be on Jay-Z’s Blueprint album (maybe it was left over from that?) but other than that it’s a decent introspective rap song.
The Glory – One of the reasons that fans of that so-called “real hip-hop” are so amped about this album is that while 50 went straight pop with his collabos (Justin, Robin Thicke, that chick from the Pussycat Dolls), Kanye kept his collabos strictly underground. Mos Def provides the background on a few tracks including this one, which sounds more like a Common record than a Kanye one, but its a definite banger nonetheless.
Homecoming (feat. Chris Martin) – Let me confess something here. I believe that Coldplay is one of the greatest groups of all time, regardless of any genre, country, year, etc. Having that said, Chris Martin should stick to Alternative rock. Not saying that this track is bad, and honestly its light years better than his collabo with Jay-Z, but Martin is again reduced to the level of some B-level R&B singer–singing hooks on a record while adding nothing additional to the track.
Big Brother – Does anyone else find this song eerie? A tribute to Jay-Z? I don’t know, but its just not gangsta to express man love on wax anymore.
Conclusion: Even with its misses, Graduation is an great album, not as good as Late Registration, but most likely one of the best albums I’ve heard all year. Songs like “I Wonder,” “Flash Lights,” and even “The Glory” push this album to near classic status. And for the record, I think that Kanye’s a whiny bitch, and I still can’t get over him ruining the return of the Police during “Message In A Bottle” on Live Earth, but having that said, the dude knows how to produce. However, Graduation is hampered by Kanye’s lack of rhyme skills (Lupe or even Talib would destroy this album) and his damn annoying braggadocio. Having that said, this is far superior than anything 50 Cent has ever put out, and if you’re on the fence about album to buy this September 11th, wonder no more.