Kanye West - Graduation review
Label: GOOD Music/Roc-A-Fella/Island Def Jam
Release Date: September 11th, 2007
Producers: Kanye West (exec.), DJ Premier, DJ Toomp, Timbaland
- Good Morning (intro)
- Champion (Sample: "Kid Charlemagne" - Steely Dan)
- Stronger (Sample: "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" - Daft Punk)
- I Wonder (w. T-Pain)
- Good Life (Sample: "P.Y.T." - Michael Jackson)
- Can't Tell Me Nothing (Sample: "I Got Money" - Young Jeezy)
- Barry Bonds (w. Lil Wayne)
- Drunk & Hot Girls (w. Mos Def) (Sample: "Sing Swan Song" - Can)
- Flashing Lights (w. Dwele)
- Everything I Am
- The Glory (Sample: "Save the Country" - Laura Nyro)
- Homecoming (w. Chris Martin)
- Big Brother
To purchase this album click here: Graduation
If you ask a large number of hip-hop fans out there what the most anticipated album of 2007 is, your answer will invariably be Kanye West’s third album, Graduation. The loyal followers of Kanye West and G.O.O.D. Music have waited just over two years for Graduation. His last album, Late Registration, was released in August of 2005, when it débuted at #1 on the Billboard charts and eventually went double-platinum. While there are surely disagreements between fans about whether College Dropout was better than Late Registration or vice versa, one thing that they will definitely agree on is that Late Registration showed a significant amount of progression in the areas of production, song-writing, and lyrical ability. With the assistance of Jon Brion on Late Registration, Kanye West became one of the first artists to bring the dramatic sound of opera and classical orchestras to the genre of hip-hop and actually make it sound phenomenal, which brings us to his latest album. Graduation shows Kanye once again undermining the expectations of his fans and critics alike, opting for less assistance from Jon Brion, and relying on a smaller number of features, which assist in giving us our first actual glance into the life and mind of Kanye West
Many critics would probably like to label Graduation as a concept album. However, when you listen to the album in its entirety, there really isn’t a single dominant concept or idea that links these songs together. The songs themselves definitely flow together though and the great thing about Graduation is that it actually lives up to the expectations of being a classic hip-hop album, one that you can play all the way through at any time of the day. The album starts off with “Good Morning,” a flawless opening song, combining all of Kanye’s talents: energetic lyrics, an incredible beat, and a beautiful background vocal melody. This is easily one of the best tracks on the album, especially when you consider the combination of comedy and inspiration in the lyrics such as “On this day we become legendary. Everything we dreamed of. I’m like the fly Malcolm X. By any jeans necessary.” And while Kanye’s been known for incorporating humor and social commentary in his lyrics, his metaphors on this song are even impressive. The one that hit me was in the third verse where he says “Good Morning. Look at the valedictorian. Scared of the future, while hop in the Delorian.” The bridge at the end of the song sounds incredible as well, sampling a line from Jay-Z’s “The Ruler’s Back” and following it up with a befitting synthesizer melody.
Kanye appropriately takes the tempo of the album up a notch with the next song “Champion,” where he samples Steely Dan’s “Kid Charlemagne.” You definitely wouldn’t be able to tell that was the original song though, especially after you hear the creative way Kanye speeds it up, chops it, and throws one of his special drum kits over it. The lyrics are noticeably more upbeat and inspirational on this track as well, where we hear Kanye discussing his upbringing as a middle class child dealing with the divorce of his parents and his father’s limited means to support him. He says in the second verse “I don’t know. I just wanted better for my kids. And I ain’t saying we was from the projects, but everytime I wanted layaway or a deposit, my dad would say “When you see clothes, close your eyelids.” Later on, however, it’s evident that his father’s limited means caused him to work harder and this subsequently instilled a hard-working ethic within Kanye. The next song is the second single “Stronger,” where Kanye samples Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” and on the official version on the album, Kanye adds a Timbaland drum kit to the track, making for an even more incredible version of an already great song.
After that Kanye perfectly slows down the tempo of the album a bit with “I Wonder,” but not so much that it totally loses energy and focus like some albums. To me, this song accurately displays Kanye’s most important and refined musical talents. It starts off with one of his classic soul samples, which I couldn’t identify off-hand, but it sounds amazing especially when it gradually flows in to the beat of the rest of the track, which includes a fleeting piano melody backed by another synthesizer. There are two great things about this song. One being that the lyrics are probably about his relationship with his fiancée, but could easily interpreted as a relationship with a friend or possibly even a career in music. You don’t exactly know, which is what makes it great. Kanye even gets silly with his lyrics again near the end, with the memorable line “How many ladies in the house without a spouse? Something in your blouse got me feelin’ so aroused.” The second amazing thing about this song is the production, which is just crazy to begin with, but the end of the song includes one of the most amazing bridges I’ve ever heard, incorporating a live orchestra while Kanye spits some of his most inspirational lyrics: “And I’m back on my grind. A psycher (psychic?) in my lifetime told me my name would help light up the Chicago skyline. And that’s why I’m 7 o’clock. That’s primetime. Heaven, I watch god calling from the hotlines. Why he keep giving me hotlines? I’m a star. How could I not shine?”
Believe it or not, the much-hyped collaboration with T-Pain on Graduation is honestly one of the weaker songs on the album, although it’s arguably the best T-Pain collaboration, which really isn’t saying much. The beat is absolutely insane as usual, but the hook is just kind of mediocre, especially when you consider the quality of Kanye’s lyrics on this particular song (“I whipped it out. She said “I never seen Snakes On A Plane”). Anyways, after the first single “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” and the amazing collaboration with Lil Wayne, “Barry Bonds,” we finally get to the latest Kanye/Mos Def collaboration, “Drunk And Hot Girls.” This is definitely one of my favorite songs on the album, because of the hilarious lyrics and the underlying message of the song, which essentially boils down to something alone the lines of ladies, quit being so ignorant and materialistic, and fellas, quit getting drunk and screwing around without a condom. I was a little disappointed that Mos Def didn’t actually have a verse on this song, but his singing voice is pretty damn good anyways (remember ‘Umi Says?’), so the track sounds perfect.