KANYE WEST -
Release Date : September 11 2007
Label : Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam
Dub Quotable: With Graduation, he broadens his musical spectrum with
hopes of delivering an album all listeners can agree upon as timeless.
At a recent listening session for Graduation, Kanye West boldly stated that
this third effort is, “One of the top ten albums in Hip-Hop history.”
It’s a confident statement, but one that can’t be immediately dismissed. With
previous releases The College Dropout and Late Registration, West delivered a
soulful antidote to mainstream Hip-Hop releases swamped with homicidal boasts.
Despite those albums wild success, West remains driven by the desire to be
taken seriously as a Hip-Hop luminary. With Graduation, he broadens his
musical spectrum with hopes of delivering an album all listeners can agree
upon as timeless.
The change in direction is spearheaded by lead single “Stronger.” Renowned for
flipping dusty jazz samples and delivering modern-day anthems, Kanye instead
opts to lift from French dance duo Daft Punk. Utilizing the robotic vocal loop
of their “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger,” ‘Ye piles on looming
synthesizers, volatile drums and wandering guitars to deliver a rallying
effort. “Stronger” is a fine example of when such experimentation pays off.
“Drunk And Hot Girls,” however, is an excruciatingly long misstep. Over an
oddly brooding production, Kanye half-sings, “Driving ‘round town looking
for the best spot for those drunk and hot girls.” As shallow and
misogynistic as anything 50 and co. have delivered, the track makes the
rambunctious “Gold Digger” sound pro-feminist.
Those eager for more of the wistful production that brought Kanye to the
forefront of Hip-Hop will find it on select highlights. Beyond its tired
chorus (“Wait ‘til I get my money right”) “Can’t Tell Me Nothin’” is a
poignant, respectfully honest cut. Over the breathing beats and a harmonizing
female, the notoriously cocky West admits to acting “more stupidly.” On “Big
Brother,” he goes one further, and explicitly details his current relationship
with mentor Jay-Z. Just like The Game’s noir dedication to Dr. Dre on
“Doctor’s Advocate,” the mood of “Brother” jumps from sincere praise to the
awkward, public announcement of grievances. Over DJ Toomp's dwelling,
synthesized strings and reassuringly familiar, tinkling keys, Kanye opens up:
“I guess big brother was thinking a little different/ Kept little brother
at bay, at a distance/ But everything that I felt was more bogus/ Only made me
more focused, only wrote more potent.” “Big Brother” is the definitive
example that Kanye is indeed a charismatic, immensely talented MC; he is
worthy of much more than the ‘producer-come-rapper’ summary.
As part of his education-themed trilogy, it’s nearly impossible not to compare
Graduation to Kanye’s two previous solos. This album certainly sounds more
universal, with jazzy horns swapped for up-tempo synths, and ego-stroking
verses raising their presence among substantial lyricism. In making this
artistic alteration, Kanye flirts with joining the ranks of his more generic
peers. Ultimately, Graduation offers enough bravely creative gems to distinct
itself, but the relatively hollow disco vibe will sit uncomfortably with some.
So, is this one of the top ten albums in Hip-Hop history? Not by a long shot.
It would be unwise, however, to count the mad scientist that is Kanye West out