Mosaic / Music / Reviews / September 25, 2008

Graduation review, a year late

I may be the last person on this campus, possibly in the U.S., that has yet to listen to Kanye West’s newest album, Graduation, released over a year ago. First off, let me just say that I have always found Kanye to be a pretty good producer. He overuses some samples sometimes, but for the most part, he makes easily marketable, easy to listen to, and technically proficient albums from behind the board. This case, though, is his third go at being an MC, and as it seems to me, it is about as good as his previous offerings.

Graduation is probably the first album where the last third is the best part of the album. The album starts off with an intro, then flows on into “Champion”, an excellent example of an average rapper patting himself on the back. It’s a pretty good song, what you would expect from a second song that gets you moving and feeling the music. “Stronger”, the first single off the album that sampled Daft Punk, is okay, but once again, he continues to talk about how great he is, and how other rappers should lick his boots.

Another single, “Good Life” featuring the most pointless man in hip-hop, T-Pain, is just basic club music. It is a mindless money maker, what all commercial hip-hop albums need to clear the many layers of bureaucracy that the music industry consists of. Kanye continues to move through the album, making several predictable songs one would expect from a guy like Kanye. The best song on the album is “Everything I Am,” basically a testimonial about the life Mr. West has led, and it is the only time he broaches any real topics beyond sex, clothes, cars, and himself.

Possibly the most insulting song is “Drunk and Hot Girls,” a title that features Mos Def of all people. A chance for someone like Kanye to work with a visionary game changer like Mos Def should be a time where Kanye rises up, but in fact, Mos Def sinks to a lower level, on par with Kanye. It is incredible that this could happen, especially to the living legend that Mos Def is. “Barry Bonds” is a mid-album track that features the ubiquitous Lil Wayne, and it is exactly what one would expect from a song with him: nothingness, just more back patting and lots of pretty words out of Wayne’s mouth that don’t mean anything.

“Can’t Tell Me Nothing” is a song that reaches me on a level, because I can appreciate someone who wouldn’t care what others think, just doing his own thing. I would appreciate it more if I felt like Kanye was doing his own thing, instead of just riding the wake of his mentor, Sean Carter, who he wrote the final song, “Big Brother”, for. It’s a good song, because he put some real feeling into it, as with “Everything I Am.” Other than these, it’s a rather empty album, in many ways. And when you have Chris Martin on one of your tracks, that isn’t something I see as being innovative, but more pandering to a common denominator.

The album is good, and I can understand why it sold so well. It’s pop-ish, yet it explores a new level of music production, incorporating techno vibes, and there is a slightly European vibe to it of sorts (note presence of Mr. Martin), something that is beyond what guys like Young Jeezy or Yung Joc are doing. In a way, Kanye is on the cutting edge, but the problem here is that he isn’t doing it with his rhyme schemes, his topics, or anything an MC of the caliber he claims to be should be doing. He claims he is a top five MC, but I just don’t see that at all.

Kanye has some talent, no doubt about that, but it just seems like he should have let the whole rap career incubate for a while before coming out with an album, much less three. Really, if you want a good Kanye album, go get a Common album, like Be. Same flavor, but bigger and bolder, more real.

Merritt Rohlfing

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