Album Review: Graduation by Kanye West

Posted: August 5, 2011 by eptarheels23 in Album Review, Music
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And the countdown to Watch the Throne begins. The past couple of years have been tough for Kanye West, but one thing should not be lost in all this, the man makes amazing music and has done so for his entire career. Kanye has always been outspoken, brash and even a little cocky, but he has always been incredibly gifted as a musician. Things are really starting to get better for Kanye since the Taylor Swift incident. He went on a hiatus for a little while and then he went on a spree of releasing some of the best music of 2010 with MBDTF and G.O.O.D. Fridays. Well back in 2007 he and 50 Cent had a little showdown on September 11th, who’s CD would sell more, Graduation or Curtis? 50 Cent said he’d retire if he lost, and it was one of the biggest days in music in a long time. 50 actually lost and as you can see he didn’t retire, but I’m glad he didn’t. Back to the album, Graduation has been one of my favorite albums ever and propelled Kanye West into superstar status. So hit the jump for the review on Kanye West’s Graduation!

1: Good Morning 4.5/5
Mr. West starts off the album with a smooth, almost dreamy intro that lays the groundwork for the rest of the LP. Right off the bat you can tell how much Kanye has grown as a producer as the beat feels really finished and perfected, it’s even complete with a Jay-Z sample from The Ruler’s Back. That sample really makes the track feel complete and adds to the overall feel of the record. Kanye flows well throughout the track, but it’s not the strong point. That is still the beat, the dreamy vibe filled with synth kicks makes for a helluva intro.

2: Champion 5/5
From the start I knew what that sample was. It was a song my Dad plays all the time in the car, King Charlemagne by Steely Dan. While I wasn’t a fan of the original, Kanye is starting to show how much a genius he is behind the boards with the sample. It doesn’t feel out of place and flows perfectly with the entirety of the song. The beat on here is more up-tempo and almost inspirational from Kanye. This record also starts showcasing how confident Mr. West is becoming behind the mic with lines such as “I shop so much I can speak Italian”. Amazing track from West here.

3: Stronger 5/5
I don’t even know where to begin with this record. Well I’ll start with this is probably my favorite Kanye West song of all time. The beat is complete genius. Sampling Daft Punk makes it appeal to a wide range of music listeners, from hip-hop heads to electronic fans to indie listeners. The beat is a banger and is probably Mr. West’s finest work to date. It’s just so lush and seems to be ever changing. Kanye’s lyrics are not to be outplayed by the beat though. They are strong throughout the song and at some points even seem to outdo everything else that’s going on. His flow is also once again on point, completing everything a track needs to be considered a classic. And a classic this track is indeed.

4: I Wonder 5/5
In my opinion, this is probably the most underrated record on Graduation. The beat is off the chain as it is filled with synth kicks, a deep bass, violins and a background piano. Compiling an incredible beat that has a an uplifting, dreamy, what if kinda tone to it. Kanye’s flow is different on I Wonder. It is slowed down to the beat and almost demanding at points. I’m not sure what it is about it, but at the 2:55 mark when the beat drops and Kanye picks up his flow a little, just has an amazing feel to it. Almost like it’s a culmination of the entire song into a couple seconds. All in all, this is an incredible record from Kanye West.

5: Good Life (feat. T-Pain) 5/5
This record is aimed to make waves on the radio, and it did so. The most mainstream record on the LP has Mr. Radio himself on the hook in T-Pain. I normally hate these type of tracks, but I know ever major label album needs one. With that being said, I love this song. The beat is sped up and Kanye really shows off his his lyrics with lines such as “having money is not everything, not having it is”. T-Pain does an excellent job on the hook, giving the track what it needed to have major success. Mr. West has a huge hit on his hands.

6: Can’t Tell Me Nothing 3.5/5
I realize this was the first single off Graduation and it has had some serious success, but I’m just not a fan of it. The beat is not Kanye’s best and let’s me down from the start. The one part of the track I like is the chorus when Kanye chanting “la la la la wait till I get my money right, la la la la then you can’t tell me nothing right”. I also dig how he got some Young Jeezy samples in there. Those samples come in the form of classic Young Jeezy laughs and “yeahs”. This is an good track from Kanye, it just so happens to be on an LP of amazing tracks.

7: Barry Bonds (feat. Lil Wayne) 4/5
A highly anticipated collaboration between two of the biggest artists in the game, Yeezy and Weezy. When you look at what’s behind the track, it’s a little disappointing that these two artists didn’t do more with what they were given. The beat is solid, so are the verses from both emcees, along with the chorus and the lyrics. The problem is that every component of this track is solid, not great as you would come to expect from these two come together to make music.

8: Drunk and Hot Girls (feat. Mos Def) 4.5/5
Not the type of track I would expect NY emcee Mos Def to jump on, but oh well. The beat is one of the most complex on the LP as it is composed of violins, a deep bass, synth kicks, a keyboard, strings and even a cello. But all that adds up to an eerie, creepy beat from Mr. West. With that being said, I love the beat and it sets the stage perfectly for Kanye and Mos Def to drop bars over. Mos Def doesn’t have a huge imprint on the record except for a short little verse where the beat completely changes. This actually turns out to be my favorite part of the whole record and makes the song that much better.

9: Flashing Lights (feat. Dwele) 5/5
As a whole this is one of the most complete records on the album. A amazing beat, great verses from West, outstanding hook from Dwele and killer flow and lyrics from Kanye. It all adds up to a record that feels like it’s done and perfected. The track as an almost electronic feel to it, but it will still stick with die hard hip-hop fans. Lastly, let me state that this is probably Mr. West’s best flow so far on Graduation. He tons back at some points and then picks it up, flowing effortlessly over the beat.

10: Everything I Am 4.5/5
Right away I thought the beat was made by DJ Premier or Pete Rock. It has that classic, throwback east coast hip-hop vibe to it. It is actually produced my Kanye himself, but it does have a contribution from one of the aforementioned producers. DJ Premier is responsible for the scratches throughout the record, which just adds to the old school vibe even more. The lyrics from Kanye are great here, as they range from witty to funny to serious to anything and everything in between. Strong throwback jam from Mr. West.

11: The Glory 4/5
Kanye picks up the pace with more of an uptempo jam that is filled with witty and clever lines throughout the record. Such as “I’m like Gnarls Barkley meets Charles Barkely” and “I guess after I live I wanna be compared to B.I.G., Anyone Big Pun, Big L or Notorious, fit in, get money and stunt and stay glorious” and “So yeah at the Grammies I went ultra Travolta, yeah that tuxedo might have been a little gweedo, but with my ego I can stand there with a speedo, and still be looked at like a f*****g hero”. THose just scratch the surface , you’re going to have to listen to it many times to catch everything. After all that, this is a solid track from Mr. West.

12: Homecoming (feat. Chris Martin) 4.5/5
When I first listened to this track way back in 2007, I hated it. But ever since then it has slowly grown on me. It really just seems to embody the Chicago feel all in one track. Also this track has another one of those moments like I said in I Wonder. The end of Kanye’s first verse where he goes “She said, Ye keep making that, keep making that platinum and gold for me” really hits the spot. Just how he says it along with the him just going hard for a verse, it all just adds up to this amazing moment.

13: Big Brother 3.5/5
While I’m not a huge fan of this song from the musical aspect, I respect and love the message behind the track. Lines such as “My big brother was B.I.G.’s brother, so here’s a few words from ya kid brother, if you admire somebody you should go head and tell ’em, people never get the flowers while they can still smell ’em” sum up what the song is about. Kanye details his lifelong admiration for Jay-Z and hints at the post-Dropout turbulence between the two. From listening to this track, you can really get tell how much Kanye looks up to Jay-Z and anytime you hear the word “big brother” he is referring to Hov.

14: Goodnight (feat. Mos Def & Al Be Back) 4.5/5
I am personally a huge fan of when artists start and close albums on the same note such as this Lp and when Casey Veggies opened his album Sleeping In Class with the track Forever and closed with And Forever. It really just seems to give the album closure. Well the beat is calm and smooth, almost sounding like a bedtime lullaby for a child. Mos Def handles the hook duties and underground emcee Al Be Back drops a short verse in the middle of the record. Both artists make the track better overall and outstanding closer to Graduation.

After an amazing debut album in The College Dropout, then an excellent follow up in Late Registration, Graduation officially propelled Kanye West to superstar status along with the names of Jay-Z, Eminem, Lil Wayne and 50 Cent (probably not any more though). The album is amazing diverse as it has the ability to appeal to audiences such as the indie rockers to elctro-house enthusiasts without excluding the hip-hop listeners. The tracks are amazing, and he’s being mature, honest, and just being himself: shrewd, occasionally foolish, and adventurous. Everything comes together to make a literary compilation of tracks, as entertaining and flashy as they are deep and emotional. This is without a doubt one of the most complete albums during the 2000’s and should be considered a classic in hip-hop music.

Download: Kanye West – Graduation

Comments
  1. […] received with great acclaim and positive reviews. Then in 2007, Mr. West released his third effort Graduation. That album pushed Kanye West into stardom and set his place as one of the giants in the music […]

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