Review Summary: "Rap and Hip Hop's most arrogant star shines through shaded curtains"
Kanye West has proclaimed over and over again that he is the greatest in the music game and his publicity stunts are far too well known by the American public. With this kind of attention the now famous rapper enjoys on a daily basis then there must be an acceptable reason for Kanye's big ego. With his most recent and controversial work, "Graduation", Mr. West proves he has the capabilities to live up to his own hype, but misses the chance to be the valedictorian of his hip-hop class.
As far as "Graduation" goes as a piece of work, it manages to show off some of Kanye West's best efforts, but does not pass to the standard West would like people to consider. However, Kanye's ego be damned, because when the ego is taken out of the rapper, West manages to show an earnest side that helps him soar. Most singles off of "Graduation" are some his better one's, but nothing near the quality of "Jesus walks", except for maybe "Flashing Lights". While the other singles off the album aren't classics, or fit to serve the album, they are well-used for radio play because their purpose is served through providing a lighter, funner sense to the record, particularly "Good Life" and "Stronger". "Can't Tell Me Nothing" is different as it displays Kanye's arrogant side with a statment near the begining that seems to alude to the point that the more people pay attention to him, the more reason he will give, no matter how ridiculous. However, he also says that the people who talk about him think of themselves just as highly as him, but still ends up rapping about being the better man. "Can't Tell Me Nothing" is also nowhere close to Kanye's best work, but he still manages to lay down some excellent rhymes.
Opening excerpt from "Can't Tell Me Nothing":
"I had a dream I can buy my way to heaven
When I awoke, I spent that on a necklace
I told God I'd be back in a second,
Man It's so hard not to act reckless
To whom much is given much is tested
Get arrested, guess until, they get the message
I feel the pressure, under more scrutiny,
and what I do? act more stupidly"
As a rapper Kanye can defintitely keep up the pace by himself most of the time. He doesn't need to depend on guest spots from other MCs, but when he gets them they usually are the best parts to the tracks. T-Pain's singing on "Good Life" helps to make it a mainstream hit, but also gives the song a relaxing mood that goes with the fast paced piano synth beats. "Barry Bonds" features "the greatest rapper alive Lil Wayne" and he absolutely kills it delevering a whole verse ending hilariously with, "and you can get barried, suck my bat bit.ch". Sadly, Kanye does not even come close to matching up with Weezy F Baby. His lazy, pointed rapping gets annoying as he apparently attempts to align himself to a style that fits Wayne much, much better. Chris Martin's piano and chorus vocal contribution to "Homecoming" is a mixed bag. Kanye uses the jumpy piano beat to inspire some up to par rapping, but Chris' vocals throw the song off balance. While Martin can certainly sing, he and Kanye do not mix to make an amazing collaboration. The biggest joke on Graduation however is "Drunk and Hot Girls". To think that this seriously made it on to the album is proof that this is Kanye's weakest album to date. Kanye and Mos Def recreate a song so silly to compare it to Eminem's "Shake That Ass" isn't enough. With lazy vocals and Kanye's ridiculous lyrics, "Drunk and Hot Girls" is easily West's worst song.
Excerpt from "Drunk and Hot Girls":
"I don't wanna drop your friends off, I just want you
You wanna sit down but we hit the drive through
Please don't fall asleep baby we almost back
Please don't throw up in the car we almost crashed
Oh now you sober, how'd I know you'd say that
You drunk an hot girl
We go through too much bull*** just to mess with these drunk and hot girls"
Kanye reaches the top at the endgame with "Big Brother", the ode to idol Jay-Z. He manages to spit smooth melodic verses about Jigga and what an inspiration he is. This is when Mr. west finally drops the ego and soars honestly with lines such as, "It was the pride in me that was driving me, at the grammies I said I inspired me, but (it was) my big brother who I always tried to be". Kanye was also probably inspired by the epic piano riff accompanied by a distorted guitar riff that is some of the better instrumentation off of "Graduation". "Flashing Lights" also features the very best music with lingering synths that transform into an excited beat during Kanye's better rhymes. The ambiency created with "Flashing Lights" is enough to forgive maybe one, or two of the mishaps on "Graduation", but not enough.
From start to finish Mr. West manages to create an entertaining album, but not like he is capable of. The biggest problem is that Graduation is way too long at fifty minutes. Kanye could easily have released the album three songs shorter and come out with a much better product that people could say was easy to listen to. Musically, "Graduation" is light and melodic with Kanye putting up some decent to excellent rhymes for the most part, but gets burnt a few times. Even the end of "Graduation" particulary seems to drone on even with the help of "Big Brother". The ambient music that Kanye incorporates is acceptable for the most part, but still is not original. Kanye may have graduated, but he doesn't seem to be at the top of his class even though it's what he would like think.
"Can't Tell Me Nothing"