Review Summary: Kanye's fame sucks/rules record rises above the rest through its brilliant production
Mr. West does not want to hear about it, none of it. He doesn’t have time to deal with complaints or criticisms anymore. Cant blame the guy either, he has been the most innovative artist of the last ten years, every time he releases a new record it causes raps continents to shift, and as soon as the rest of rap catches up with Mr. West, he’s already on to the next big thing, but he’s also the most examined. Whenever he let looses his big mouth on TV or just in public everyone is hearing about it at the water cooler the next morning, must be stressful. So when he made a song called Cant Tell Me Nothin’, it was just stating the obvious at that point.
“Excuse me? Were you saying something? Nuh uh, you can’t tell me nothin’”
When Kanye’s on, he is on, tracks 1-6 are flat out stunners, dance floor bangers rub elbows with top of the world anthems, cold reflections and bitter laments, but that comes to something of a halt with Barry Bonds and Drunken Hot Girls. Both songs aren’t particularly bad to say, they’re just tiring. Lil’ Wayne throws down a lazy sounding guest verse on Barry Bonds and Drunk and Hot Girls is just a tiring plod. The energy is picked back up with Flashing Lights, a grade A Kanye track and a stone cold classic if I have ever heard one. Everything I Am is another decent reflection track and then the album closes out in style, with some of the 3 best tracks on the album. The Glory revs the album back into gear with a real crate digging Laura Nyro sample. He takes a left turn here, dipping back into the chipmunk soul he practically invented on The College Dropout but it sounds positively rapturous here shaking the rafters with a choir that includes Mos Def and John Legend.
As far as lyrical themes go, Graduation isn’t even close to as diverse as Late Registration which featured musings on the illegal diamond trade, her Grandmother’s cancer, cocaine’s effect on the inner city communities, and his rise from nothing to something, now it’s all about fame, dealing with fame, rising to fame, the good times and the bad times. But hey, that works, especially when the production is just this good. Good Morning’s dull echo percussion contrasts with the swoop of Elton John’s voice, Good Life takes the warn-out Michael Jackson sample and makes it sound fresh again probably because you can’t even tell it’s him with out some serious scrutiny, and Flashing Lights seems to just fly along an earth of strings and synthesizers lifted from the best 80’s slow jams at cruising speed. The lyrical blunders are still around (“Big brother saw me at the bottom of the totem, now I'm on the top and everybody on the scrotum” is my personal favorite) but they’re less frequent, but a little variation on topic would be kind of nice.
Kanye is a rich man and Graduation is some serious money on record. The beats are enormous, globetrotting things that vibe and glow underneath Kanye most of the time. Thing is, I just wish Kanye had more to muse about. Fame, fame, fame, the good and the bad is almost all that’s talked about on this record. It’s a stumble that didn’t plague Late Registration or The College Dropout but like always, even on Kanye’s worst track, his production saves it from the absolute depths. Its that commitment to quality that ranks Yeezy above his hip-hop peers, 50 who?