Kanye West
Graduation


5.0
classic

Review

by Shamus248 CONTRIBUTOR (121 Reviews)
September 7th, 2023 | 6 replies


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: "On this day, we become legendary."

Did Kanye West intentionally try to blow gangsta rap off the map? One certainly ponders why, in the summer of 2007, he moved the release of his album Graduation up to September 11th, pitting it in direct competition with 50 Cent's Curtis. The healthy, if heavily public, "beef" did culminate in West and 50 both appearing on cable television together to promote their albums devoid of any hostility. But when Graduation's 957,000 first week sales toppled the 691,000 that Curtis moved, that signaled the definitive end of gangsta rap's prominence in the mainstream marketplace.

West drew on a bevy influences, notably from his stint as an opening act for Dublin-based rock stalwarts U2. West watched in awe as Bono garnered thunderous ovations from as many as nearly a quarter of a million people, and sought to converge hip-hop with arena rock and pop histrionics. West reached for artists such as Daft Punk, Steely Dan and 2Pac for the album's various samples and interpolations, while also pulling considerable influence from rock bands of different eras; from the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin to the Killers and Modest Mouse, West desired a brand of rap that was anthemic, exuberant and stadium-ready. He rejected the skits and poured on the synthesizers and electronics. The end result is an unceasingly interesting and even tacitly thrilling masterpiece.

Gently trembling cowbells and an Elton John falsetto sample make up the foundation of opening stanza "Good Morning." The heavy synth affectations create almost a supernatural atmosphere. The subdued and relatively chilled-out vibe quickly gives way, however, to the purposeful and enthralling "Stronger." Armed with a vocoded Daft Punk sample, pulsating synths and chord progressions, chiming electric guitars and a sweeping Nietzschean-inspired hook ("Now that that don't kill me/Can only make me stronger"), this "overplayed" track is one of modern pop's biggest watershed moments, made even more potent by West's cocksure delivery ("Bow in the presence of greatness"), even on pleading lines like the repeated "I need you right now" on the out-chorus fills. The orchestral grandeur of "I Wonder" sees West hyper-enunciate every word, backed by distorted kick drums and an understated sense of melancholy.

West affirms his disinterest in anything prosaic on the T-Pain cameo event "Good Life." Pain's vocals are drowned in auto-tune, as is his trademark, but the hooks are more lingering and enjoyable than almost anything you can get from conventional pop music. "Can't Tell Me Nothing" conjures quaint reminders of Zeppelin-esque arena rock as West grapples with the struggles of fame ("I feel the pressure/Under my scrutiny/And what I do? Act more stupidly.") "Flashing Lights" glides in on glistening dream pop tendencies before oscillating between sweeping synth washes, Dwele's sung hook, Connie Mitchell's filler vocals and Kanye's creative flows and verses ("Feeling like Katrina with no FEMA....hey Mona Lisa, you know you can't roam without Caesar.") On "The Glory", Ye makes use of his early signature chipmunk vocal effects which pervade in the background of the track, while bookend closer "Good Night" buzzes with glitching classical piano fills and Kanye's desire to live in the moment ("We can't dwell on the past/All we got is today/So I'mma live like there's no tomorrow.")

Graduation is a masterclass of production and artistic vision, one that proved indelibly influential on its genre and West's contemporaries. This album was the benchmark where, as Rolling Stone elucidated, "rap became the playground of emotional heroes like Kid Cudi, Lupe Fiasco, Drake and J. Cole." Did anyone ever predict that some of the most premium 2000s pop would come from outside the conventions of that genre? Graduation is an event, sometimes skewed in presentation, but always boundlessly imaginative. Kanye concocted a danceable form of rap, bashful and boisterous enough to fill and captivate any rock-conditioned stadium. Some people push back on the notion of grunge cutting hair metal out at the knees, but can you argue that contretemps as effectively against West's avant-garde pop rap vertex? I think it's pretty simple; Graduation changed the game.



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user ratings (3168)
3.6
great
other reviews of this album
1 of
  • DhA (4)
    Classic, interrupted - a dissapointing mid-trio of tracks hang ominously over an otherwise...

    FromDaHood (5)
    I never thought he would take it this far...

    Stormy Smiley Face (3)
    "Rap and Hip Hop's most arrogant star shines through shaded curtains"...

    wtferrothorn (4)
    Chapter 3: Changing the Game...

  • YoungOne88 (4.5)
    Save for a few questionable decisions Kanye has put out an amazing album and although he i...

    continuo (5)
    Kanye West loses no momentum in pop friendly effort....

    HolidayKirk (3.5)
    Kanye's fame sucks/rules record rises above the rest through its brilliant production...



Comments:Add a Comment 
Shamus248
Contributing Reviewer
September 7th 2023


950 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Part 1 of 2. Will be doing 50's "Curtis" next

Hawks
September 7th 2023


90597 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Nice.

Trebor.
Emeritus
September 7th 2023


59912 Comments

Album Rating: 3.3

Never got the love for this one but nice

bellovddd
September 7th 2023


6583 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

i much prefer curtis.

normaloctagon
Contributing Reviewer
July 10th 2024


4148 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Album is crackling with electricity, somehow gets better every time i return to it

Shamus248
Contributing Reviewer
July 11th 2024


950 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

it's fucking dope man and what a great description....hit the nail on the head



Kanye really was on a hot streak back in the day



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