Well, the biggest news to hit the “blog scene” this week had to be the early “leak” (does anyone have the “explicit” version?) of Kanye West’s highly anticipated & highly publicized (thanks 50!) third album “Graduation”. Hate Kanye all you want but he appeals to the mainstream as well as the underground headz (even though we don’t want to admit) making his music appealing to cats from all walks of life. Let’s state the obvious, Kanye can be an “asshole” but he knows it. Give him his due, the dude talked shit on record even before “Through The Wire”. The first time I heard his production on Beanie Sigel’s “The Truth” I knew that dude was gonna’ be big and later that same winter hearing Jay’s “This Can’t Be Life” (even though he’s made the earlier part of his production career uses the same drums Dre did on “XXXplosive”) only solidified my initial predictions for this up & comer with a bright future from Chicago. To quote Kanye on “Graduation”….”I talked shit & I lived it”, which he did….but, on “Graduation” it seems as if Kanye…who was even “high” on himself after “The College Dropout”… takes his self-loathing & boastfulness to a whole new level “on my own shit” on “Graduation”. Not to say that “Graduation” is a bad album, it’s just a little disappointing because some of the tracks that made the cut would have never seen the light of day on his previous two efforts (“The College Dropout” & “Late Registration”). Think about it, if I asked you “what was the only lackluster track on Kanye’s debut? The only cut that comes to mind for me is “Workout Plan”. Okay, what track should have been left on the cutting room floor that made “Late Registration”? Hmmmm, as I’m typing this nothing on the top of my head really stands out that granted exercising the fast forward button on “Late Registration”. Well, let me just look at the tracklisting for “Registration”…..alright, maybe “Celebration”….but that’s it!!! I even “got” the ode to his mother on the appropriately titled “Hey Mama”, even though I may have skipped it over a time or two before. With “Graduation” there is a handful of tracks that I can bare to listen to in their entirety, and that’s a damn shame because ever since my man Big Fonz e-mailed me the link early Thursday morning this album is all that I’ve been playing. Where should I let the bashing begin? First of all, let’s start with “Champion”, and my man Mike Dikk dropped a comment in the C-Box stating that “Graduation”..”is a little light in the loafers if you know what I mean”….on “Champion”….yes Mike, I do know what you mean! With a beat that sounds more like it belongs as the opener for one of those “feel-good” 70′s sitcoms like “Good Times” our “Welcome Back Carter”, Kanye lazily proceeds to unveil the “hart-warming” story of how his pops “used to grind so Ye’ could have a fresh wardrobe when school started” (in a nutshell). While I do see where Ye’ is coming from with this one, it all translates into boredom for me…much in part to the overused drums that have seemed to appear on more than a few of Kanye’s productions. Okay, now for the really bad and let me just give a shout to my dude A-One @ Know Good Music (sorry I’ve been sleepin‘ so long, finally got you linked up) who hit the nail right on the head with his observation of the Chris Martin (Coldplay) assisted “Homecoming” (even though A-One, I thought that “Beach Chair” was the best song on “Kingdom Come”). For those of you who haven’t heard the album yet, do yourself a favor and have a barf-bag nearby cause’ you just may need it! I’m sure all of you remember Kanye’s “Home” which appeared on some of his “pre-College Dropout” mixtapes such as “I’m Good”. Let me just put this out there, “Home” is probably my favorite Kanye joint EVER! Composed in a format similar to Common’s ode to Hip Hop “I Used To Love H.E.R.”, Kanye spits his love for the his home city (Chicago) over a “oh soo soulful, don’t you agree” track that made me say “Oh yeah, no doubt….dude is gonna’ blow!!”. Now, “Homecoming” is just a basic (and I mean BASIC) re-working of “Home”. The sad thing about it is, even though Kanye spits the exact same lyrics that made “Home” so damn dope, they don’t even fit the pace of the track on “Homecoming” and they sound way off-beat. There’s no way to tiptoe around this one….”Homecoming” just plain sucks!!
Of course there is the absolute “lowpoint” ,thanks to the Mos Def featured “Drunk & Hot Girls”. As many times as I’ve listened to “Graduation” on repeat within these last two days this is the one track that to say it gently is simply “unbearable”. For one thing, you heard it hear first…..stick a fork in Mos Def’s music career cause’ dude is done! I mean, what purpose does he serve on “Drunk & Hot Girls”? He brings absolutely nothing but a half-assed attempt at a “chorus” (if you want to even call it that!) Is Kanye serious with this one? Hell, when it first came on my headphones I thought that maybe it was just an interlude, but I became a bit concerned when “Drunk & Hot Girls” exceeded the 2 minute mark. This shit would have never even been considered to be included on his previous two efforts…Never!! C’mon Ye’ I’m even givin‘ you a break here!! The similarities between Jay’s “Hollywood” (from “Kingdom Come”) and the Dwele assisted “Flashly Lights” are obvious, even the synths on this track sound like they belong more on a “merry go round” then on here….but, it’s still somewhat enjoyable thanks much inpart to Dwele’s soothing vocals (dude, should be makin’ some green here recently). I, probably like many of you wrote “Barry Bonds” off the minute that I saw the track title and realized that Lil’ Wayne was featured on it, but it’s not all that bad…even though the chorus is extremely lame, the beat is solid and I’m always amazed at the shit that comes outta’ Lil Weezy’s mouth. I really and truly don’t know what to think of “Good Life”, this track rea
lly didn’t have much of a chance once I heard the synthesised vocals of the wannabe 2007 version of Roger Troutman/Teddy Riley T-Pain (who’s really buyin‘ this dude’s records anyway? Damn white folks!). I’m not totally writing this one of just yet though. Finally, there’s the first two singles from the album “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” & “Stronger” which have already been talked about enough, but oh well. Neither of the aforementioned cuts have impressed me one bit, and I feel that “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” was a poor choice for a first single. On the other hand, I’d never listen to “Stronger” but I have to cause’ my wife went against my will and now has it as her ringtone (the life of a married man, I tell you!)
What about the good? Believe it or not, as much “anti-Graduation” bashing as you’ve read thus far there are a few obvious highlights that almost make up for some of the miscues on the album. “Everything I Am” (featuring DJ Premier on the cuts) is the the obvious highlight of “Graduation” hands down. With it’s subtle piano keys in the background and the simple drum kicks it’s only fitting that DJ Premier is featured on “Everything…” because the track truly feels like it’s almost more suited for “Daily Operation” rather than “Graduation”. Would you have ever imagined hearing Chuck D’s voice scratched in on a Kanye record? Yeah, me neither. Kanye also lays his best vocals on this track, always clever with the metaphors, Ye’ also attempts to get a little “introspective” on “Everything….”. Secondly, there’s the album’s opener “Good Morning” which I must have played 10 times on repeat this morning while in the gym. Again, as with “Everything..” Kanye wins with simplicity….a steady drum kick, hard bass knocks and an addictive vocal sample. For a second, your led to believe that “Graduation” will continue with the wittiness and cohesiveness displayed on “Late Registration”….and then the tracks bleeds right into “Champion”….Arrgghh! Last but not least, how can I not mention “Big Brother”? Even though I can only imagine most of your responses the first time you heard the track….hmmm…let’s see..”Damn, is Ye’ on Jay’s dick or what?”, “Damn Kanye, couldn’t you have at least waited for dude to get out the game before you crafted an ode to him?”. While I’ve shared those exact same thoughts with you, it’s hard to deny the best lyrical performance from Kanye on the album along with a strong production that’s extremely hard not to nod along with. Wow!! Jay stole Kanye’s Coldplay collabo idea? He also made him buy his own tickets to Jay’s M.S.G. performance?…now that’s cold!
In closing, keep in mind I’m just an average Joe. I don’t write for any major publications this is just my take on what should have eclipsed Common’s “Finding Forever” and Talib Kweli’s “Ear Drum” instead of making me seriously consider which album was more thorough. Sad thing is, you all know that each and everyone of us will have “Graduation” in our headphones or stereos all damn weekend, simply based on the “Kanye factor”. When you captivate an audience with two monumental albums in succession that’s the way the ball bounces for you. Damn Kanye’s got us by the nuts!!!….-Eric