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W.T.R.'s Take On Kanye West's "Graduation"

by Eric on August 31, 2007

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

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Anonymous August 31, 2007 at 6:32 pm

Kanye West Graduation Explicit Grouprip

Mike Dikk August 31, 2007 at 8:37 pm

I was going to do a quick and dirty review on my own site before i left for the weekend, but i have shit to take care of first.

After listening to it again, I’ve realized it just sounds like a Soundtrack to a musical. It’s no Purple Rain either. But yeah, all the arrangements and production are very similar to the types of songs that would be used in a musical. Maybe Kanye saw that “High School Musical” was the highest selling CD last year and took note.

Big Fonz August 31, 2007 at 9:19 pm

Yo E, can you hit me with that “Home” track?

I’ve also had this whole album on repeat since I got this at about 2 in the morning on Thursday. Most likely beacuse of the “Kanye factor” that you mentioned. I would definitely not call this album a classic, but it is a solid effort. I think some of the “hate” coming at this album is due in part to his previous 2 albums being so good. Just how Jay’s “Kingdom Come” was labeled wack as soon as it hit my speakers. It was a good album, just not what “The Blueprint” and “The Black Album” were.

Jaz August 31, 2007 at 10:56 pm

Eric, you did a great review but in all honestly, I couldn’t care any more less about Kanye and I won’t be listening to this, I have better albums to listen to.

Travis August 31, 2007 at 11:53 pm

Surprise surprise, we disagree. Although I think I’m probably in the minority, at least when it comes to the blog scene, but I thought “Late Registration” was just “eh”. I never thought it was all that great. While I did like “College Dropout”, I liked some of the early versions that leaked before the retail dropped. In fact, I had my own version of the album that I pumped more than the actual retail version.

Is it possible you were just expecting too much from this release? I’m not saying its a freaking classic, because it sure the hell is not, but after only two listens, I don’t think its all that bad really. Hell even that wack ass Daft Punk song is growing on me. And “Barry Bonds” which has everything going against it in my book (bad track name, the worse “rapper” ever on the track) isn’t all that bad. I thought the Jay track was more of a “where do we stand” track than an ode. And Kanye’s “Coldplay” track is by far better than that crap that was on Jay’s album (best song on Jay album??? C’mon man. Your my dude and all but that was trash).

Anyway, I’m not that big of a Kanye the MC fan (I like his production most of the time, but give me Just Blaze), but this isn’t all that bad. Not great. It’ll give me something to play for the next couple of weeks, if its lucky, and that’ll be it….

a-one September 1, 2007 at 7:15 am

I’m just now reading this (@ 2am lol). Yeah, that new version of Home is pretty bad. I wonder what made him think that was the move.

It wasn’t everything I was hoping for but I’m probably in the minority on the blog scene cuz I’m still gonna buy a copy.

BRANDONIAN 'the talking head September 1, 2007 at 6:55 pm

shit, i was hammered last night at a few local bars, near the happening bar scenes..about 3am i grabbed some street meat(a sausage) and while in line was asking everyone “50 or Kanye” and unfortiounatley i think most people were saying curtis..i probly almost got in a fight for telling ppl how wack they were for thinking that.. haha good post man..peace

Swiftus September 1, 2007 at 11:34 pm

Oh man, I’m officially gonna turn Nisun Day into a Kanye-free zone, to me his is the worst thing in hip hop right now (yes, worse than Weezy, Jeezy, ?eezy)

Hater? Damn straight!

Alvaro September 2, 2007 at 5:08 am

kanye is the biggest asshole ever but man his stuff is just catchy sometimes; i’m mostly just looking forward to the dj premier song

nofrillz September 2, 2007 at 6:12 am

when i first heard the album i skipped about 9 tracks after 10 seconds & labelled it a disgrace compared to his 1st 2. then i fecided to check it all the way through withut skipping once. and i was pleasantly suprised apart from the disaster that is drunk & hot girls, i think its a grower. the 1 wonder & flash light tracks are obvious singles & i like em both and the barry bonds track is real nice. Your right, Everything i am & Good Morning are easily the best tracks on there. But this is in no way anywhere near late registration. rather this than 50 though

p e a c e

Olskool4real September 2, 2007 at 3:48 pm

Damn!! Damn!! Damn!!I listened once skipped a couple of tracks. Played it again then Played Ego Trips list the greatest hits of the 90′s!! You know I can’t believe folks can say this is a descent album coming from Kanye West!! How man!!You damn right we hold him to those other two album standards he talked enough sh** about it correct? Better than 50? Hell to the no? And I aint feelin 50 these days either. How long will it be before the decline in record sales hits home where people stop buying CD’s period? It’s a waste of money!!Okay I did like Good Morning and I was siked into thinking the rest otf the album would be on the same cue but then I got lost like what the f*** is this. I usually don’t take the time out to listen to many new artist but I like Kanye’s Production skills and his last two albums were just but Graduation sounds more like he got left down 4 real!!

tryco slatterus September 3, 2007 at 5:12 am

horrible review yo……this is the thing that irks me about yall “golden age cats”…..that shit is the past!!…..see the music for what it is yo! kanyes music is relevant as fuck…..if an album with “illmatic” proportions dropped today would it be considered classic?? HELL NAH!
this album is refreshing..

Eric September 3, 2007 at 7:16 am

@tryco……Yeah, your right I’m a golden age cat who has big upped under the radar artists such as Ill Poetic, Uncut Raw, Jazz Addixx, Blue Scholars, Buff1, Raks One, etc. Many times b4 other sites have (check the archives). “Graduation” refreshing?? Are you fuckin’ kidding me??? Read the review, I never said that Ye’ wasn’t “relevant”. However “Drunk & Hot Girls” is far from refreshing. Your opinion is your opinion and I “get” that, but some of the shit that made the album would’ve never seen the light of day on his previous to efforts. Dude got rich & lazy with “Graduation”.

Olskool4real September 3, 2007 at 2:21 pm

Another thing is this Tryco, I go back a bit I’m talking 79 respectfully, but check this out my brother,Kanye has boasted major numbers and claim to have put this ultimate album together, and in you can honestly sit there and tell me this is that? In other words does this album meet the hype? We aint going way back or no Golden age or whatever we talking listeners of hip hop today. Unless he has some heavy duty remixes in mind the album itself for right now is an insult to his work and that’s 4 real my man!!!LOL

fer September 3, 2007 at 2:41 pm

I’m a big fan of Kanye as an mc, I liked his 2 previous efforts but don’t think about them as they were classics. I’ve read a lot of things about Graduation (from very good to awfull) so I have to give it a listen and judge myself… although I have a lot of doubts after your review Eric ;)

fer September 3, 2007 at 2:44 pm

sorry, I forget to include the word “not” in the first line haha, not feeling Kanye the mc

Thadeacon September 4, 2007 at 6:01 am

Kanye’s album is dope. Bottom line. The past is the past. Two years ago is not today. Shit is refreshing. He could’ve done the same thing, but he wants to grow. I respect that more than hearing the same ish over again (a la many “underground” groups ya’ll like). Difference is, he’s not playing to one audience like the other groups. More pop? Sure. I can live with that because he did it on his terms (somewhat, TPain? but I liked it).

I personally can’t name an emcee who’s had a better FIRST three albums in a row.

Thadeacon September 4, 2007 at 6:05 am

I guess we’ll have ta agree to disagree on this one… I love the site and share same tastes as most of you…

Anonymous September 4, 2007 at 11:20 am

try this….
De La

to name a few

Olskool4real September 4, 2007 at 1:52 pm

When hip hop began there was one way that exemplified hip hop and everyone said that’s hip hop man. We have since moved past that level on to manynew styles and so forth. There are a lot of people who enjoy different styles of rap music!! I myself when I listen to a rappers album I want to feel something that feeling is the hip hop in it.I’m not saying that this album doesn’t rock and won’t sell records the question would be to who? Would you go out and buy it? I listened to it again and I like the album but I’m listening and trying to equate the quality of this album to the BS he talked and they don’t add up!!

Travis September 5, 2007 at 12:57 am

Can’t name an artist with a better three albums???? I’m not even sure I want to get into that one, but all I’ll say, like anon, MANY…shit even the Beasties first three albums are better….

Nevermind, I’m not getting into this one.

Thadeacon September 5, 2007 at 5:58 am

Please name the many you’re talking about.

Ya’ll namin’ groups. I said emcee. Anon? Even hip hop heads don’t know that name. I’m not talkin about the small percentage of hip hop heads online.

Cube? Absolutely. Even taking out the Kill at Will ep, which I thought was ridiculous, we’re talkin ’bout Death Certificate and Predator. Wow, Predator is the overlooked album of the group to me, but just as dope when you look back at the tracks on the album front to back. Good call.

Olskool4real September 5, 2007 at 7:50 pm

Deacon let’s get 4 real!! This is a different market I expained it earlier Kanye is Kanye a producer turned rapper. This aint about albums or record sells but since you ask what about KRS One and Rakim for starters while you at it throw Tupac in there, LL as well, but those are big shoes to walk in because all of these guys came into the game as m.c.’s. I like what you said earlier we can all agree to disagree!! What I got form most folks was dissapointment in the material and if you aint feeling it that’s quite all right.Eric’s view is Eric’s view and so is everyone else’s that’s what makes this blog interesting.

Thadeacon September 6, 2007 at 12:04 am

Olskool you still sound like you in 1989. I agree it’s not the same market, that’s stating the obvious. I agree, it’s not about record sales, but not about albums? That confused me. Who cares how someone came to be an emcee? The fact that he produces AND is on the mic and holds his means he’s THAT much more of a game changer. Kind of like big men only being able to post up back in the day, whereas now we have 6’10″ Kevin Durant who’s a guard.

Now, the fact that you even brought up those names proves my exact point in that ‘Ye is someone ta be wreckoned with, and the album is definitely not up to his previous efforts, especially lyrically, but music wise is very refreshing and charisma is an added bonus. All those you mentioned shared that quality. I feel where you’re coming from, but again we agree to disagree! lol

Travis September 6, 2007 at 6:38 am

Anon = Anonymous…I was referring to the anonymous comment left.

Read up further, I’m not slamming Kanye. I’d MUCH rather hear his shit on the radio than 99% of the crap on there (except that horrid ass “Stronger” cut) but when people think that he is the next shit just make me chuckle. Sure it’s all opinions, but you can’t tell me these three albums he has out is on some classic shit….

He is great/good producer and an average MC. Maybe in this day in age, he has the one of the best three album runs (I didn’t care for Late Registration at all, but I’ll accept that was just me), but to rank him as one of the best of all-times is just pushing it a bit.

Again, just my opinion….

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