Kanye West Delivers a Classic
I've never really been a big Kanye West fan. I liked College Dropout well enough and thought roughly half of Late Registration was fantastic. But neither ever seemed to me like the sort of world-breaking achievements that warranted Ye's massive ego. But with Graduation, West has actually backed up his insane braggadocio, delivering the rare hip-hop album that not only manages to fulfill expectations but exceed them.
Whereas Late Registration in its saccharine swooning strings and superfluous instrumentation felt all too much like the work of a slightly insecure guy trying to make the most "important" sounding album possible, Graduation is the work of a confident and assured artist in his prime. It marks the first time in his career where his rapping ability has caught up to his production skills, the moment when Kanye finally became comfortable and consistent in his own persona, or as he puts it on "Good Morning": the fly Malcolm X, buy any jeans necessary."
It's the album that you hoped that the guy from College Dropout would grow up to make. Dallas Penn thinks the album is the sound of the future, and he's not all that far off. It's a mess of techno synths, haunting organs and familiar sounds re-purposed ingeniously, an avatar of the weird post-Internet world where the jump between Daft Punk and mainstream hip-hop doesn't seem all that far. And no one understands this new world better than Kanye, as he samples Steely Dan, Daft Punk, Can, Michael Jackson, to create one of the the most creatively produced hip-hop records since De La Soul. More importantly, he chops the samples well, manipulating the vocals effortlessly and precisely to create a seamlessness that his music had often lacked.
I realize this sort of comes off like some of fanboy declaration of how good this record is, but in all honesty, I was relatively apathetic to West until the album leaked yesterday. But on Graduation, he's captured something special, the sort of instant classic that feels impossible to hate on. You kind of have to root for the guy. It's sort of like the ultimate vindication for rap nerds everywhere, that a dorky guy who could barely get a record deal actually turned into the most acclaimed rapper in the world and instead of squandering his talent, he dug deeper and worked harder to secure his legacy.
I'm not sure how this album will hold up over time, as I've only heard it a half dozen times so far, but my gut instincts tell me that it will go down as one of the great rap records of the decade. I realize this is a bold statement to make but let's be real, anybody that manages to coax great performances out of Chris Martin and T-Pain deserves a Nobel fucking Prize. So, count me in with the pack. This is worthy of the hype that will doubtlessly be thrown its way. I guess Kanye West really has graduated to become the artist he always wanted to be, finally earning the right to not have to be told anything. Though, maybe he should listen every once and a while. After all, somebody needs to tell him that those pink outfits make him look like a gay salmon.
MP3: Kanye West-"Everything I Am ft. DJ Premier)" (left-click)
MP3: Kanye West-"Stronger" (left-click)