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Graduation Day Arrives Early

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 31, 2007 7:20PM

Since Kanye West's hotly anticipated new disc, Graduation, has slipped its way onto the internets we figured it was time to break out our review copy and share a few of our thoughts earlier than we had planned. While we enjoyed his last two discs, we felt that, for the most part, the man could do with a bit of editing. The new one arrives leaner and more focused than previous efforts, and while West's braggadocio is nearing stadium levels, we're willing to forgive him since most of the tracks are so lovely to listen to.

2007_08_kanye_graduation.jpgWe could nitpick over the unadulterated use of so many soul samples and the inclusion of a Steely Dan snippet, which no one but De La Soul should ever attempt, since we tend to prefer our samples to be manipulated and made anew. But West isn't out to rewrite the book, he's just trying to save mainstream hip-hop from the artifice that has suffocated it over the last decade. His forte is crafting tracks that are easy on the ears, simultaneously reaching beyond simply repeating four bars ad nauseam and displaying a craftsmanship beyond his years. His flow is still his weakest point, but we will grant there has been a visible improvement in his delivery.

Strangely enough, the weakest track is a collaboration we had high hopes for. "Drunk And Hot Girls," featuring Mos Def, is a real clunker that is simply unlistenable and merits deletion the second you transfer this thing to your preferred music delivery system. There is a brief gospel-tinged segment in the middle that we wish had been expanded, since that might have saved the tune.

Oddly, the track we were convinced would suck no matter what, the duet with Chris Martin, "Homecoming," ends up being pretty OK. Go figure.

But the high points outshine any weaknesses, with the already popular "Stronger" being indicative of what West can accomplish when he's focused and firing with deadly precision. (Although we have to admit that the A-Trak remix of that track floating around is truly killer.)

There has been much public back-and-forth between West and 50 Cent, whose album drops the same day Graduation will, over who will rise victorious once the sales numbers are tallied. We feel pretty secure predicting that West is going to come out on top of that fight and that much of his album will probably provide the mainstream radio and club soundtrack for this fall.