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West is Best: Kanye Returns to Stardom

Corbin Hicks | Wednesday, September 19, 2007

If Kanye West keeps putting out albums of this caliber, Beethoven should watch his back.

Kanye West’s latest album “Graduation” is nothing short of spectacular, which is what you would expect from the man who has contributed some of the best music of this decade. From producing hits for Jay-Z, Common, Ludacris, John Legend, Alicia Keys, and just about every other hip hop act out, Kanye found the time to become an accomplished lyricist and songwriter of his own.

From the Grammy-winning “Jesus Walks” on his first album, high profile recognition of the blood diamond conflict taking place in locations like Sierra Leone, to the highly controversial jab taken at President Bush after the Hurricane Katrina disaster, Kanye just has a knack for staying in the headlines and in people’s conversations. Perhaps taking a cue from his mentor Jay-Z, he walks the perfect balance between appealing to the more active hip hop listeners as well as attracting attention from the mainstream consumers. And nowhere is this more obvious than his latest effort.

“Graduation” is the third of four installments in Kanye’s concept album plan. Continuing on the school theme from his previous works, “The College Dropout” and “Late Registration,” Kanye intends to follow up this album with the final installment titled “Good-Ass Job.” One has to ask how that is going to fly in a media world after Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction, but you have to applaud him for being able to see the bigger picture and try to put together a cohesive group of work that is meant to withstand the test of time. Just the fact that he is recording as if he were making a box set means that he is not simply trying to cash in on the relative fortunes to be made from the music industry. This passion for music and seemingly perfectionist attitude is what makes his music that much different, for the better or for the worse.

Fortunately for music fans everywhere, these gambles are pretty much all for the better. The album begins with the introductory track “Good Morning”, in which he compares himself to a “fly Malcolm X” as the instrumentation prepares you for the musical journey you are about to undergo. The energy shifts from the mellowness of the first track to the high energy “Champion” and the second single from the album “Stronger.” This song is perhaps the one that people are most familiar with, as the Daft Punk-sampled chorus and electronic beat make for a musical experience that is for sure a party mix mainstay until the New Year. We all know Club Fever plays “old” new music, so if they have your stuff on rotation now, then you’ve for sure got a hit on your hands.

The album continues on the musical high note with “I Wonder,” and the singles “Good Life” and “Can’t Tell Me Nothing.” The fact that “Stronger” and “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” were recorded by the same artist speaks volumes about not only Kanye’s creativity as an artist, but also the freedom that fans allow him to have when they receive new material from him. There is nothing out right now that sounds like that song, but to have it be so well received explains how much fans trust him for new music and also how he is looking to sonically conquer new frontiers.

The album seems to flow perfectly from one song to the next until the end of the album. That is, of course, if you forget that “Drunk and Hot Girls” exists (which you should anyway). Even though this album peaks from beginning to end, the inclusion of this god-awful song takes the rating down a full notch. However, don’t let that turn you away from this masterpiece of an album that Kanye has released. To answer Nas, hip hop is not dead; it was just waiting for Kanye to get his money right.