“Stronger” from the album Graduation
The sun will rise. An anti-gay Republican will be outed for being a buggerer. At some point during a heated discussion on the internet, a poster will compare the person who most virulently disagrees with him or her to Hitler. These things are inevitable. And when it comes to discussing Kanye West, there’s one thing that you know to expect — a hearty mention of Mr. West’s curious knack for mouthing off — whether it’s proclaiming that AIDS is a man-made disease or that George W. Bush doesn’t care about black people.
This review is no different. And why should it be? Hip-hop, at least in its present incarnation, is if anything a medium where the real-life experiences of rappers do more than just inform their lyrics — many times their raps are little more than dear diary entries, to-do lists, and credit card statements. And this is clearly the case with West’s latest release, Graduation, a narcissist love letter of an album, albeit one that is written in ornate calligraphy and decorated with elaborate “I Heart You” doodles and Hello Kitty stickers. The end result being that once you get beyond the near-steller production work it becomes clear that West doesn’t have all that much to say. The stumbling-drunk-down-the-street waltz of “Drunk and Hot Girls,” while disoriently and deliciously repetitious with a nice turn by Mos Def, is little more than a tired misogynist rant, while Kanye’s claim that he has “played the underdog [his] whole career” on the masturbatory “Barry Bonds” is simply disingenuous, especially when followed up by the statement, “I’m doing pretty good as far as geniuses go.” Few hip-hop artists have succeeded as both producers and rappers, but West has. Of course, that’s not to say that “Barry Bonds” isn’t a badass song. It is. But unfortunately, it’s one of the album’s few highlights. As a whole, Graduation is a letdown. For every choice track like “Stronger” with features a song-making sample of Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger,” there’s another track that suffers from a song-destroying bad move, like the annoying sample of Steely Dan’s Donald Fagan singing “Kid Charlemagne” that dominates “Champion” or the syrupy synthetic strings on the ready-for-the-Lifetime channel “I Wonder.” Maybe it’s not too late for West to repeat his senior year, because Graduation is a failure. (www.kanyewest.com) —Chris Haire
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