Updated: Feb 20, 2021
Kanye season continues with the third and final album of his school-based trilogy 'Graduation'. 2007 saw Kanye take a different approach as he rivaled 50 Cent for top spot (which he succeeded in). Instead of his usual chipmunk soul sample style, the production on this album took a more electronic approach reminiscent of Daft Punk which just demonstrated his versatility as a producer because it still sounded incredible - though I'd argue the production is the weakest of the opening trilogy. As usual, Kanye's not lyrically complex or a wordsmith but we still hear clever lines, an ability to story tell and his signature smooth flow that rides any beat on this album. Also his delivery is great and fitting of the situation he finds himself in. In terms of subject matter there's not really anything new - we still get some personal songs as well as braggadocios songs, references to Chicago and telling his haters to fuck off as well. This subject matter follows the trend of the previous three albums and is a fitting end to the story. Final mention as usual to the features. They don't seem to be as involved in this album as previous albums - Kanye is the star and the features aren't really a main part of the song they're just there for added effect. Most are great, while others were disappointing (such as Lil Wayne on 'Barry Bonds').
Into the track listing, we start with 'Good Morning'. It's a fine introduction. The beat and the layered vocals are perfect while Kanye's verses are nice, short, sweet and include some clever lines, "Scared of the future while I hop in the DeLorean". Following that we have the triumphant 'Champion' where Kanye calls himself and even his dad a champion over a victorious beat including an elated hook and a smooth flow from Kanye creating a strong start to the album. Kanye's most famous song (arguably) is track number three on this album titled 'Stronger'. It's probably one of - if not Kanye's best songs ever. The Daft Punk sample is perfect, his hook is so catchy and the verses are so plain-sailing and catchy themselves. Lyrically it's a chance to be as egotistical as he wants and he has some cool lines implanted within them, "So how the hell could you front on me?//There's a thousand you's, there's only one of me". We continue this hot streak with 'I Wonder'. The synths are crazy and kick in properly when Ye's verses begin which compliments his stuttery cadence well. There's a hint of emotion in this as it's all about wondering what it's like to reach your dreams. A pretty relatable track with a meaningful, soothing hook allowing you to drift off and wonder about your own dreams. T-Pain joins Ye (though not really having much of an impact) on 'Good Life'. All I can rally say it's a banger with the purpose of Ye showing off to his haters over another crazy synth-based instrumental. Another line I liked a lot was "Havin' money's not everything, not havin' it is". After such a strong run, we hit a weaker track with 'Can't Tell Me Nothing'. Again, it's aimed at the haters but I've heard this track before but better from Kanye. The beat and hook is nice, but Ye's verses just kind of drag on a bit and he hasn't got anything interesting to say.
Lil Wayne joins Kanye in one of the most disappointing tracks off the album 'Barry Bonds'. Lil Wayne's feature was poor - Wayne's vocals sound weird an he doesn't provide us with any clever lines really. The production is probably the worst on the album because it sounds disorientated and I don't know what's trying to happen with it. Also Kanye's verses are very basic. Why the fuck does 'Drunk and Hot Girls' exist - it's slightly hinting towards a #MeToo situation. Just when we needed it - we get one of Kanye's best songs ever and arguably one of the greatest songs ever in 'Flashing Lights'. An all time classic with one of hip-hops best instrumentals ever - the synths & violins compliment each other perfectly creating sound porn. The hook is so addictive and the verses are smooth sailing with the catchiest of classic lines "“I get a call like, "Where are you, Yeezy?"". It's just so sonically pleasing to the ear. Two great tracks in a row with 'Everything I Am' - it has an amazing message which everyone can get behind - embrace who you are - which is delivered over a perfect laid back piano-based instrumental. 'The Glory' is rapped over a victorious sample as Kanye talks about the glory that comes with wealth & fame. Yet another good song and another follows as Chris Martin from Coldplay gets involved in the act on 'Homecoming'. He delivers a simple yet catchy hook and Ye talks over the piano and drum in the beats which create a catchy melody. Whole point of the song is there's a girl, the personification for Chicago as Ye discusses leaving his home city and the respect he still has for it. This album finishes on a high with the heartwarming 'Big Brother'. Ye dedicates this whole song to his 'big brother' Jay-Z as he talks about his involvement in his come up and their journey so far. The bass and synths are great in the beat, and we get some real honest lines from Ye "At the Grammys I said, "I inspired me"//But my big brother who I always tried to be".
Kanye's 'Graduation' isn't quite a classic and is the weakest of the education trilogy - but with its high highs it's still a pretty great album. His ego is still off the scale, as it should be after three commercially successful albums in a row. The finale to the series ends with Kanye finally graduating to the rap game - but after the death of his mother and split with his girlfriend, Kanye's music would never be the same again. Two weeks today we'll review one of hip-hops most influential albums ever '808s & Heartbreak'.
FAVOURITE TRACKS: Champion, Stronger, I Wonder, Good Life, Flashing Lights, Everything I Am, Homecoming, Big Brother
LEAST FAVOURITE TRACK: Drunk and Hot Girls
OVERALL RATING: Solid 8.5/10
*REVISED SCORE: Review may not match favourite tracks and overall rating because I've since re-listened and changed my score.*