I spent all of yesterday waiting to get home and listen to Graduation, the new Kanye West album. Finally, after work and the gym I got to curl up in bed next to my boo and crank volume up on our speakers. It was like Christmas and a National Day of Mourning, all at once.
And I’ve got news for you: the album is really good. Fun, funny, innovative, generally awesome. Maybe not as good as his first two albums (it’s hard to tell after just listening to it for a day and a half) but much better than the vast majority of other stuff out there. Some more specific and more general thoughts:
- I don’t care if it is the lowest form of humor – I love Kanye’s word play. Even when it’s clumsy or confusing, as lots of reviews point out, it’s always utterly charming. When talking about how much he shops: “I’m like a fly Malcolm X / I’ll buy any jeans necessary.” When he’s talking about the current state of rap: “You’re scared of the future while I’m hopping into the Delorean.” When he’s trying to pick up a girl: “Come on, you’re a Mona Lisa / And you know you can’t Rome without Caesar.”
- I’ve read a couple of different reviewers complaining about Kanye’s “suspect rhyming” and who use this as evidence that he’s just good at production and beats and not at being an MC. Although I know what they’re talking about, I find his “suspect” rhyming to be wonderful and fun and way more creative than, say, rhyming “fire” with “desire” or “baby” with “baby.” I wish I had thought to rhyme “blouse” with “arouse.” I mean, if I were a rap artist.
- Even though I wouldn’t go around labeling Kanye as a social or political activist, I do think that he’s doing good in more ways than just producing catchy pop songs. I’ve read in interviews about how Kanye is for gay rights and gun control (and very vocally against President Bush and Iraq) and even though he doesn’t talk specifically about these things in his songs (because that’s never much fun) he does set an example. The only group of people he really hates on his album are haters - people who hate what Kanye’s been up to, people who judge, people who are close minded. And I like that message.
- The weak parts of Graduation tend to be when he complains about being rich and famous – hot drunk girls won’t stop bothering him, the paparazzi won’t leave him alone. Ben has a theory about all rappers’ third albums suffering from this same exact problem – like when The Streets released his third album, The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living, which was pretty much Mike Skinner complaining that it was TOO EASY to get laid when you’re famous and TOO HARD to do lines without someone taking a picture with their camera phone. Cry me a river, guys, but no one is interested in rich people’s problems.
- His second single off of Graduation, “Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” which I’ve been listening to for the last few weeks, might be one of his best songs to date. Strong production and awesome music video aside, it’s a surprisingly sincere and even touching look at Kanye’s insecurities and struggles – and shows pretty clearly that he doesn’t really think he’s on par with Jesus, which he sometimes likes to imply. Really, deep down, Kanye knows that Jesus wouldn’t have dropped out of college. Or spent so much cheese at Louis Vuitton.
- Speaking of which, I’m tired of hearing people talk about Kanye West’s big ego and how it ruins his music. He deserves his ego. And his new album just cements that in my mind. Want to compare yourself to Christ again, Kanye? Go ahead, because your albums have gotten me through more slow all-day work-drone jelly-brained spreadsheet sessions than the real Jesus has. Want to claim that you’re the only person “making real shit any more?” Go ahead, because I haven’t heard any other real shit lately. Haters.