September 13, 2007

My Gut Reaction: Kanye West - Graduation (September 11, 2007)

While I'm in the process of trying to retool this blog (think of it as a 'Hip Hop Isn't Dead 2.0', if you will, and you should), I'm going to try new things with these posts to keep the attention of my readers, and ultimately, myself. What follows will not be a true write-up like what you normally love; it is, literally, my gut reactions as I listen to a brand new hip-hop or hip-hop related album; there will be no recommendations to purchase or download anything at the end, because those will be reserved for full-on write-ups, and based on my recent blogging output, Graduation should get the full HHID treatment in about, oh, let's just say forty years.

I won't bother to run through the Kanye West biography this time out (I'll save that for whenever The College Dropout is reviewed, thanks), but I will say that I ultimately picked this one up at a Best Buy on Tuesday, after a doomed quest to find that Baby Elephant CD (but I have a line on it, and will have it by end of the day tomorrow), and it was the last one on the shelves. It also cost me only five bucks (thanks, Reward Zone!), so it's not like I can really complain if this sucks. But at least I can tell myself that I contributed to the embarrassment (if not the impending retirement) of Curtis Jackson, Esq.

I didn't really hear anything memorable here.

I'm a little bit confused about the liner notes for this one. "Additional lyrics added by Kanye West"? Did he not write his own verses? This song isn't catchy enough for me to figure out that conundrum, though.

It's good, already a proven banger of the clubs, but I know this song will annoy the hell out of me in about a month or so. It definitely doesn't do the original Daft Punk song any favors, but for some reason, this song actually reminds me more of Ladytron than Timbaland, the supposed influence. Speaking of Timbo, they say he re-programmed the drums for the album version, but I can't tell the difference.

I really like the vocal sample that doubles as the chorus. Kanye's rhymes are awkwardly paced, but I found myself liking this one.

I don't see the big deal about this song. It sounds weak, and T-Pain is on it; what more can I say? I know they will play the shit out of this on the radio (as it's the third single and all), but I'd rather pull out Thriller and hear "P.Y.T." on a loop. Although I do like how Kanye swipes some Curtis lyrics from "In Da Club"; that was pretty amusing.

When I first heard this track on the Can't Tell Me Nothing mixtape, it took me three or four listens to appreciate it. I still like it; kind of a minimalist take on a big ego Kanye song. However, I just realized how much I don't like the remix with Young Jeezy, but that's simply because I prefer the company of Middle-Aged Jeezy; that's my boy right there!

Lots of bloggers wonder how strong the paint Kanye huffed had to be to even remotely consider putting Lil Wayne, also known as "the worst and yet most overexposed rapper out right now" (I actually prefer the lyrical couplets of Curtis Jackson than this punk no-talent), on Graduation, but people forget that Kanye himself actually has very questionable taste in rap music. Paul Wall appeared on his last album, Late Registration, people! Paul Wall! And look two songs up and what do you see? Theodore Johann Paine (brother of Alvin and Simon Payne)! So it's not a stretch. However, I agree with the masses in blogland; Wayne sucks terribly on this song, and for some reason, I can't even understand a fucking word coming out of his heavily grilled mouth. But that may be my short attention span kicking in.

I guess I fall into the minority here, but I didn't find anything objectionable about "Drunk And Hot Girls", although I have no clue why Mos Def agreed to appear on this. It's not bad; it's not a classic song or anything, but I like hearing Kanye rap "Da da da da da/that's how the fuck you sound" (it sounds better in context). But then again, I also liked "Addiction" off of Late Registration; pretty sure I'm the only guy in the world that didn't find anything wrong with that song, either.

So far, my favorite song. Loving this.

Color me unimpressed. Primo's scratches are not very inspired; in fact, they sound downright lazy. (Try to revoke my Hip Hop pass, and I'll cut you.) The beat sounds like Kanye tried his hardest to make a Gangstarr record, but realized that he left his dirtiest drums over on Common's last album. Now, if Primo had produced the whole freakin' song, well, we would be having a different discussion, wouldn't we?

Kanye gave this beat to Common, and then took it back? Might have been a good call; this doesn't sound too bad.

This is probably the only album I own that features two different guys named Chris Martin (the other being Primo). Not only is the Coldplay singer a nonfactor here, 'Ye really should have stuck with the original version on all of his earlier mixtapes, or at least, he should have added his lyrics to that Common song off of Late Registration that ends abruptly before West rhymes; the beats sound exactly the same anyway.

This reminded me of The Game's song off of The Doctor's Advocate, where he gets drunk in the booth and starts crying about how much he's disappointed the honorable (and for some reason, newly buff) Dr. Dre. Except Kanye's not drunk when he rhymes about Shawn Carter; at least, not that we know of.

THE LAST WORD: All of these people on these hip hop forums declaring Graduation a classic are full of shit. It's not that this is a bad album; in fact, upon first listen, it sounds intriguing, and I'll probably revisit it often through the rest of 2007. It's just that the word "classic" is tossed around so often, and there really is no way that anything can be considered a classic unless some time has passed.

I have some other new things planned for the blog; hopefully those will see the light of day soon. If you enjoy these new columns, or hate them with a passion, please leave some comments; positive or negative, it's good to read some other opinions. (Hint!)


(Before you ask, no, I will not review Curtis. Life is short, my dear two readers.)


  1. just a personal opinion - big fan of the old-school review style..but still interested to see what direction you're gonna take the blog.

    i found my disagreeing with the majority of the Graduation review, as I did one myself (be sure to check it out; shameless plug). its by no means a classic, but not as bad as you make it seem either. give it more listens...

    keep up the good work though, i know how much i appreciate comments so i can give out my share too

  2. At first, I was not too receptive of this "Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants" approach Kanye has taken. It just didn't mesh well on Common's album in my opinion. I don't dislike "Graduation" and I'm sure that after a few more listens I'll like it even more. Kanye kept the sound very consistent and that helps when partaking of a different musical direction. Too bad I can't say the same for "Curtis".

  3. Andrew - the old school review style will remain; I just figured that this album didn't deserve that treatment since it is brand freaking new, and one of the reasons I started this blog was to see what albums still hold up through the years. Thanks for the comments, though, I'll be sure to return the favor.

    rlstokey - to be honest, Finding Forever couldn't even hold my attention past two tracks, but that's my short attention span working against me (and it is also the reason why this new segment started with Graduation and not Forever). You mean you didn't appreciate the artistic growth of Curtis, especially on "I'll Still Kill" and "No, Really, I'll Kill You, I Don't Care if I Have A Record Deal", along with the heart wrenching ballad "Hiding Behind My Lawyers After I Fuck You Up (produced by Scott Storch)"? That's weird. I guess it's just me.

    Also, I thought ultimately I stated I liked most of what I heard; but then again, who KNOWS what I'll think of this album in five years.

    Thanks for reading, and tell your friends!

  4. Dropping knowledge there with the Chris Martin thing, I never even knew Primo's real name, in my youth it took me a year to realise Primo was DJ Premier! and that the written version of DJ Premier (uk pronounciation)was DJ Premeeer (us pronounciation).

  5. Graduation will be one of the last hip hop albums to appeal to a real large number and variety of people, which I think is the main thing Kanye tried to achieve with this album. this is not a good nor bad thing, but taken as it is i think this is a very good album (note i didn't use the 'c' word)(not that 'c' word, the 'c-lassic' word)

    Totally agree re: "flashing lights". Fucking awesome song.

    I have a question though: on the bonus track "GOOD NIGHT", do you recognise the Jay-Z sample? is it a sample at all, or is it a couple of lines Jay has phoned in? I thought i'd heard just about every Jay song, but i can't pick this one, you might have an idea?

    as for the liner notes in champion, maybe kanye wrote the lyrics for Connie Mitchell singing at the end? who knows ha ha

    AS for the blog, keep doing whatever, for the most part it's been a good read!!

  6. smac - the US version didn't have any bonus tracks, so I had to hunt down "Good Night", and my official answer is...I have no clue. It obviously sounds like Jay, but everywhere I looked online he's credited as "Al Be"; maybe Jay cooked up a guest appearance after all? If anyone else knows the answer, please leave some comments below.

  7. re: flashing lights. Not a fucking awesome song. A fucking crap song. Possibly the worst song Dwele has ever put his name to.

    Re: Graduation, yes he has tried to appeal to more listeners so that can be used as an excuse, but that doesn't mean his production has to go from brilliant to lazy and boring. This album sent me to sleep for the most part.

  8. hey guys, first time reader here. dope blog by the way.

    as a producer i was really looking forward to this joint. at the end of the day its a very disapointing album. overall i agree with this review.

    and anyone thinking that this is a "clasic album", go re-listen to O.C. jewelz, and Gang Starr's Moment of Truth, and tell if your opinion changes...

  9. Whatsup guys, first of all I apologize for my bad english, it's not my first language (I live in Amsterdam if that helps)

    but about the review,
    Since the college dropout dropped I kinda hate everything Mr. West records... But then like a couple months later it kinda grows on me somehow, and it slowely turns out to be my favorite 3 albums of all time (the college dropout, late registration AND graduation that is..) I think it's like a right-time-in-my-life-to-bumb-into something-like-this kinda thing, because I don't really like anything else like this. What I want to say with this so far useless post I think is that Kanye has something unique in his music, at least that's how I feel about it. Anyway, you asked for more feedback Max, so there it is. I really like your blog by the way, big up!

  10. the additional lyrics things, IMO, must be there due to sampling Steely Dan who, last time they were sampled, simply killed Lord Tariq & Pete Gunz career by suing them, forcing their label (i think it was columbia/sony) to remove all copies on stores shelves on some "Fuck Rap" shit


  11. PLEASE review curtis

    i would love to hear your opinion on some of 50's most heartfelt songs like 'nigga my gun go off' and 'ill still kill'

  12. I firmly believe that Drunk & Hot Girls is Kanye West's funniest and most real song he has ever recorded. The lyrics are so true Kanye captured men on the prowl so succinctly

  13. Is 5 and a half years enough time for this album to "get the full HHID treatment" with one of your famous "full-on write-ups"? I don't think you've ever turned a Gut Reaction into a full-on write up before, have you? I thought the original idea behind this blog was to determine which hip hop albums have aged well. I just think it would be an interesting experiment for you to review Graduation again as I believe this was your very first Gut Reaction .....

  14. Drunk & Hot Girls is still Kanye's greatest track to date, well maybe except for Flashing Lights. And that is not a diss. Drunk & Hot Girls is the realest song ever put on wax (at least for the male species).

  15. This is Kanye's best album imo. It isn't amazing, and half of it is disposable right off the bat. But it does have songs that I actually gave a fuck about. e.g. "Good Morning", which I think is a top 5 all-time Kanye song