From the Vault...


Kanye West

© Def Jam/Roc-A-Fella Records

Year of Release: 2007

track listing
  • Good Morning
  • Champion
  • Stronger
  • I Wonder
  • Good Life
  • Can't Tell Me Nothing
  • Barry Bonds
  • Drunk And Hot Girls
  • Flashing Lights
  • Everything I Am
  • The Glory
  • Homecoming
  • Big Brother

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    Kanye West

    Back when was a "rapper" ... Kanye West returns this week, with his third album here on WSVNRadio, and his third album of his career, from 2007 - Graduation. His previous (second) album, Late Registration, had the #1 hit, "Gold Digger." Likewise, this album reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 200 albums chart, for two weeks. This album was reviewed here negatively , but, the next released (and reviewed) album, 808s And Heartbreak was far better - Oooohhhh... Graduation was the album in-between this two reviewed album. Does it get a thumbs up, or a thumbs down? Let's find out...

    Inspired by stadium tours, house-music and indie rock, Graduation marked a departure from the ornate, soul-based sound of West's previous releases as he musically progressed to more anthemic compositions. West incorporated layered synthesizers and dabbled with electronics while sampling from various music genres and altering his approach to rapping. He conveys an ambivalent outlook on his newfound fame and media scrutiny alongside providing inspirational messages of triumph directed at listeners. The album prematurely concludes the education theme of West's first two studio albums, The College Dropout (2004) and Late Registration (2005), as his aborted "Good Ass Job" album would have concluded the concept album's themes as a tetralogy instead of a trilogy as it ended up being.

    What's good about the opening track - "Good Morning" - the background singers and Kanye saying "Good Morning." Those are the best parts. And if the background singing sounds familiar -- it's Elton John and Bernie Taupin sampling of "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" (It's great to include Elton and Bernie for the songwriting credits.) The sampling (and songwriting credits) of Steely Dan's Donald Fagen and Walter Becker's "Kid Charlemagne" is included on the next track, "Champion." And, just as other rap songs, it's not really getting any outstanding credentials. The same for the #1 song, "Stronger." Sure, it has an exciting tone, yet it's just not one of those songs that you will remember 20 years from now, as the #1 songs of the 1950s to the 1990s. "I Wonder" isn't too bad, and I have to say, that none of these "rap" songs get on your nerves. They're tolerable songs, but songs to remember? The sampling (and song credits) on "I Wonder" is "My Song" by Labi Siffre. Anyone remember that one? My answer: "No."

    James Ingram and Quincy Jones co-wrote Michael Jackson's "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing), and it's sampled on "Good Life." Again, it's tolerable, but, there are other rap songs far better. No sampling on "Can't Tell Me Nothing" -- and yes, it kind of an annoying tune. Those female vocals oh oh oh's maybe should have been sampled. Really, they weren't needed here. "Nothing" spectacular here. "Barry Bonds" (the baseball player) has the sampling of the band Mountain, and their song "Long Red" (a Mountain song I am not familiar with; "Mississippi Queen" is probably the only Mountain song that comes to mind.) And again, it's another annoying rap track.

    "Drunk And Hot Girls" isn't too bad either, as it samples the band called Can -- "Sing Swan Song." (It was originally from Can's Ege Bamyasi, an album that was included as one of the best albums pf all time, from Rolling Stone Magazine.) "Flashing Lights" -- the music is quite good, but the rapping makes the least of it. Annoying? Not as annoying as the other tracks I've already mentioned. And as for the actual singing, it's not as bad. The rapping is to mention of lesser quality. "Everything I Am" samples Public Enemy's "Bring The Noise" And as Kanye says "here we go again" -- Yes, here we go again, another annoying rap song. And the bad language lyrics doesn't make it any better. It also has another sampler, which I've never heard of -- "If We Can't Be Lovers" by Prince Phillip Mitchell. "The Glory" samples Mountain's "Long Red" again, and Laura Nyro's "Save The Country." Yeah, "here we go again..." another one. Chris Martin of Coldplay helps out on "Homecoming." The rapping? No. The music, and chorus? Good - "coming home again..." "Big Brother" ends the album, and yes, it's a rapper tune. The rapping, and music? Blah.

    The beginning tracks of Kanye West's Graduation have the potentials - "Good Morning, "Champion," "Stronger," "I Wonder," "Good Life." But, once that rapping starts, there's no end. Likewise, the "dirty language." That isn't really needed. But, that kind of language is what most rap songs contain. Musically though, most of the songs works. The sampling of well-known artists helps, but in listening for those samplings, I can't really hear them, making them stand out. (Give Kanye credit on that; and to giving the samplings' well-known artists as songwriters was a great idea.)

    "Good Morning" would have to be the one to call the best song. And, going back to listening for the Elton John song "Someone Saved Mhy Life Tonight," it's the female background singers with the Elton John sample in sound. It's not the exact sampling from the original Elton John song, and this is how the other samplings are. Again, give Kanye great credit on taking the samplings and giving it and original touch for each of his songs. And also mentioning credit -- the album cover artwork -- Kanye West collaborated with Japanese contemporary artist Takashi Murakami to oversee the art direction of Graduation as well as design the cover art for the album's accompanying singles. Often called "the Warhol of Japan", Murakami's surrealistic visual art is characterized by cartoonish creatures that appear friendly and cheerful at first glance, but possess dark, twisted undertones.

    As mentioned in the closing of the Late Registration review:
    Late Registration was the beginning of Kanye West's (music) popularity. I guess you can say he became better with each album afterwards. With his past bad relationship and his mother's death behind him, he created more "incidents" (aka drama), and to some, you would think it would be more troublesome. Again, it's never a dull moment in the life of Kanye West. And yes, more of his music will be reviewed here on WSVNRadio -- whether we (myself and you, the readers), like Kanye West ... or not.

    Graduation was the next album, and to me, it was just a continuation of the previous album. Yes, he became better with each album afterwards. Graduation has some "potentials," but ended just like any rap album that us "white folks" could or could not tolerate. Try and take it all in, from a listening standpoint -- This is the "popular music" in this current age.

    However, Kanye West's third album, as mentioned in the closing of its review:
    Not all Rap albums are as bad. 808s And Heartbreak is an exception. The "Pop/Rock" style is much better than Rap here. Kanye West did extremely well with this album, despite the issues he encountered. "Love Lockdown" and "Say You Will" are the standouts for my musical tastes. The rest of the album (depsite the least mentioned tunes), go with the flow extremely well.

    808s And Heartbreak seemed to be "the best" of the first three albums. More Rap albums would continue to be released by Kanye West, but then, he did a complete 180, and has recorded Christian albums. In fact (whether you can believe it or not), his Christian albums have dominated the Billboard Christian albums chart in a huge, big way: Jesus Is King (2009) was #1 for a total of 8 weeks. His current Christian album, Donda (2021), is and still is currently #1, as it has a total of 39 weeks at #1 (2021 - 2022). Yes, there are "Christian Rappers," and Kanye West has joined them, rapping Christian themes, in Christian musical style form. He's even renamed himself as "Ye." Kanye's album of that same name was released in 2018. Ye explains: "I believe 'ye' is the most commonly used word in the Bible, and in the Bible, it means 'you,'" he said. "So I'm you, I'm us, it's us. It went from Kanye, which means 'the only one,' to just Ye just being a reflection of our good, our bad, our confused, everything."

    The Artist Formerly Known as Kanye West -- Ye. Prince did it, changing his name (but he went back to his original name before his untimely passing). Ye changed his music from Rap to Christian. Others who did that: Hootie & The Blowfish (Rock) to Darius Rucker (Country). Taylor Swift, from Country to Pop. Even Garth Brooks went to Rock as the fictional character Chris Gaines; but that was just a one-time occurence. So far, Kanye's move to Christian has worked for him. Yet the life of Kanye West has never been a dull moment. His marriage to Kim Kardashian (and her family) are adventures in themselves.

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    Previous Review: #1836
    Apologetix--Radical History Tour
    Next Review: #1838
    Van Morrison--Wavelength