Kanye West: Graduation

Black robes. Tassles. Commencement? Not in the world of Kanye West. Replace that robe with an under-sized Starter jacket, polo shirt, and over-sized shades and you've stepped into his Graduation (Roc-A-Fella/ Def Jam). On this the third album from the Louis Vuitton Don you might just flip out with excitement over both familiar Ye beats laced with old-school samples, swift rap features and fluid lyrical delivery. But Graduation ups the antee on more than a few tracks destined to become classics. Well at least by today's standards. Doing it by "any jeans necessary" the intro sways ever so swiftly into “Champion's" elevated tempo beat. Yes its egotistic as heard in the hook’s sample lift ("Did you realize that you were a champion in their eyes?") but the flow is serious ("Lauryn Hill said her heart was in Zion. I wish her heart still was in rhyming"). For the alternative electronica starved listener "Stronger" hits the spot with every verse. In good company are a few other cross-genre tracks such as "I Wonder" which discourages other drum beats from competing while Ye gets his emo-rock delivery on. However, just like any audience member in a graduation, there will be parts that make you want to speed up the ceremony. Among them, "Good Life" featuring T-Pain whose synthesized voice should automatically give Roger Troutman and Zapp royalties off g.p., Unfortunately the track shows that striking when the iron is hot doesn't always make for a hit song. Thankfully redemption is right around the corner on "Barry Bond's" featuring Lil’ Wayne. Though it is up for debate whether Ye completely kills Wayne's bars, consistency is everything in the rap game and thankfully he came to play. Just overlook the cliché title and meaning (duh, a "hit") so you can take a good listen. Kanye's ferocity is not only in taking fashion to another level but in his highly potent talent with the pen. Think of Kanye West as a would be Hip-Hop Superman who trades tights for fly sneakers. He takes risks that always work because of the sincerity in his undiluted esteem. Graduation represents that to the “T”. Very few artist can put together an album in which they stand out more than every guest appearance and so you can't help but root for him because he always seems to come out on top. Although certain tracks leave you scratching your head instead of bobbing it you gotta' have faith—he knows what he's doing. The symphonic beat of "Drunk and Hot Girls" is a good example of his power. Yes you will jump at the anticipation of Mos Def being featured on the track yet the fact that he's traded in singing for rapping might just leave you a little disappointed. Still the almost silly premise works. Ever the storyteller, the album’s closer "Big Brother" is a layered ride through Kanye's rise to the top. Over the DJ Toomp provided, emotional ride Mr. West is candidly sentimental in paying respect to Jay-Z for his help as both a big brother figure and label executive. Has the student become the teacher? Maybe, but he is humble enough to give thanks. Only Kanye West could make an album like this. Proclaim himself as a classic artist and tie in each record title to the growth and elevation that most experience while in college. There has been a lot of talk about who he may out-sell, but where's the talk about who he is out-rhyming? Cocky is what he may be but Graduation not only proves that he's well within reason, but challenges all that want to step to him to step their game up or flunk out.SOUNDCHECK:Kanye West "I Wonder"Kanye West f/ Dwele "Flashing Lights"