Wednesday, September 12, 2007

new ish: kanye west "graduation"

gotta love the art style for this disc

I wrote a while back about the mind-blowingly cool video for Kanye West's single from Graduation, "Stronger," which aesthetically rips off pays homage to the anime classic Akira and features a sample (and appearance from) French techno gods/robots Daft Punk. here's a link to the video.

Well, the whole disc dropped yesterday, and it is very, very good. Kanye's sound has changed up a bit on this disc - not only in the beats, where synths join into West's repertoire along with his patented sped-up soul loops, but also in the rhyming, with songs that blur the traditional verse-chorus-verse hip-hop structure and the usual number of lines (and quickness of their delivery) in the verses. This may not be new or even all that novel, but it makes the disc sound more interesting, and allows the listener to focus on the music as a whole, happily masking West's pitfalls on the mic.

Don't get me wrong - the man can turn a line or two. However, despite rapping about how he's in the top-5 MCs right now, five off the top of my head (Jay-z, NaS, Common, Talib Kweli, and Lil' Wayne - who appears on "Barry Bonds" on Graduation) rhyme circles around him. He's a great musician, but the next in the line from Rakim to Biggy to Jay-Z? Nope.

Don't let that get in the way of the fun, though. The lyrics go a bit more worldly and are a bit less personal than before, but West still works his way in plenty of times - not only on "Homecoming," his take on what Common did first many years ago with "I still love H.E.R." but also on "Big Brother," "Flashing Lights" and "Champion." The other fun new toy is the use of synthesizers to add to the layers of music and lend it a touch that must be making Daft Punk smile inside their robot helmets. It sounds like Kanye finally heard Discovery and went "that shit be ill," because on "Stronger" and especially "Flashing Lights" the disco/techno influence is heavy. Hand claps and synth bleeps punctuate the chorus, with faux-strings in the background of the beat coming to the forefront in the outro - AWESOME.

If Late Registration is his answer to a traditional Jay-Z album sonically, then this one sounds just like the album cover looks - bright, fun, explosive and full of color.

Give it a shot. While there may be fewer tracks that reach the heights of the last two albums, the whole album is high quality and sounds more mature and like it could have a longer lifespan than the previous two.

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