Graduation turned ten this year.
Although this album is big, it doesn’t fall into the top half of Kanye West’s best albums–in my opinion. Currently, I have it at number five. Please don’t come at me with the pitchforks, this is my opinion.
Although I rank it in the lower half of his discography that doesn’t necessarily mean that the album is not good. In fact, the album has plenty of dope songs. The only hiccup here is “Drunk and Hot Girls.”
Graduation has more than a handful of bangers including the singles, “Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” “Stronger,” and “Good Life” but I see what it did culturally as bigger. Its impact is legendary.
“Can’t Tell Me Nothing” might be both, Kanye’s biggest record and Kanye’s BIGGEST record.
It’s his biggest in the sense that it’s one of his better records. From an amazing catalog of records that he has, “Can’t” seems to be the one that gets the “oh shit!” praise as soon as it starts. It gets that instant reaction. That immediate yes is silently screamed when ‘Can’t” drops. The record sheds Kanye’s past persona and announces the arrival of the new, extra-confident Kanye.
It’s Kanye’s biggest in the sense that it’s a “stadium status” meaning it’s a loud and obnoxious. DJ Toomp’s production is insane that it sounds more than a record. It sounds like an anthem.
Then there’s the rest.
The mellowness of “Good Morning,” the loudness and giganticness of “Champion,” the esthetic of “Flashing Lights,” the therapeutic feeling of “Everything I Am,” the revealing “Big Brother,” etc. You get the idea. Each song felt different but they all had pros to them.
Two things surround the album: Kanye’s promotional “beef” with 50 Cent and Kanye’s jump to super stardom.
The so-called “beef” with 50 was obvious.
There was no background or history to it. In fact, both were putting out albums that were owned by the same parent company, Universal Music Group. I saw the “beef” as entertainment, just check out the Rolling Stone magazine cover for proof.
In a way, there was beef.
It placed real hip-hop versus hip-hop. Those fans that are the “I-only-listen-to-real-hip-hop” or “I-only-listen-to-90s-rap” fans had the opportunity to unite and go against the enemy: the hugely commercially successful 50 Cent aka hip-hop. It worked. Kanye received the sales victory but both rappers laughed, as they knew they put one over us. You can’t blame them!
“Can’t” helped Kanye reach the superstar level of success. “Stronger” helped, and “Good Life” solidified it. Kanye had now three hit singles. Prior to this, his biggest commercial success was “Gold Digger.” His fashion style changed. He went from his college look to an upscale, designer look. He transformed into the next level up of Kanye. Plus, it was the start of Kanye’s influential phase that would continue to present day.
Overall, Graduation was the beginning of the next chapter of Kanye’s artistic journey. He delivered a great record and was rewarded by winning the “beef” with 50, where the fans showed whom they truly wanted as victor in hip-hop. Plus, it showed that Kanye was a major player in rap as he defeated one of them.
The beginning of the Kanye West, superstar, was upon us, and neither hip-hop nor pop culture, would ever be the same.