Album Review: “Graduation”

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Andrew Evans, Staff Writer

15 years ago, Kanye West dropped his third studio album, Graduation“. “Graduationis one of the most influential hip-hop albums of the 2000s. West produced this album with a new and different sound from his first two albums, using more samples and synthesized beats. With it being the 15th anniversary since “Graduation’s” release, it is a great opportunity to take a deeper look into this album. 

Graduationis the third and final album in Kanye’s “Higher Education Trilogy.” The trilogy, which consists of Kanye recalling his journey after dropping out of school and dedicating himself to producing hip-hop music, was officially completed on September 11, 2007 with “Graduation’s” release. Much like the first two albums, “The College Dropout” and “Late Registration”, West gave this album a unique identity through its sound. In Graduation, West often utilized electronic and synthesized beats for his songs to give it a ‘colorful’ vibe as the iconic album cover art would suggest. 

One thing that West heavily employed, much like all of his work, was sampling, using a part from another artist’s song and adjusting it to fit what they are making. Some might consider sampling stealing from the artist, but it is never really frowned upon. Every song in Graduationuses some type of sample, from “Stronger” sampling from Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” to “Good Life” sampling Michael Jackson’s “P.Y.T (Pretty Young Thing).” Kanye’s use of sampling in this album is some of the best sampling of any album. The samples are easily distinguishable and are mixed extremely well with the rest of the production. It is as if you could not make out the sample unless someone told you so, which is a great strength of Kanye’s work on “Graduation.”

Graduationis West’s best-selling album and his second-most listened to album on Spotify. Graduationdefinitely hit the mark when it came to the popularity aspect. Songs like “Flashing Lights,” “Stronger,” “Homecoming,” and “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” are all sensational, they combine ageless production with catchy lyricism. Other tracks like “Good Life,” “I Wonder,” “Champion,” and “Good Morning” are just as well-rounded, even if their popularity does not match the previous four. Overall, the highs in “Graduation are among the best of Kanye West’s work. Iconic production and sampling combined with its popularity and replay value make this album a classic.

However, many people will say that Graduationis NOT West’s best album because it lacks the depth and storytelling that his highest regarded albums such as “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” or “The Life of Pablo” have. This is no knock on “Graduation,” as its simplicity allows for a broader audience to enjoy many of its tracks (as it is West’s best-selling album). As I said, the highs in this album are as high as Kanye’s work is, but the lows in Graduation prevent it from being a ‘perfect album.’ To me, a perfect album has no poor tracks, great replay value, and of course several great songs. Graduationchecks two of those boxes, but there are two very poor tracks. “Barry Bonds” is a mediocre track, and when listening to it, I can see why it is regarded like that. The production is nothing special, and the sampling is not as well-executed as it is in the other tracks. Overall, the track has no flow and it feels choppy. Another track that is widely regarded as poor is “Drunk And Hot Girls”. The production and flow on this track is nothing special, and the lyrics themselves make little sense. 

In the end, Graduationis another Kanye West album that has aged beautifully. Not everyone is a fan of the hip-hop music genre, but Graduationis a different type of sound than traditional hip-hop. This sound, with a focus around electronic and synthesized beats, gives it one of the more unique sounds in any album. Additionally, the simplicity of the lyrics and the light-hearted mood of this album give it a high replay value, even for a Kanye album. Overall, “Graduation” is not Kanye’s best album, but I believe that this album appeals to a wider audience than any of his other albums.