Has there ever been a more aptly-titled album than Kanye West’s Graduation? The rap megastar’s third studio album marked the culmination of the three-LP ‘education’ series (following 2004’s The College Dropout and 2005’s Late Registration) and is, undoubtedly, the cornerstone (and end) of the early Kanye era.
This was the Kanye before the mass-media decided to turn Kanye West into one of the most controversial – and headline grabbing – artists of all time. Yes, there had been the infamous claim of “George Bush doesn’t care about black people”, but that was tame in what was to come in the coming months with the Taylor Swift vs. Beyonce fiasco about to take flight with THAT legendary interruption.
Musically, Graduation builds on what had come before it, but holds a distinct influence of stadium rock; having supported U2 on their Vertigo tour, West found himself using more ambitious sounds with the collaboration with Chris Martin on ‘Homecoming’ perhaps highlighting this most. Sure, there was still room for the Motown and soul sounds of The College Dropout and Late Registration in the gorgeous ‘Good Life’ and the minimalistic ‘Everything I Am’. 808s and faux-soul appears in droves during ‘The Glory’. But it is the monster hits in ‘Stronger’ and ‘Flashing Lights’ which took Graduation and Kanye West’s popularity to new levels.
Both tracks show a clear influence from Euro-pop and European House, the heavy use of synths in the latter and the elements of Balearic pop – all the while throwing in elements of Chicago house – create a wondrously hazy single. ‘Stronger’, on the other hand, is the best example of Kanye West’s incredible vision musically; choosing the perfect sample for the right song is something West has shown to do like no other and on the Daft Punk-sampled track this was certainly no different. The French duo’s influence can still be seen on the work of West – namely on 2013’s Yeezus where Daft Punk lent their hands to the production on four tracks – including lead single ‘Black Skinhead’.
The debate as to what is Mr. West’s best record is still very much an unanswered quandary, but Graduation is certainly one of them, and to celebrate its 10th anniversary, here are 10 fun facts about the record’s release:
Listen to Graduation here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!
Tags: 10 years old, 10th anniversary, classic 00s, Graduation, John Tindale, Kanye West
Reading Music Journalism at Huddersfield University, I have a passion for all things musical. I pride myself on being open minded in music genres and have a love of writing to match. The coolest cat on The Student Playlist, I also support Hartlepool United and am an avid pro-wrestling fan.
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