Kanye West

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>5/5

It’s not that Kanye West’s third album, Graduation, is that brilliant. It’s just that it’s so big. As West explained at a recent press listening party—an extravagant affair colored by a laser light show and an elaborate video montage that probably swallowed more Def Jam cash than Ghostface’s entire budget—Graduation is his big fat arena-rock album, designed to make his “job” of performing alongside U2 and the Stones easier.

We’ll need to see West’s new live show to know for sure, but hip-hop’s most fragile ego (God help the Grammys if he doesn’t take home Best Album next February) appears to have accomplished his mission. Putting aside his trademark “chipmunk soul” sound for all but a handful of tracks, Graduation is dominated by huge, airy synths and even larger, lighters-in-the-air hooks. Although there are several straightforward, analog-y hip-hop tracks (like the Lil’ Wayne feature “Barry Bonds” and the fierce, DJ Premier–aided “Everything I Am”), the synth tones suggest an alien-like world akin to the one inhabited by the star’s new homies, Daft Punk (who are sampled on Graduation’s “Stronger”). Lyrically, the sloganeering is more universal and less personal than on past efforts, though “Everything I Am” and “Big Brother,” a conflicted dissection of his relationship with mentor Jay-Z, are notable exceptions.

West’s already made two great albums, so it would be pointlessto call Graduation his best at this point; more likely, it’ll be the album to elevate him beyond the world of petty hip-hop squabbles and into the stratosphere of permanentrock-stardom.

Graduation (Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam)