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by Kanye West

Released September 11, 2007 via Def Jam Recordings / Roc-A-Fella Records

Reviewed September 9, 2022

Top tracks (based on community voting)
I Wonder (26%), Flashing Lights (25%), Homecoming (15%)

Finishing the trilogy—following The College Dropout and Late Registration—Kanye West’s Graduation marks a rather significant change in the rapper/producer/hip-hop legend’s sound. Inspired heavily by arena rock and electronica, West mostly swaps out the soul samples with his newfound love: digital synthesizers. Graduation eschews the layered, orchestral feel of his first two records and creates its foundations with multi-layered synthesizers, punchy percussion, and in general, a much more distorted and synthetic sound. And while West may have looked outward for inspiration regarding his production approach, Graduation was a deliberate effort to do the opposite within his lyrics. Kanye West was never anything but himself on his first two records, but much of The College Dropout and Late Registration casts a wide net, revolving around larger societal issues, his perspectives on them, and how they intertwine with his experiences. Thought-provoking and aware, absolutely, but not predominantly focused on introspection. West’s public image has only grown more divisive since 2007, but even at the time of Graduation, things weren’t so simple. The early 2000s were dominated by gangsta rap and the likes of 50 Cent, with Kanye West’s first few records very clearly separating him from the mainstream trends. Graduation dropped the same day as 50 Cent’s Curtis, outselling it and marking a real, quantifiable shift in what the public wanted to hear. Graduation and its lyrical content further solidified the trajectory hip-hop would then set out on, as it further prioritized the soulful, introspective approach that would influence the likes of Kid Cudi, Lupe Fiasco, and almost any rapper since West’s debut. A key part of the album’s themes, Graduation focuses heavily on the conflicting feelings that West began to develop as his fame grew. Proud, confident, and even arrogant at times as he relishes in his accomplishment, there is still a nagging sense of self-doubt that pervades through the album’s melancholic undertone. It may not be the best Kanye West album, but Graduation has a strong argument for the most pivotal record of an illustrious career. – Dominick (8.5/10)

On the precipice of the pop rap sphere sits Kanye West's third studio album, Graduation, a sparkling endeavour that stylistically departed from the soul-centered sound Kanye was known for. A switch-up of sorts, Graduation hones in on the celebratory aspects of life and the perspective gained after the come-up. Rockstar status was on the horizon, with Graduation being the sunrise which illuminated said sights. Life on the road would change Kanye's approach to music. No longer were small venues being attended to; stadium tour life necessitates stadium tour living, and with it, stadium tour material. The trio of College Dropout, Late Registration, and Graduation proved to be an inspirational undertaking—both thematically and musically. The progression of sound and style is one of sheer quality. Kanye set himself apart with the release of Graduation; it solidified him as a giant of the music world. “Flashing Lights” and “Can't Tell Me Nothing” alone are enough to render a man invincible. – Peter (8/10)

Jacques: 10/10 | Daniel: 9.5/10 | DeVán: 8.5/10 | Dominick: 8.5/10 | Jared: 8.5/10

Pax: 8.5/10 | Cam: 8.3/10 | Henny: 8.2/10 | Ben (Synth): 8/10 | Peter: 8/10 | Alan: 7.5/10

Community Reviews:

It definitely aged a bit, but it's still one of the brightest albums I've ever heard, reminding me of the best times of my life in high school. It conveys such a pure vibe of joy, freedom, and victory. If you got the chance to grow up with this album as a teenager, then you know what I mean. It makes you feel like you're on the right path, like everything is going to be okay. Ye is achieving all of his goals, becoming the major artist he's always wanted to be. Production may sound outdated occasionally, yet beats like “I Wonder,” “Everything I Am” or “Flashing Lights” are absolute masterpieces that belong in a museum. Even “Drunk & Hot Girls” grew on me to the point that I love it. The fact that he kicked 50's ass after releasing it makes it even better and emphasizes the feeling of greatness that Kanye developed through the whole project. – @joeyrbin (9.2/10)


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