Kanye to sample Michael McDonald and Steve Winwood in 2008 release “Grad School”

September 15, 2007

Kanye West’s Graduation came out on Tuesday. Fabricated media-friendly “rap battles” with 50 Cent aside, the album, while a step up from the generally boring Late Registration, is just alright. Honestly.

First five tracks do slay handily. “Champion” samples Steely Dan’s “Kid Charlamagne,” and while sounding otherwise incomplete, the invention of Yacht Rap is enough to earn it some points in my book. “Stronger” sort of clumsily samples “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” by Daft Punk and layers it with typical high school football team bulletin board material. The real gems of the opening chapter are “I Wonder” and the radio-ready single “The Good Life” (essentially, “We Don’t Care” from The College Dropout reworked) although the former shines due to the brilliance of the track itself, not anything Kanye adds lyrically.

The next two tracks, “Barry Bonds” (with its awkward “hook” Here’s another hit / Barry Bonds) and what seems to be an Akon/Eminem throwaway in “Drunk and Hot Girls” are unbelievably bad clunkers that just deflate the album at its midpoint. It never really gains its early ground.

The back half is all solid, but not spectacular. “The Glory” is typical “Through the Wire”-upbeat Kanye, and the closer “Big Brother” — despite its cheesy faux electric guitar — is an emotionally compelling lament of passed friends, etc. Chris Martin drops a pretty awkward sounding chorus on “Homecoming,” and you’ve got to wonder why he’s even there — it’s almost as if Kanye is just begging white people to buy his albums.

The thing with the album is that Kanye says nothing. Sure, the beats are cool, and nods to the Dan, Daft Punk, Can, Jon Brion, etc. are going to raise some eyebrows among critics and scenesters alike. But where Kanye excelled before — by purely being a social critic and an all-around general asshole — seems gone here. Where we used to have the hysterical satire of “The Workout Plan” or “Golddigger,” there’s now hate for Jay-Z and love for Louis Vuitton. And if you’re not clubbing, a rap album’s not going to have much staying power if it doesn’t say anything.


One Response to “Kanye to sample Michael McDonald and Steve Winwood in 2008 release “Grad School””

  1. Tyler Says:

    Nah, not at all.
    First of he isn’t showing hate for Jay-Z, he’s showing love and respect. He mentions one riff they had and how it was a mistake on his part.
    The production is unmatched, and while “Barry Bonds” is most certainly a dud, it is the only one. All the songs have strong messages if you listen intently and open your mind a little.
    You can’t help but love Kanye’s swagger.

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