CD Review

Why is Kanye West the most exciting man in rap music? Uh, because he puts out quality, popular albums. Why else? And more importantly, who else? Forget the artless 50 Cent, and forget Akon—Kanye tries much, much harder. Graduation, which has 13 bangers and zero skits, reflects the man's work ethic. Having united backpackers and clubbers with his first two albums, West is now shooting for the whole world. From touring with the Rolling Stones and U2, Kanye's learned to craft simple arena rockers to which an international audience can sing along. "La, la, la, la, wait till I get my money right," he croons on "Can't Tell Me Nothing," which, like "Good Life" (featuring T-Pain) and "Stronger" (featuring Daft Punk samples and a downright industrial beat), is ridiculously catchy.

Graduation isn't deep lyrically, but it works because it skims off the clunky, metaphor-heavy lyricism people tolerated on Kanye's first records due to the hot production. Here Kanye lets Lil Wayne do the heavy lifting on "Barry Bonds," and Coldplay's Chris Martin sings the chorus on the gorgeous "Homecoming." Though some of Kanye's lines are corny (see the Jay-Z tribute, "Big Brother"), Graduationwill nonetheless be the worldwide hit the rapper wants it to be. It may not outsell 50's album, but we'll still be talking about it when both men are dead.

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