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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Kanye West
Graduation
Roc-A-Fella

Rating: 9.1/10 ?


September 5, 2007
Kanye West, the confident challenger. He is a raucous and highly acclaimed producer-turned-rap-superstar, with a huge hit about Jesus and seven famous, well-televised words for the U.S. president. He possesses the arrogance and desire for universality of a hip-hop Bono; he's never sold ten million records, but his sales and hits are more than sizable. He's won the world's largest critics' poll twice in a row, a feat previously matched only once, by the Clash, more than twenty years ago. Yet in spite of his credentials, he becomes most agitated when he loses awards to has-beens like Ray Charles, although it should be noted that he had the sense of humor to sample the guy on yet another huge hit afterwards.

I'd like to believe that settling the 50/West publicity beef [for a more in-depth analysis of the "Decision 2007" showdown between 50 Cent's Curtis and Kanye West's Graduation, check out this article in the LAS archives] will come down to the artistry of the records themselves, but that is a tough, tough bluff. 50 Cent's Curtis corralled a herd of A-list Billboard turf-mongers like Akon, Justin Timberlake, Eminem, Dr. Dre, Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger. Even noncombatant Mary J. Blige is continually unthreatened in her watchful niche over the current R&B landscape. On the other sited, West brings forth the Critically Acclaimeds, underdogs like himself, both perennial and wet behind the ears: T-Pain, Mos Def, Lil' Wayne, Daft Punk, and if his mixtape counts, Common, Jennifer Hudson and Peter Bjorn & John. 50 Cent's collaborators can toss off their garbage; their names alone guarantee a hit, while even Kanye's top wingmen like Common and T-Pain haven't been at the top very long, or in Lil' Wayne's case not at all.

Kanye West, however, is more out in the open with his new joint, and he knows his chances are tough. So he slimmed down his arsenal to the bare essentials, folding in mainstream pleasers like Coldplay and blog-foggers like Can while omitting annoying skits, stale introductions and bloated orchestrations. Every track on Graduation is a delight, loaded with replayable hooks (Steely Dan on "Champion" is an easy favorite) and impressive quotables ("Say goodbye to the NAACP award/ goodbye to the India.Arie award/ they'd rather give me the 'Nigga, please' award"). Throughout Graduation's course, West examines his character flaws every few tracks in a manner that's neither pitying nor arrogant, a practice that peaks on the secret sing-along, "Can't Tell Me Nothin'," and the gorgeous, piano-flecked "Everything I Am."

Breaking it down, Graduation is a true achievement for Kanye West, an artist who has yet to show signs of slowing down after proving himself over and over. Weighed and measured, Graduation is easily the best rap album this year. If 50 Cent's Curtis had beat it to the #1 spot on the sales charts yesterday, it would have been a blessing; as long as West always stays hungry, is continually willing to challenge and then top himself and everyone else all over again, hip-hop is in good shape.

Reviewed by Dan Weiss
Dan Weiss is the music editor for LAS. Formerly an editorial intern at CMJ and creator of the now defunct What was It Anyway?, his work has appeared in Village Voice, Pitchfork, Philadelphia Inquirer, Stylus and Crawdaddy among others. He resides in Brooklyn where he enjoys questionable lifestyle choices and loud guitars.

See other reviews by Dan Weiss

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