Graduation - Kanye West

Generally favorable reviews - based on 32 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 25 out of 32
  2. Negative: 0 out of 32
  1. Weighed and measured, Graduation is easily the best rap album this year.
  2. Musically, at least, it’s the most accomplished thing he’s ever done.
  3. Every single track offers up its momentary pleasures--choruses that make you say yeah on songs you've already found wanting, confessional details and emotional aperçus on an album that still reduces to quality product when they're over.
  4. On Graduation, West tries hard to address the problems on his first two albums, and succeeds: The new disc is tighter than "Late Registration" (fifty-one minutes long), with no skits (thank heavens) and less ornate production.
  5. West crosses genres with wilful and speedy abandon, taking the listener on an epic quest where the journey is just as enjoyable and unpredictable as the destination.
  6. Chicagoan West innovatively samples Elton John ('Good Morning'), imports Coldplay's Chris Martin for the 'Homecoming' hook, and plays to Young Jeezy's ad-libbing ability on 'Can't Tell Me Nothing.' Lyrically, West sticks to his "I'm so self-conscious" tip, but unlike 50, he knows his rhyme schemes.
  7. The bliss that does surface on Graduation is all in the grooves, which range further than West has ever gone before.
  8. While it might not be as substantial a record as we're used to hearing from him, it is his greatest leap forward, and further proof that few are as skilled at tracing out the complicated contours of pride, success and ambition as he is.
  9. West's writing and delivery has improved since "The College Dropout," though they're still marked by both a cleverness and a clumsiness.
  10. Fascinatingly flawed, Graduation finds an imperfect man seeking, and occasionally finding, perfection in his music.
  11. Graduation is neither as bold nor as scattered as "The College Dropout," and it's neither as extroverted nor as sonically rich as "Late Registration." Kanye still makes up for his shortcomings as an MC and lyricist by remaining charmingly clumsy, frequently dealing nonsense through suspect rhyme schemes.
  12. 80
    West's third album is memerizing and alienating, like all the purest forms of pop culture. [Nov 2007, p.114]
  13. Still, the music is never timid or conventional. Only as a lyricist does West sometimes disappoint.
  14. West delivers another failsafe collection of sharp, soulful songs, exposing his new affinity for synths and electronic drums while adding new lyrical ground to that campus-sized ego.
  15. The best track on this typically polished but ultimately quite disturbing album (the back-to-basics self-examination of 'Everything I Am') is a brave attempt to confront such uncertainties head on.
  16. An impressively creative hip-hop album that will hopefully inspire West's peers to try new sonic avenues.
  17. He sounds less like he's pushing to create something epic, and at that he succeeds--as good as Graduation is, it doesn't have the larger-than-life presence of "Late Registration." It's more manageable, more everyday.
  18. 70
    Nearly every song on Graduation is memorable for both its hooks and its overall sound.
  19. The album lacks the flab of previous efforts and, where he's been guilty of hiding behind guests before, the contributions are (perhaps inadvisably in retrospect) kept to a minimum. Sadly though, the grandstanding and chest beating take their toll on both Graduation's aesthetic and the listener's patience.
  20. While another concise and accomplished release from an immensely talented rapper, it fails to really deliver the one thing Kanye's always excelled at: beauty.
  21. Per Vulture, the Curtis-shaming Graduation "has better songs waiting in the wings. Bonus: No Jamie Foxx!"
  22. Grating bouts of narcissism aside, Graduation contains killer pieces of production: 'Stronger' uses Daft Punk's 'Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger' to practically revive Eurodisco, while 'Champion' snarkily snatches its hook from Steely Dan's 'Kid Charlemagne.'
  23. Graduation is neat, tidy, formal, but lacking in personality.
  24. Thing is, though, that for every failure Graduation puts me through it has many a saving merit that only the nigh witless audacity of Kanye West could afford
  25. West's vocal mediocrity wouldn't be so glaring if the production were more of a diversion. There are no truly tragic compositions on Graduation--though the droning ''Drunk and Hot Girls'' could have been half as irritating at twice the speed--but most of the music just seems uninspired.
  26. Despite its five or six great tracks, Graduation feels more and more like the work of a follower, not a leader.
  27. 60
    The album sounds squashed and claustrophobic, but lacks the sense of play that still characterises his clever, incident-packed rhymes. [Oct 2007, p.106]
  28. Graduation is mercifully skit-free, but it still feels insubstantial to West. [Oct 2007, p.95]
  29. Like a good term paper, much of Graduation sounds great in theory but flounders in its execution.
  30. Graduation is worth note in the sense that it offers proof Kanye isn't on the five-year plan (The College Dropout registered in 2004), but I'm sort of looking forward to hearing the next album built around the disillusionment of his first entry-level position.
  31. At heart, he's still a producer not a rapper (which explains how badly he hits the mic at times, more on that later). He's got that hit-making part down pat... it's just that he can't make good hits anymore.
  32. Graduation is consistent, yes, but it's consistently boring.
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 423 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 11 out of 141
  1. May 8, 2011
    By far one of Kanye's best albums. And definetely one of my favourites too.
  2. Feb 4, 2014
    Graduation is a more mainstream 808s and Heartbreak. It has a distinct electronic sound that complements the introspective, personal lyrics. Kanye opens up in Graduation in brash and emotional ways. 8.7/10

    Best track: "Can't Tell Me Nothing"
    Other tracks that stand out: "Barry Bonds", "Everything I Am", "The Glory", "Homecoming", and "Big Brother"
    Full Review »
  3. Nov 9, 2013
    This might be Kanye's weakest album, but even his weakest is still a damn fine hip hop record. He seems to discuss & be very in-tune with his success in this record, whereas his previous records seem to tackle larger topics and controversies, but that doesn't deter Kanye from making fantastic, clean productions. "Champion" is a slick, catchy track ranks among his best songs. As a whole, some tracks seem a little scattered and rushed, making the whole experienced seem a tad jumbled, but each track holds it's own and Kanye has some of his best rhymes in this album.

    All In All, Graduation ends his "College" trilogy very electro, very catchy, and very memorable. He's yet to make a bad record. B+
    Full Review »