This past Tuesday I bought 2 cds. Yes, Kanye West's Graduation was one of them. No, 50 cent wasn't the other one.* The other cd is Talib Kweli's Eardrum.
I regret buying one and regret not buying the other one sooner.
Although I have all of his cd's, I am not a huge Kanye West fan. I enjoy his work as a producer for other artists way more than his own (feel the same way about Will.I.Am). Graduation has left me feeling sort of confused.
Now, as a proud ipod owner, when I buy new music (still not downloaded bunches of stuff, yet) I take it home and load it into itunes. But because I watch so much damn tv I don't have my inaugural listen until the commute to work the next day on the train. Also, as a female fan of real hip-hop, I tend to pay more attention to the music and production first and then the lyrics on subsequent listens. I listen to the cd from start to finish. If a track is particularly genius (like Star/Pointro on the Roots' Tipping Point, or Jeff & Fess on Jazzy Jeff's The Return of the Magnificent) then I will listen to it 3 or 4 times before moving on to the next song.
While listening to Kanye on the train and reading my book, I realized that I had listened to half of the cd and nothing stood out to me. It was like one long song. Nothing stood out. Nothing made me rewind. He does nothing new. Talks about nothing new. Doesn't sample songs in a new way. (Damn, Kanye! We get it. You are really good at finding obscure soul tracks and speeding up the vocals to make a hot track! Happy now? - probably not).
The only two songs that made me stop and take notice is the last cut, Big Brother, his ode to Jay-Z (although the favorite of music journalist Greg Tate), and Drunk & Hot Girls (because anything that Mos Def does is wonderful to me - except his last throwaway album.
Is Kanye West's album better than a lot of stuff masquerading as hip-hop? Yes, it is, but it is not the best that he can do.
Eardrum, on the other hand, kinda took me surprise. I expected to like it, but not love it. Kweli has really broadened his horizons on this effort, covering a myriad of topics and styles (that's what happens when you work with more than one producer). I was scared when I saw it had 20 tracks on it (compared to Kanye's 13) and so many collaborators (including your boy Kanye). But the cd never got old and tired and wasn't filled with a lot of in-between song skits (that's usually what it means when there are that many selections).
Best songs: Country Cousins (feat. UGK & Raheem DeVaughn)
Eat to Live
Hot Thing (feat Will.I.AM) current single
Unfortunately, like most hip-hop artists who are really about something (with the exception of Common, who is getting much deserved recognition), most people will never hear this outstanding work. In fact, today they announced the nominees for the BET 2007
Hip Hop Awards (held here in the Atl) and Kweli was nowhere to be found.
.....but, Kanye was all over it.