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Dear Kanye…

Dear Kanye,
I hate leaks, they’re like seeing your Christmas presents a week before. In this case however, I love leaks because hearing the leak of ‘Graduation’ just saved me $15 because there’s no way I’m buying this shit. While ‘Late Registration’ was a noble failure, a mix of too many things on the same plate without ever touching or interacting, ‘Graduation’ is just remarkably mediocre. I know you’re into like, indie rock now where boring albums are considered good but this is recockulous. Congratulations Mr. West, you made another pretty-good album.

Actually, to call it an album isn’t really correct because it’s just a collection of songs. How hard are you really working these days? I don’t expect you to be doing five beats a day for three summers, you’re probably ankle-deep in pussy, but just making a collection of good songs isn’t enough. ‘College Dropout’ was an ALBUM, each track fits with the next and it all bleeds together into a perfect mess/statement. Other than ‘Drunk & Hot Girls’ which is truly terrible (more on that later) none of these songs are bad, some of them are great, but most are not-bad and not-bad isn’t enough.

‘Homecoming’ which on paper, I should hate is really kind of great. It has this sad, legitimately affecting, particularly the “do you think about me now and then?” part of the chorus. That’s like deep and moving on like this ‘Mrs. Dalloway’ holy shit we’re-all-so-connected-in-this-fucked-up-world and that’s both scary and touching kind of way… like when you see some old girlfriend or something after like five years and now she’s got like this Tara Reid bar-slut voice but somehow you still kind of have the same feelings for her or something? You know, real crazy human feelings type shit which I think everybody has about their hometown too. It’s also on some Christopher Cross laid-back 80s shit and I LOVE THAT.

‘Good Life’ is a surprise, sampling the strangest part of M.J’s ‘P.Y.T’ and of course, T-Pain, who is really just great all around. I heard ‘I’m Sprung’ on the radio the other day and was thinking about how much he’s already kind of evolved as an artist, fully embracing his Roger Troutman-ness and taking it to another level…you’ve got a good, discerning ear for the great, radio musicians, the way you put Paul Wall on ‘Drive Slow’ or although you didn’t get around to putting him on a song until ‘Late Registration’, you had been repping Cam’ron before most people. Smart, smart, smart. It’s the same as when you used to think it was cool to put Freeway and Mos Def on the same song and in a way, show how they’re kinda similar and also hopefully, introduce fans of one to the other.

‘Champion’ is a flat-out success, inspired in the same way that ‘College Dropout’ is inspired. It’s over-the-top from the beginning, with the corny-as-fuck-and-therefore-great “Do you reaaaalllizzeeee that you are a ChamPIONNNNN” and then you pull back to a wordless, artful Dilla-esque sample. It’s got these great rap nerd lines about how you wish Lauryn Hill was still rapping and then, this totally inspired, faux-Jamiacan bridge/chorus “This is the story of a champ-e-on”! Oh fucking shit. And it’s short. This is the natural progression of your production style if you weren’t surrounded by a bunch of lame-as-dick whitey-whites like Jon Brion and A-Trak. Ruining my once favorite new rapper.

KANYE! YOU SHOULD HANG OUT WITH ME. I’M THE WHITE DUDE TO TALK TO. SERIOUSLY. I know who CAN are and could introduce you to them and way more obscure-ass shit (Brainticket, anybody?) but when you bring me a song that samples CAN, I’ll be like “Dude, that’s a bad look. At least fucking rap on this shit…” and then I’d send you back to the studio with my CAN ‘I Want More’ single to cut-up, yes, cut-up, actually SAMPLE not just loop and put some Mos Def wailings under. This is like something my friends and I would do one night when we’re bored. Seriously. Like, make this song about drunk chicks to the tune of ‘Sing Swan Song’?! Get the fuck out of here with that. I remember thinking, when you were, for some reason- all excited about Franz Ferdinand “I wish I could give him some like Joy Division or Wire records, you know, the stuff FF wants to sound like…” but I didn’t realize that the minute you discovered non-soul songs it meant you didn’t have to make beats anymore and could just loop shit.

When you really rap as on ‘Stronger’, the looping is excusable but when you do this slow-ass enunciating rap, it starts to hurt. The whole slow rapping thing has got to stop. It’s a sell-out move. You rap real slow so that non-rap fans can hear what you’re saying more clearly, that’s bullshit. It’s also pretentious as if your lyrics are just so important that they need to be enunciated. Even if it takes a few listens, the people who care about the lyrics will get them. If you’re so next-level leave all those other cocksuckers in the dust…

Here’s how to fix your album…I told you how to fix ‘Late Registration’ here, but I was two years late, this time I’m two weeks early…

1. Homecoming (featuring Chris Martin)
As I said above, I really like this song. It has a certain sadness to it that works but doesn’t totally fit with the sound of the other songs. Sort of sounds like a ‘Late Registration’ track, so start with it, making it almost like a layover from your last album. I suggested you do the same with ‘Late Registration’ putting ‘Late’ as the first track, a way to kind of ease listeners into your latest, crazy ideas.

2. Good Morning
The proper beginning of ‘Graduation’. That main percussion has a certain ‘Elevators (Me and You)’ feel and this album, reminds me of ‘ATliens’ in its hyper-consistency; consistent to the point of maybe being a little boring? ‘Midnight Marauders’ is like that too…but those are probably like two of your favorite albums of all time, so maybe this is a compliment?

3. Champion
You know how to begin an album and really, the first seven tracks of this album are kinda perfect it’s just you got a bunch of good songs on the back-end that don’t cohere, so I gotta start fucking with the tracklisting…

4. Good Life (featuring T-Pain)
5. Flashing Lights (featuring Dwele)
These three songs are sort of like this extended party-time suite but they have tinges of darkness and sadness that becomes clear with ‘Can’t Tell Me Nothing’.

6. ‘Can’t Tell Me Nothing’
I read somewhere that the remix might be on the final album and that would maybe be a better idea because you kill the verses on that, none of this slow-flow bull.

7. I Wonder
The disembodied “oh-oh-oh-oh-oh” voice that pops up throughout ‘Can’t Tell Me Nothing’ kinda sounds like the sample that begins this song, so it’s a cool transition. I think you should cut the intro by a little though, especially because you play it out later. Also, this moves the album into a mid-paced middle which is better than going out on a bunch of songs with low-ish BPMs…

8. The Glory
The return of the chipmunk vocal is cool. I wish it had never gone away. I know it was getting played-out and co-opted but it made me sad that you listened to your critics for ‘Late Registration’ and avoided it. This song contains elements of just about every song that precedes it on my tracklisting, so it’s appropriate to put it here because after this point, I make ‘Graduation’ shoot-out in a bunch of different directions.

9. Barry Bonds
The beat on this song is so good and so fucking, like, final. The tight drums and the keyboard melody, it demolishes ‘The Glory’. As in, as soon as this beat hits, you forgot what you previously heard. This song is so immediate and moves so quick that it feels like an interlude, like it’s there more to actually announce a hit than to be a real song. Putting it before an actual hit (‘Stronger’) just makes sense and also, the transition to ‘Stronger’ sounds good.

10. Stronger
This song needs to come in later because it needs to be further away from ‘Can’t Tell Me Nothing’, the other single. It sounds way cooler and out-there late in the album, an added boost of energy as listeners’ interest begins to wane. It’s also annoying that rap is so stupidly immediate and fickle that you need to even drop two singles before an album comes out. I loved how you called ‘Jesus Walks’ a hit before it became one, that was awesome. If you had saved ‘Stronger’ and put it after ‘Barry Bonds’ it would have been a similar thing…

11. Big Brother
I understand why you’d want to end the album with this song but it seems a little odd. I know it’s an act of humility, ending on a song that pays homage to Jay-Z but you’re Kanye West and that’s not really how you roll. The song is cool and actually touching, much more so than ‘Hey Mama’. It also just feels anti-climactic to end on ‘Big Brother’ it just doesn’t feel right.

12. Everything I Am
Moving from the epic ‘We Major’-ish drums and synths of ‘Big Brother’ to the laid-back piano is a way to end on a song about yourself but minus the hubris everyone expects. The scratching on this is great, some real ‘Stroke of Death’ type shit and it acts as a contrast to the loose, near-lament feeling of the rest of the song. Also, the outro to this song is way too long but if you have it as the penultimate track, it works. It should really end when you say “That’s enough Mr. West, please no more today”. Your exit would be real and palpable but not the way it was at the end of ‘Late’ where you did it to show how you were needed but in a calmer way, like you took yourself out of the game early. Real classy-like.

13. Drunk and Hot Girls (featuring Mos Def)
Really, I’d just remove this song but if you tack it at the end, it’s excused. Like the weirdo songs that end the middle few Outkast albums. It also feels more like the lark you’re aiming for when it doesn’t get in the way of the album. Putting it in the middle of the album is nearly aggressive to your listeners. Doing what you did to a Chaka sample with a Damo Suzuki sample is clever, I just wish it was towards a more listenable song.

Also, ending on this weird, goofy song retains the contrarian, prankster-ish aspects of your personality without negating the sincerity and modesty employed at other moments on the album.

So yeah, you’ve got two weeks to change it, no? Glad I could help.

Love (seriously),
Brandon Soderberg

Written by Brandon

August 31st, 2007 at 4:50 am

Posted in Kanye West

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