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Kanye West Week Part Ten: Homecoming

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BRANDON and his friend JESSE, heard North on I-95 towards Newark, DE. ‘Homecoming’ plays in the background.

JESSE: I wonder what inspired that “Fireworks over Lake Michigan” line-

BRANDON: It’s like a, uh, memory, like probably a memory from growing up in Chicago.

JESSE: Yeah, but it just sounds odd, like it’s so specific, like he has some attachment to it-

BRANDON: Like it’s some kind of secret, like he got some great blowjob there once or something?

JESSE: Uh, no…

A few moments of silence. Jesse thinks and then speaks-

JESSE: Like it’s some special memory to him, that holds a lot of significance to him.

That strange mix of specificity and obscurity defines the lyrical approach on ‘Graduation’. One gets the sense throughout that Kanye is alluding to stuff way deeper than he leads on- like he’s stopping short of revealing some really secret, emotional stuff. I think it’s the “universal” aspect everyone refers to in reviews but for the most part, it just requires digging or thinking a little deeper; Kanye just doesn’t come out and say everything. Of course, if you’re me, maybe that’s great because it allows me to make mountains out of molehills, who knows?

The point is ‘Graduation’ feels intimate even if it’s a little less detail oriented than previous Kanye albums. Maybe it’s the lack of guests and the tight borderline underwhelming tracklisting and Kanye’s conversational anti-flow, but it all just feels like a friend talking to you. While noun-is-a-women metaphor is common in rap, I think Kanye uses it particularly well here as the song feels as if it is as much about an old relationship as it is about his hometown. It’s an obvious homage to Common’s ‘Used to Love H.E.R’ (even down to a line that unnecessarily makes the song’s point explicit) but in that song, you never get a sense that about a girl on any non-metaphorical level. And that’s fine because Common’s talking about rap but ‘Homecoming’ while obviously about Chicago, has certain lines that move out of the mildly clever metaphor. As I said here:

“Homecoming’ [is]… 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.”

Also, many are bothered by the illogical choice of Chris Martin to reminisce about Chicago, him being NOT FROM CHICAGO and all- but I don’t think that matters too much. I see the point but it actually pulls the song away from its hometown specificity and into more, universal feelings of longing…

I don’t see any samples credited on this song so I guess it’s an original but it sounds like it’s based on something. I know about the earlier version of the song from the ‘College Dropout’ days but not that either. I thought the piano was sampled from some kind of old, live recording because if you listen closely, under the piano, there’s this looping of crowd noise: Is it a Coldplay live sample or something? I’m not even bragging here but I’ve only heard Coldplay’s singles so I’d have no idea if this is based on one of their songs.

Written by Brandon

September 18th, 2007 at 3:32 pm

Posted in Kanye West

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