Kanye West’s third studio album Graduation hit stores yesterday in a highly anticipated showdown with 50 Cent’s Curtis. 50 Cent has historically done better in sales the first week of an album release, but lots of people are saying that this time around it could be different:

“Despite a growing intolerance for gangsta glorification, rappers such as 50 Cent — who regularly boasts about his previous life as a drug dealer who’s been shot nine times — continue to rhyme about guns, drugs, money and women. And they continue to do it in explicit, misogynistic and racist language. It’s getting stale.

Kanye West, on the other hand, is known for his arty and educated background, his outspokenness against U.S. President George W. Bush, his tremendous ego, and his efforts to put a stop to homophobia in rap music.

History favours 50 Cent when it comes to sales, but the future — to be frank — looks a lot friendlier for West. And what of the albums? We pit them head-to-head in a listening session, and it became clear, West is also the one with the musical muscle in this showdown.”

“West seems to be the favorite, just, based on preliminary hearings and sales orders… West’s arts-school background shows through on “Graduation,” a collection that aims high and often succeeds.

“Very early sales figures have put Kanye West ahead of arch rival 50 Cent in the battle for the No. 1 position.”

“Critics are raving about West’s Graduation – and its already sold 200,000 more units than Fiddy’s Curtis since yesterday’s same-day release in the US.”

Okay. What do I think? I’m a huge Kanye West fan – that fact will either detract of add merit to what I am about to say. I purchased Graduation around 10 pm last night and I think I’m currently on my seventh or eighth listen. The album is a winner – most notably it’s original. Kanye has gotten even more creative with this one.

On Graduation you won’t find many tracks like “Roses” from Late Registration – it’s much more upbeat and fast paced. Lyrically, Kanye unabashedly takes his ego to new heights and some might even argue that Kanye’s ego itself is the theme of Graduation, at least lyrically. However, if you don’t find listening to a guy talk about how great he is the “beats” on this album will surely win you over – they are truly “fresh.” One could argue that Kanye’s talent as a lyricist took a back seat to his musical talents and creativity on this album.

Don’t expect another typical rap/hip hop album when you slide Graduation into your CD player. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that Kanye’s newest contribution to music could make anyone do a double-take. It’s just surprisingly new – not only for the hip hop genre, but for music as a whole.

After my fist half-dozen-plus listens I have been particularly taken by “Stronger” – of course, it’s been my summer’s single; “Good Life”; “Can’t Tell Me Nothing”; “Flashing Lights” – amazing beat using a synth; “Homecoming” – features Chris Martin from Coldplay and is incredibly catchy; and “Big Brother” – a well deserved tribute to Kanye’s mentor, Jay Z.

The album as a whole finds it’s primary strength simply in how authentic it is.

In case you haven’t already seen the music video for “Stronger” – a great mash-up of sorts using Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”. It’s one hell of a music video.


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