I copped Kanye West's Graduation and 50 Cent's Curtis CDs over the weekend, and after several listens, I have to say, that Kanye West has the better disc of the two.
Kanye West's educational-themed LP Graduation is indeed the best album of 2007, so far.
It's a magna cum lauding™ (*no homo) collection that brilliantly shows why Kanye is one of rap's most polarizing figures -- either you love him or hate him. The set boasts forward-thinking productions, lyrical bravado, catchy punchlines and head-nodding bangers you expect from the Louis Vuitton Don.
Yes, 'Ye maybe an egotistical blowhard . . . but when it comes to rap music, he's a hip-hop genius. And Kanye will likely win the "Album of the Year" trophy at the 2008 Grammy Awards in February. You read it here, first. My ears don't lie.
On Graduation, I love Kanye's staccato rhyme flow on the introductory "Good Morning" and his one metaphoric line on the song, "I'm like the fly Malcolm X, buy any jeans necessary." I can't get enough of the celebratory anthem "The Good Life" (featuring cameo king T- Pain) and the braggadocios "Barry Bonds" (featuring Lil Weezy). Kanyeezee's introspective songs like the synth-heavy "I Wonder," the piano-driven "Everything That I Am" and the standout Jay-Z dedication "Big Brother" are all great songs, as well.
Graduation isn't without its faults -- mostly on the production end. I never liked "Can't Tell Me Nothing" and I still don't on here; the song just doesn't connect with me. The set's second single, "Stronger," sounds richer and more vibrant thanks to Timbaland's drum programming assistance but it doesn't move me either. "Drunk and Hot Girls," with it's plodding beat and Kanye's cautionary tale about groupies, is boring to me. And I'm still on the fence with "Flashing Lights" (featuring Dwele) -- I like 'Ye's production (swirling violins, tapping synths and sorrowful chorus), but the track is not high on my replay list.
Out in the blogsphere, bloggers agree that Graduation is the best of West.
Def Sounds' critic Mr. White Folk gave it an Graduation 8 out of 10 and says, "With the exception of 2 or 3 tracks, the album holds strong with 10 solid songs. [Kanye] brought the best out of himself for this one. It has its moments where you’re going to want a skip a track now and then, but even if you’re not feeling the lyrics in a particular track, the production makes up for it."
Doc Zeus also praises Graduation, callling it "soulful, spaced out . . . [and] utterly weird." He also adds: It's a revolutionary record and possibly, the best record released in years."
A writer over at INDIEscreet, thinks that Graduation is nothing to get excited about. "I'd love to tell you to go and buy this album now as it's a must have for everyone's collection, but I can't. The [LP] is nothing more than average."
And blogger Swiftfus, simply says, "Fuck Kanye!"
On byroncrawford.com, Kanyeezee surprisingly gets a good review for Graduation. The blog is always extremely critical of the rapper-producer, but writer Akura says that Kanye "delivered a strong and original album . . . 50 Cent may be in trouble."
Speaking of which . . .
I also copped 50 Cent's Curtis disc. And I was very, very disappointed with the collection. On the first three tracks -- "My Gun Go Off," Man Down," "I'll Still Kill" -- Fiddy is rehashing his old gun talk and nihilistic threats of bodily harm. Yawn. (50 I don't believe you, you need more people.)
And 50's four terrible misfired singles -- "Straight to the Bank," "Amusement Park," "Ayo Technology" and "Fully Loaded Clip" -- are on here and they are still straight wickety wack. Another bad track is "Fire" featuring Young Buck and Pussycat Dolls vixen Nicole S. Both Buck and Nicole phoned in their parts and all together, the track sounds like a convoluted pop hit. Next!
50 Cent sounds lyrically sharp and believable when he's behind the beats of beat maverick Jake One. Jake is a Seattle-native producer who blessed De La Soul with some phenomenal beats on their 2004 disc, Grind Date. (Remember that neck-snapping snare on "Rock Co.Kane Flow"? He did that!)
On Curtis, Jake provided Fiddy with the best tracks on the collection -- the gangsta leanings of "Mobin On Up," and the standout, the quasi-thug ballad "All of Me" (featuring Mary J. Blige). The latter song should help 50 achieve push Curtis to the 3-5 million units sold mark, and could nab him and Mary a Grammy nod for Best R&B/Rap Collaboration in the process. Boo Boo also shines on the set's upcoming fall single, "Follow My Lead" (featuring Robin Thicke), which is a grown and sexier update of "21 Questions" (from Get Rich or Die Tryin'). And veteran beatmaker Havoc (of Mobb Deep) gives 50 a nice sinister track with "Curtis 187."
All and all, Curtis is good but not better than his previous effort, The Massacre. The songs are very boring -- both musically and lyrically -- outside of the tracks produced by Jake One.
Mike from the "Polo Fleece" blog also thinks Curtis is a subpar effort, too. "I expected a lot more from 50 Cent's production team and I received very little," he writes in his review. "What was said to be a return to both his lyrical and street persona roots, churned out production that didn't even hit as hard as [Kanye West's] Graduation."
AllHipHop's Martin A. Berrios liked Curtis although, admittingly, the musical ride was very bumpy. "While the album is not a total brick," he cautions, "it lacks a true consistency where his previous work flowed seamlessly and almost every record worked."
Blogger Gary, on the one hand, thinks Curtis is a "pretty damn good album." And adding: "50 Cent is without doubt the hardest working person in hip-hop. If you aren't interested in being a critic and just want to sit back and listen, you'll be listening, and enjoying, Curtis as a great piece of work."
And this blogger summed it up briefly his disappointment of Curtis: "The album isn't very good. Lyrically it's weak, but it has some banging beats. Save your money."
So Kanye, you've did it again! Barry Bonds, baby.
"Now I, I go for mine, I got to shine
Now throw your hands up in the sky
Now I, I go for mine, I got to shine
Now throw your hands up in the sky . . ."
-- Kanye, "The Good Life"