Ten years ago, Kanye West released his third album – ‘Graduation.’ For the longest time, it stood as my favourite Yeezy opus, until ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ dropped. Almost every album in his discography is considered a classic save for ‘Yeezus’ and ‘The Life Of Pablo’, and ‘Cruel Summer’ if we’re calling that a ‘Ye album. It’s difficult to rank the run of releases from ‘College Dropout’ to ‘Watch The Throne’, there’s not really a wrong order.
My ranking runs as:
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Watch The Throne
808’s & Heartbreaks
The Life Of Pablo
The top four flip places daily, because Kanye is a genius who has at least five classic albums. Yeezy has shifted the culture’s soundscape as a rapper and producer, more times than we care to credit him for. From ‘The Blueprint’ to ‘The Life Of Pablo’, Kanye’s influence is somehow, in spite of his ego, understated. As James Stevenson says however, ‘Graduation’ “was Kanye graduating and hitting the top of the industry.”
We all know that 2007 saw competition come to an end in hip-hop. Yeezy overcame 50 Cent in a battle of who could sell more of the albums they were releasing on the same day. On 11th September 2007, Ye’s ‘Graduation’ and 50’s ‘Curtis’ hit the shelves. Since Yeezy’s success, we’ve never seen competition like it. From 2007-2017, Ye’s only real competition has been himself.
On an album boasting at least two of Ye’s top five songs, ‘Graduation’ has to be in the top five Kanye albums. One-fifth of TheRootMusic’s #SPLAM series, Phil has it as low as fifth. One of my Monthly Mumble co-hosts Max Gavins say it’s fourth or fifth, whilst our other co-host 90BRO simply comments on how ‘Good Morning’ is Ye’s best intro song.
Can an album with ‘Good Morning’, ‘Champion’, ‘Good Life’, ‘Big Brother’, ‘Everything I Am’ and especially ‘Can’t Tell Me Nothing’ really be ranked so low? Even in a discography crammed with classics, I’m not sure I’m rolling with the prospect of ‘Graduation’ not being at least fourth.
The aforementioned James Stevenson didn’t give a number but indicated he’d “put it near the bottom of his pantheon of work.” James clarifies that, that is “no bad thing, they’re all incredible albums.” ‘Graduation’ is, according to James, “The unparalleled pop-rap album”: “For pop-rap it sits on the throne to this day. Weakest songs are probably ‘Barry Bonds’ and ‘Drunk & Hot Girls’ – both back-to-back in the middle of the album. Highlights are probably ‘Stronger’, ‘Flashing Lights’, and ‘Good Life.’ Extravagant and uplifting.”
Others clearly disagree with the low placements. The Arab Hova (also of the aforementioned #SPLAM) has it third, Kyran Mann and Matt Whitlock (Another #SPLAM member) between second and third, Zero (#SPLAM again) has it second while Ego Trip and Kay Greyson both have it in the top spot. Abu says ‘Graduation’ is “personally my favourite Ye album. On many days “Flashing Lights is the greatest song he’s ever made. This album made him THE MAN.”
What do you think? Where does ‘Graduation’ rank in your favourite Kanye albums?