My “Graduation” to Kanye West
Confession time: I haven't always been a hip/hop fan. When I was younger, say, until about 11th grade, my extent of hip/hop and rap knowledge was limited to the Beastie Boys, Eminem (and Shady/Aftermath acts like 50 Cent, D12, etc…) and a little bit of Dr. Dre.
This wasn't out of dislike for the genre, more just a lack of digging past what was unavoidably popular.
That changed in 11th grade when my friend let me borrow his copy of Kanye West's third album "Graduation."
I had always known who Kanye West was, but I'd never paid attention to him, his antics or his music. I'd heard the hits ("Jesus Walks," "Through the Wire" and his then-smash "Stronger.") and I'd seen some of his crazy antics ("George Bush doesn't care about black people") but I still remained largely unaware.
When I got home and put that album in though, that all changed in an instant.
Track by track, I got more and more engrossed and impressed with what I was hearing. The beats in songs like "Everything I Am" and "I Wonder" recalled old soul music that I'd heard growing up and songs like "Good Morning," "Champion" and "Barry Bonds" stood out from all the generic songs I'd heard day in and day out on the radio.
Lyrically, the album is full of hints at the full-fledged Man-God that Kanye always believed he'd be ("Can't Tell Me Nothing" "The Glory") but there was enough insecurity in "Big Brother" and an endearing acknowledgement to all the success he so desired in "Good Life" that it was hard for me to not find him likable.
"Homecoming" remains one of my favorite Kanye songs to this day, it's full of the clever wordplay and metaphor he's known for and is an open love-letter to his hometown of Chicago, with a nice big sexy hook from Coldplay's Chris Martin.
On top of all that; "Flashing Lights" stands as one of my favorite songs ever, with a video that I would say is also near the top of my personal "best of" list.
After that, I quickly got his first two albums and from that point on, I've been a fan of Kanye's and through all the controversies, I've just grown to support him even more.
Now, that may sound odd but consider it this way; how many celebrities seem to have a squeaky-clean, nice-guy persona, only to blow it to pieces with selfish behavior and a lack of appreciation for where they've come from and who helped get them there.
Kanye on the other hand, has never minced words about what his goal is (Becoming a living, hip-hop Jesus) and he's never shied away from letting everybody know that he's one of the biggest rappers on earth and he lives his life accordingly. On the other side of the coin though, I've never heard him speak ill of his fans or do anything but thank them for their support through everything he's been through. I'd rather lend my support to an artist that's open about what they think and stand for, then to someone who spends all their time trying to convince you how good and nice they are.
Kanye West's "Graduation" remains my favorite of Kanye's albums, it features some of my favorite songs and more than that, it served as a gateway to finally get me to dig further into hip-hop and I haven't looked back.
Stay tuned here at HefferBrew for even more of Kanye West week as we countdown the release of "Yeezus."