If the lead single, “Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” was any indication,
Kanye West is at a position where he feels he can do whatever he wants. Most can quickly write that off as typical Kanye arrogance. Some might even argue that there never was a time that he didn’t feel this way.

Yet, still, it is hard to argue against him, especially after pulling a stunt such as, say, publicly criticizing the president on national television. While this type of action has cost other entertainers, such as the Dixie Chicks, a considerable amount of their fan base, Kanye has walked away nearly untouched. Granted, that has a lot to do with the fact that his fan base, mostly liberal Americans, agreed with his argument that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”

Nevertheless, it seems that Kanye is an expert in keeping us interested in what he has to say, even if it becomes annoying at times.

The main reason for his continued support is that he has always backed up his mouth and huge ego with solid material. His latest album, Graduation, is no exception. Much like his sophomore effort, Late Registration, Kanye shows a different approach than he the one he took with his earlier work. The album gives listeners the impression that, despite taking the rap world by storm with his multiple-Grammy-winning debut, College Dropout, he still feels that he has something to prove.
Maybe it is because he knows full well that he does not have the “street credibility” that many other top names in the game have. In other words, Kanye is not “gangsta.” That does not mean that he cannot be aggressive, however. Perhaps the best example of this is the new albm’s lead single, “Barry Bonds,” which features Lil’ Wayne.

Of course, Kanye’s increased aggression has not diminished his softer, soulful side. In fact, it is when the album reverts to the laid-back production that characterized his debut that Kanye is at his strongest. An absolute must listen is the standout “Everything I Am,” which features the smoothest beat on the entire album.

Unfortunately, there are no tracks here with the instant staying power of “Jesus Walks” or “Goldigger,” and don’t expect any major changes in Kanye’s lyrical flow. His rhymes are not any tighter and his flow is not any smoother. They are a little rough around the edges but, now on his third album, it would only be fair to accept his often awkward approach to rhyming as one more thing that makes him a more original rapper. That is especially true in this era of rap, which is dominated by what many have dubbed “gansta pop.”

All in all, Graduation is worth the buy. It is certainly not predictable and has more than a few surprises. One or two tracks may have been misses but, fortunately, their beats are enough to carry them. Still, it is hard not to view the album as a bit of a let down.

Many Kanye fans are still waiting for him to top College Dropout, and with the release of Graduation, it seems they will have to wait a little longer.