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MDX Redbeat

Kanye West’s ‘Graduation’ Pushed Hip-hop Towards a New Era of Electric and House Music

The Chicago based rapper’s 2007 album pushed the hip-hop music scene to its limits, which would inculcate everything from rock, electric, and Chicago house.

The striking album artwork was designed by Japanese artist, Takashi Murakami, featuring Kanye West as a bear being launched into the sky. It is the perfect artwork description for the creative ambitions of West’s third studio album.

Kanye West’s ‘Graduation’ album which was released on September 11, 2007. (Photo by Dazed)

After the immense success of his 2005 album Late Registration, Kanye toured with Irish rock band U2 in an ambitious effort to increase his then-growing fanbase. Taking inspiration from watching Irish bands performances to packed arenas, Kanye put together an album that would bridge the gap between rap and pop by writing simplified lyrics, which would be easily understood by a more substantial mass.

When Kanye’s first two albums were dominated soul samples and orchestration, his third album tapped into the likes of rock artists and bands such as The Killers, Radiohead, and Keane. A dash of electric samples broadened the diversity of sounds that made the project one to remember.  The most noticeable single from the album Stronger hinted at what would follow, a Kanye West hip-hop template alongside a sample of Daft Punk’s ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’ combined with metallic beats and rock beats. The song was a huge hit, especially in the UK, where it became the rapper’s first no.1 single.

Kanye West touring with famous Irish band U2 in order to promote his album Graduation. (Photo by

The most notable piece of the new Kanye West aesthetic was perhaps ‘Flashing Lights,’ another one of the album’s singles. With an odd combination of Chicago house beats, EDM synths, and unique hooks, it still remains as the rapper’s most critically lauded single.

When released back in late 2007, Graduation proved and still is one of the decade’s most memorable albums. Even though the release coincided with 50 Cent’s third album, Curtis, following the paths of mainstream gangsta rap, it stood as a contrast to Kanye’s hybrid collection. A competition soon arose between the two, further sparked by 50s claims that he would easily outsell Kanye.

In the end, Kanye won by dominating the album sales chart as Graduation sold nearly one million albums to Curtis’s 691,000. However, the more noticeable factor in Kanye’s success would be the fact that it ensured the shift that was seen in the hip-hop scene from gangsta rap (that dominated for its majority) to an electronic form of hip-hop (that also embrace styles which were diverse such as house and rock music).

Kanye West performs during The Meadows Music & Arts Festival. (Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images for The Meadows)

The critical reception for the album was one that was mixed, but still received widely positive reviews. Metacritic, a popular online review website that looks into music, movies and television series rated the album a seemingly average score of just 79 out of a 100. With a rating of 8.7 out of 10, Pitchfork critic Mark Pytlik congratulated and praised the album of it innovative sounds and how West brought together various elements on his songs, finding it an intriguing but yet impressive piece of music. Nathan Brackett, a writer for the Rolling Stones, mentioned of Kanye evolving and being increasingly experimental yet genre-bending production. Furthermore, he mentioned the growth that Kanye West had as a writer, after a lousy year that incurred in the hip-hop scene and rated the album as 4.5 stars out of 5.

Apart from the critical accolades it racked up, the album also won ‘Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Album’ at the American Music Awards and the Grammy for the Best Rap Album in the year 2008, pivoting its position as one of the best albums of the year and possibly starting a new era of Kanye as well as hip-hop.

Hip-hop would never be the same for the years to come, and with Kanye at the driving seat, he would be a force for the change in the years to come.

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