Personnel: Chris Martin , Connie Mitchell, Jay-Z, Tanya Herron (vocals); Mike Dean (guitar, keyboards); Luigi Mazzocchi, Gloria Justen, Eric Gorfain, Charles Parker , Igor Szwec, Daphne Chen, Emma Kummrow, Olga Konopelsky (violin); Alexandra Leem, Peter Nocella, Leah Katz, Alma Fernandez (viola); Richard Dodd, Jennie Lorenzo, John Krovoza (cello); Omar Edwards (piano, Fender Rhodes piano, synthesizer, bass synthesizer); Jon Brion (keyboards, percussion); Andy Chatterly, Darryl Beaton, Chris Rob (keyboards); Timbaland (programming, drum programming); Jehireh Williams, Jamaal Stanford Williams, John Legend, Ne-Yo (background vocals).
Audio Mixers: Anthony Kilhoffer; Manny Marroquin; Andrew Dawson; Mike Dean .
Recording information: Ape Sounds, Tokyo, Japan; Avex Studios, Honolulu, HI; Chalice Studios, Los Angeles, CA; Chung King Studios, NYX; Doppler Studios, Atlanta, GA; EMI Abbey Road Studios, London, England; Fever Recording Studio, North Hollywood, CA; Henson Recording Studios, Hollywood, CA; Legacy Studios, NUC; Ocean Way Recording, Hollywood, CA; Sony Music Studios, New York, NY; The Durt Factory Studio, Norfolk, VA; the Record Plant, Hollywood, CA.
Arranger: Mike Dean .
Given the remarkable critical and commercial success of 2005's LATE REGISTRATION, Kanye West's rich, rewarding sophomore release, expectations were high for 2007's GRADUATION. Ever savvy, West flouts those expectations by delivering a record that delivers curveballs while staying true to his sharply sculpted, commercially minded m.o. West's rapping, never his greatest strength, is still entertaining. He delivers witty, smart, sometimes absurd rhymes (he seems to take more lyrical chances on GRADUATION) that fit nicely with the overall feel of his tracks.
As usual, it's West's productions that stand out. While there are examples of his style-defining use of classic R&B samples and background choirs (as on the feel-good highlight "I Wonder"), West streamlines his sound to center on synth-driven lines, giving many of the tracks a retro-electro new wave feel. "Stronger," for example, another standout, is powered by a vocoder-drenched vocal sample courtesy of French dance superstars Daft Punk, which finds West again more comfortable in hip-hop's uncharted waters. The overall results make for a fun, inventive album that offers proof that West still has tricks up his sleeve.
Rolling Stone (p.90) - 4.5 stars out of 5 -- "This is an album that you first like ,then love....He's grown as a writer....The music needs his spazzed out, neurotic creativity more than ever."
Rolling Stone (p.108) - Included in Rolling Stone's "50 Top Albums of the Year 2007" -- "[T]he year's most high-impact work..."
Spin (p.114) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "West's third album is mesmerizing and alienating, like all the purest forms of pop culture. Its music is a rush of designer adrenaline..."
Q (p.95) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "Musically, West is still capable of the inspirational. The cocktail piano of opening track 'I Wonder' soon gives way to the towering layers of '80s synthesizers that characterise the whole album."