Kanye West

Graduation (Island Def Jam/Roc-A-Fella)

Kanye is the most exciting man in rap music because he puts out quality, popular albums. Forget the artless 50 Cent, and forget Akon — Kanye tries much, much harder. Graduation, which has 13 bangers and zero skits, reflects the man's tireless work ethic. Having united backpackers and clubbers with his first two albums, this time he's shooting for the whole world. From touring with the Rolling Stones and U2, Kanye's learned to craft simple arena rockers that an international audience can sing along to. “La, la, la, la, wait till I get my money right,” he croons on “Can't Tell Me Nothing,” which, like “Good Life” (featuring T-Pain) and “Stronger,” (featuring Daft Punk and a downright industrial beat) is ridiculously catchy. The album isn't deep lyrically, but it works because it skims off the clunky, metaphor-heavy lyricism people tolerated on Kanye's first records. Here Kanye lets Lil Wayne do the heavy lifting on “Barry Bonds,” and Chris Martin sings the chorus on the gorgeous “Homecoming.” Though some of Kanye's lines are corny (see the Jay-Z tribute, “Big Brother”), Graduation should nonetheless be the worldwide hit the rapper wants it to be. It may not outsell 50's album, but we'll still be talking about it when both men are dead.

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