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Kanye West

Graduation (Roc-A-Fella)

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Kanye is the most exciting man in rap music. That's because he puts out quality albums. Forget the artless 50 Cent and ditch Akon -- Kanye tries much, much harder than both of them.

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, he's now shooting for the entire planet. From touring with the Rolling Stones and U2, Kanye's learned to craft simple arena jams 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 is ridiculously catchy. The same goes for "Good Life," featuring T-Pain, and "Stronger," spotlighting Daft Punk and a downright industrial beat.

Graduation isn't deep lyrically, but it works because it trims the clunky, metaphor-heavy lyricism people merely tolerated on Kanye's earlier records. Here, Kanye lets Lil Wayne do the heavy lifting on "Barry Bonds," while 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 will nonetheless be the mega-smash that 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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