Kanye West‘s album rollout for Graduation is something that should be taught in every music history class. The Chicago native dropped his third studio album on September 11, 2007, in an event that is still talked about pretty often for something that happened eleven years ago.
Though he wasn’t exactly a small-time rapper at the time, Kanye was the underdog in his highly publicized competition with 50 Cent, who both released their albums on the same day. 50 didn’t retire afterward as advertised, but Mr. West ended up raking in a whopping 960K in first week sales and beating out Curtis‘ 690K. This solidified Ye’s spot at the top of the hip-hop game and skyrocketed his whole career–every album that followed for Kanye, to this day, has reached #1 on Billboard charts.
While it’s nearly impossible to say one thing that Kanye West is known for or best at, his visuals as a whole are a pretty good start. From fashion, to design, to music videos, Ye is always thinking about how things look just as much as he’s considering how they sound. With that being said, the music videos from Graduation are some of Kanye’s most iconic, most viewed, and most talked about.
In honor of the project’s eleven year anniversary, let’s take a walk down memory lane and remember how all 6 of the music videos off of Graduation fare today.
6. “Can’t Tell Me Nothing”
“Can’t Tell Me Nothing” is arguably one of the best songs on the album–and one of the best tracks in Ye’s entire discography–but the same can’t really be said for the video. While it’s a good example of the always beautiful and deliberate display of colors that the rapper is known for throughout his work, it’s a very simple video as far as Kanye visuals go–not a bad thing, just not as memorable as a lot of his visual concepts are.
The video for “Homecoming” was nominated for Best Hip-Hop Video at the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards. A tribute to his hometown Chicago, the all black-and-white Hype Williams-directed visual is a pretty straight forward look at the people, landmarks, and monuments of the windy city. Though the music video does it’s job paying homage to the Chi, a song with such heavy visualization and allusions could have benefitted from a colorful, illustrative video.
Another gift from Hype Williams, “Stronger” gives us a visual initially shot over 9 days in Tokyo, Japan. The guerrilla-style visual is futuristic, which fits the theme of Graduation as a whole, but specifically the sounds of Kanye and Daft Punk on the track. The original storyline for the video features West playing a man in a motorcycle gang, who gets into a bar fight with Japanese rivals. West ended up not liking the video, abandoned the storyline, and edited the visual to obtain “the hottest shots possible,” adding more footage in New York City.
3. “Flashing Lights (feat. Dwele)”
In “Flashing Lights,” a Playboy model drives out to the desert, strips down, and pops open the trunk of her car to reveal a bound-and-gagged Kanye West before pounding him with a shovel. This video is some incredible foreshadowing for the genius to come from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy‘s visuals, and it’s most definitely a bright highlight in Ye’s catalogue of impressive music videos.
2. “Good Life (feat T-Pain)”
The music video for “Good Life” is something special. It was directed by Jonas & François with animation by So-Me, and is jam packed with colorful writing, creativity, and fun. This visual is the perfect representation of living the good life and evokes the same feeling the song itself does, watching Kanye and T-Pain happily sing along to their smash hit.
1. “Good Morning”
Those who hold Graduation–or any Kanye album for that matter–close to their heart are bound to disagree on which visuals come out on top, but there’s no denying how iconic the music video for “Good Morning” is. Starring the famous Dropout Bear, the video was directed by Japanese contemporary artist Takashi Murakami, who also designed the album artwork and the cover art for its singles.