Five Things You Never Knew About Kanye West’s ‘Graduation’
Celebrating the 10 year anniversary of his third album.
1. Kanye released an early version of “Homecoming” nearly five years earlier
Kanye West created a voluminous catalog of demo and mixtape tracks in the early days of his transition from buzzing producer to superstar rapper, and lines from those songs were often revised and reused throughout his first three albums. The most prominent instance is “Homecoming,” which takes its verses from “Home,” a College Dropout outtake that appeared on his 2002 mixtape Get Well Soon. The original beat and John Legend hook are replaced with a completely new track and chorus featuring Coldplay’s Chris Martin.
2. 50 Cent had sold nearly twice as many albums as Kanye West before losing their famous sales showdown
When Graduation and 50 Cent’s Curtis were scheduled for the same release date on September 11, 2007, the media whipped up a sales war. The two frenemies appeared together on the cover of Rolling Stone and at the VMAs, and it seemed like a perfect battle for the soul of mainstream hip-hop – tough New York gangsterism vs. emotional suburban confessionals. While Kanye West’s decisive triumph over 50 seems inevitable in retrospect, it’s easy to forget how much of an underdog he was at the time. The College Dropout and Late Registration sold a combined 7 million copies in the U.S., but 50 Cent’s own first two albums, Get Rich or Die Trying and The Massacre, sold nearly 14 million, almost exactly twice as much. West had the last laugh: Graduation sold nearly a million copies in one week, and rap became the playground of emotional heroes like Kid Cudi, Lupe Fiasco, Drake and J. Cole.
3. “Everything I Am” wasn’t the only beat Common passed on
Common’s second album for West’s G.O.O.D. Music, Finding Forever, was released just a few weeks before Graduation, so it’s not surprising that there was significant overlap in the sessions for the two albums, both of which featured Dwele and DJ Premier. Kanye famously touts “Everything I Am” as a rescued Finding Forever outtake in the song’s chorus: “Common passed on this beat, I made it to a jam”. However it wasn’t the only one. The track that follows it, “The Glory,” was also offered to Common before West wound up using the track.
4. “I Wonder” was inspired by U2’s “City of Blinding Lights”
Kanye West joined U2’s Vertigo Tour for several dates in 2005 and 2006, and watching the band open shows with 2005 single “City of Blinding Lights” made him envious of how the Irish quartet’s big melodic sound filled stadiums. So the slower, more melodic cadence and building anthemic energy of “I Wonder” and other songs on Graduation was in part West’s attempt at making rap music that worked the same way in live venues.
5. While recording Graduation, Kanye West made a Comedy Central pilot
During sessions for Graduation in L.A. at the Record Plant, Kanye West and longtime collaborator Rhymefest started joking around in the studio and spitballing an idea for a grown-up puppet show in the vein of Crank Yankers. Soon, the two Chicago rappers were linking up with Jimmy Kimmel to shoot the Alligator Boots pilot for Comedy Central and meeting with comedy writers during the recording of “Flashing Lights.” The show was never picked up, and within a year West had moved on to another TV pet project, another unaired comedy pilot for HBO.
Full list on Rolling Stone