Kanye West

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

Kanye is the most exciting man in rap because he puts out quality, popular albums. Forget the artless 50 Cent and Akon—Kanye tries harder, and 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 attempting to conquer the 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 is ridiculously catchy, as are "Good Life," featuring T-Pain, and "Stronger," featuring Daft Punk and a downright industrial beat. Lyrically, the album isn't deep, but it still works because it skims off the clunky, metaphor-heavy lyricism people tolerated on Kanye's first records. Here he lets Lil Wayne do the heavy lifting on "Barry Bonds," and Chris Martin sings the chorus on the gorgeous "Homecoming." Graduation may not outsell 50's latest, but we'll still be talking about it when both men are dead.

 
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