Label: Roc-A-Fella, Def Jam

Graduation was the first signal that Kanye West was more than a comic rapper with a gift for digging in the crates. It was the beginnings of his first major steps towards true auteur status, the moment of maturation that indicated there was a lot more to him than first met the eye.

He became increasingly ambitious, embracing more ambitious sonics ("Flashing Lights"), mastering pop songcraft ("Champion") and pushing the limits of his audience ("Can't Tell Me Nothing"). Kanye may have been concerned that he was moving too quickly at bridging audiences, leaving behind his core in the interests of crossing over, but now, in the wake of the cross-genre experimentalism of 808s & Heartbreak and the extravagant glossiness of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, the idea seems quaint. Graduation's longevity proves the risks were worth it. — DD

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