At first we weren't sure Kanye West would show at his Graduation listening party at the New World Stages last night, but then we realized that spotlights are his tractor beams. How could he miss a party in his honor? Committed artist that he is, West let his new album (due out September 11, when it will likely embarrass 50 Cent) play through uninterrupted — though inexplicably accompanied by footage from hyperviolent Korean cinema and anime porn. The man, as he will be quick to tell you, is not shy.
At least five of the album's thirteen tracks have been released in some form; the rest — most notably, the Jay-Z love-hate rap "Big Brother," rumored at one point to be a straight-up dis track — satisfyingly coupled big horns and bigger drums. Kanye stepped to center stage as the album faded, his goofy grin a mile wide, and wasted no time hyping the disc we’d just heard: The simplified lyrics, the epic sound, his "rock star" approach. Opening for the Rolling Stones and having 50-year-old white women ignoring him, he explained, pushed his quest for transcendence into overdrive. "At least 200 days out of the year, my job is to stand onstage in front of 50,000 people. I do this to make my job easier."
Of course, Kanye's intriguing for his self-doubt. "Big Brother" puts that front and center; he talks openly about Jay outrapping him on the "Diamonds" remix and being kept on the shelf for years at Roc-A-Fella. Onstage later, he even admitted that blogs fuel his insecurity. “[They say] Kanye's a bitch, he's a fag, his shoes look funny, the fuck is wrong with him?” For the record, Mr. West, the shoes were tight. That vest, though? Weak! —Amos Barshad