Kanye West Meets Takashi Murakami

Left, 's cover. Right, Kanye West's earlier promotional art. Photo: Courtesy of Takashi Murakami, Kanye West, and Roc-A-Fella Records

The just-released cover for Kanye West's Graduation shows Kanye's trademark bruin, manga-ized, being launched out of some kind of floating university in the sky. As a statement of purpose, it's a little confused and busy; what is Kanye saying, exactly? That's he's finally ready for the world? Surely that was true two blockbuster albums ago. That he's boldly sailing into the unknown? As space age as these tracks might be, we don't think they're going to sound so unfamiliar to fans of Kanye and his contemporaries.

All Graduation's cover really says, we think, is that Kanye's copped a new style. Created by Japanese artist Takashi Murakami — who curated the revelatory "Little Boy" show at the Japan Society in 2005 — the cover reflects West's recent stylistic infatuation with contemporary Japanese art and anime (an infatuation made clear in the "Stronger" video, which is peppered with anime-influenced visuals and scrawled Japanese characters). But if that's all his cover was going to say, we sort of wish he'd just stuck with the iconic promo art Murakami created for him earlier this year, of the bear in Kanye's venetian-blind sunglasses. Now that's a cover that says something: specifically, "Check it out, I got some new shades!"