Like James Blunt and KT Tunstall, Kanye West is another star anticipating criticism, although in hip-hop that's par for the course. The figurehead of the fight against the genre's gangsta tendencies, Kanye's openness to white influences makes him vulnerable to accusations of Uncle Tom-ism: there's even a duet here with Chris Martin, enough to make Gandhi reach for his revolver. But his multi-culturalism is actually Kanye's trump card. The samples from Elton and Daft Punk lend originality to his grooves.
Particularly impressive is the way he builds "Drunk and Hot Girls" around Can's lilting "Sing Swan Song", expanding it to epic proportions with grandiose piano and strings. Steely Dan's "Kid Charlemagne" provides the backbone to "Champion", on which West accepts the mantle of underdog spokesperson. But whatever his detractors might say, it's still the street that drives him, he says: "Everything I'm not made me everything I am." With 600 annual gang deaths in Chicago alone, who can blame him?
Download this: 'Drunk and Hot Girls', 'Champion', 'Everything I Am', 'Flashing Lights'