Review Summary: Late Registration is Kanye West at his very best, with a wide variety of soulful, emotionally inspired beats and charming, at times self-indulgent lyrics.Late Registration
is a beginning and an ending for Kanye West’s career. It sealed Kanye West as a hit maker of a generation, a celebrity, and gave Kanye the heads up that he had not in fact gone through a sophomore slump. But just as things stemmed from Late Registration
, things also closed down and shipped out, mainly Kanye’s quality control. 808s
is an all right album, and even the dreaded Graduation
had a few decent songs, but none of those songs would ever reach the height set by Late Registration
and its predecessor College Dropout
, both albums being considered near classics by not only the hip hop community, but by the mainstream as a whole. Sadly, neither of these releases will ever be re-created by Kanye or anyone else, so they’re all that’s left from the days when Kanye actually could have been considered the genius that Mr. West himself thinks of. Still, out of nostalgia, I look back at both of these releases and find myself enjoying every single minute of it. Late Registration
is not only an amazing record, but an album that helped me get into music as a whole, and I will always respect it as such.
To start out this review, I am here to give you an obvious contrast between College Dropout
and Late Registration
; as a whole, Late Registration
is a hell of a lot more pop-oriented, and though this could have been seen as a start to the decline that Kanye went through, it makes for a catchier and overall better release. “Heard ‘Em Say” starts things off in this fashion, with light hopeful piano samples skimming the track as Adam Levine croons us an upbeat hook. “Bring Me Down” features a catchy R&B-inspired hook from Brandy, while horns and pianos create for a dramatic epic. However, most of this pop influence also comes from Kanye’s ever so slight and sometimes effective ability to over-produce stuff. “Gold Digger” is incredibly large, especially with the amount of production used on Jamie Foxx’s vocal, which is necessary as his vocal provides the main layer of music behind Kanye’s rapping. “Hey Mama” is soulful respect to his mother, with nice upbeat vocal sample from “Today Won’t Come Again”.
But as poppy as Late Registration
is, it also has some very dark and political moments, and some of these are the best on the album. Take “Crack Music” for example, a dark, hard-hitting, militant political song, with every of ounce of Kanye’s fear and paranoia mixed in. “Diamonds of Sierra Leone (Remix)” is about the violent happenings of the drug trade. “Roses” is a melancholic dedication to his grandmother’s hospitalization. “Roses” is slow moving, with keyboards quietly layered behind genius sampling of soul singer/songwriter Bill Withers. The fact is, Late Registration
is an emotionally inspired record, with feelings from both sides, upbeat and smiling and feelings of sadness along with paranoia. Unlike a lot of other records, Kanye sounds fairly genuine in his attempts to express these emotions, through both lyrics and beats. He sounds truly into what he’s doing on this record, like he really wants to make this music, which is more than I can say for Graduation
which felt more fueled by Kanye’s want for fame and fortune than his true feelings and experiences.
Being in tact with his feelings, Kanye can still have a great time on record. “We Major” is a seven minute hip hop wonder, with pianos, brass, and bass creating a dream-like soundscape for Kanye, Nas, and Really Doe to rap circles around. Most of the rappings have to do with the parting and girls, particular from Kanye himself, but Nas’s verse starts off as a displaceful rhyme fest of what to write about, which transcends to Nas’s support for artist freedom, wanting to start his own label just to get rappers to get their own stuff out. Another song just for a great time is the album closer “Gone”, with bouncy pianos and majestic violins transcend while Kanye, Cam’ron and Consequence rap circles around each other (maybe a bit a skewed circle for Cam’Ron, but still). After Consequence’s verse, the pianos and violins start to build-up for a climatic verse from Kanye West, whom brings the aggressive swagger of one thousand lions. These songs are possibly the best off the album, with these gangs of rappers bringing out the best in Kanye’s production and songwriting (sampling) abilities.
Is Late Registration
a perfect album? No, of course not, every album has flaws, and this is no exception. “Addiction” is a good song, really, with African drums used to proper effect, but the fact is it just doesn’t live up to the rest of the album, as Kanye rapping in a somewhat uninspired tone in the bridge, all the while guest performer Jon Brion consistently annoys the listener with his (her?) lisp. Also the skits, although funny at first, interrupt the albums neigh perfect flow, making the album sometimes irritating to listen to in full. The final bonus track “Late” places us at an awkward position, while most the regular album is great, this song is just awkward and confusing. High-pitched samples and strings dominate as Kanye arrogantly displaces his lack of care of whether or not he’s really there to graduate. From the song, we also get that he does in fact care about this not wanting to be with the ‘slow’ shop class kids.
This album is for everyone, even for those ‘slow’ shop class kids. Kanye brings the life to the party, while genuinely displaying his emotions through beats, production, lyrics, and swagger. Pulsing and emotional yet hook-friendly and welcoming, simple yet complex, If Kanye West is hip hop for the common man, then Late Registration
is the common man’s album. Late Registration
is a hip hop masterpiece in deed.
“Heard Em Say”