Review Summary: The best album of Kanye West's career, and easily one of the best rap albums of all time.
Late Registration was Kanye West's sophmore album, released in 2005 following 2003's equally masterful "The College Dropout". This album, as well as its predecessor, is drenched in ingenious lyrics and resembles the classic "epic" length rap albums of the '80s and early '90s. With a run time of over 70 minutes, Late Registration is an album of clever story lines and references to his own influences. It features many guest spots, such as those of Maroon 5
's Adam Levine, fellow rappers Nas
, The Game
, and RnB singers Lupe Fiasco
, Jamie Foxx
. It is undeniable from the guest spots on this album how respected Kanye West had become in the rap and hip hop music scene after "The College Dropout" and his outstanding start in production work for Jay-Z.
As for production, this record utilizes quality in abundance. The beats are always interesting and unique, without ever seeming too heavy or excessively repetitive. The bass is a substantial force and is never overpowering. The vocals of Kanye West and the guest artists always reverberate with emotion and enough energy to ideally convey everything their respective parts require. Even the synthesizers and drum machines succeed in the rare task on a rap album of sounding totally and completely fresh.
However, the obvious main focus of this album is its lyrics. While there are tracks such as "Gold Digger" with less-than-spectacular lyrics, and a mildly annoying chorus, there are also tracks like "Roses" with its incredible introduction detailing a death of a friend of Kanye's in a hospital, a memory from his childhood, and how fame influences the perception of you by others. This track remains one of my absolute favorites on the album, and is reminiscent of Andre 3000
's work on his half of the Outkast
album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, and not just because of its shared track name. Other songs on the album describe how people in the rap industry would badmouth and doubt Kanye without even giving him what he considers a proper chance. And, while most of this album focuses on personal struggles such as those, it also discusses the civil wars of West Africa and the purchase of blood diamonds in another standout track "Diamonds From Sierra Leone". The 4 tracks labelled "Skit #1,", "Skit #2", etc. serve from what I can tell to exemplify West's own sense of humor, and take a short break from such serious subject matter. The track "Hey Mama" is a heartfelt tribute to West's mother, that manages to be infinitely relatable to any type of person.
The samples on this album cover a wide variety of genres. There is spoken word inputs from Gil Scot-Heron
, choir excerpts, and even pieces of a Ray Charles
song. Contributing to an old-timey soul feel are Etta James
and extensively Shirley Bassey
with her influential James Bond theme "Diamonds Are Forever". The amount of additional musicians, engineers, and producers on these 21 tracks are huge and supplement an already masterful lineup of guest stars.
Selling 3 million copies to this date, and winning a multitude of awards and spots on "Best Albums Of 2005" lists by various publications and websites, Late Registration remains today Kanye West's magnum opus. It easily ranks among classic rap albums of the past, and has proved itself to be one of the best and most influential albums in recent years. Best Tracks: "Heard 'Em Say", "Roses", "Diamonds From Sierra Leone (Remix)", and "Hey Mama".