Kanye West is an ambitious thinker. Fortunately, he has an ego roughly the size of Jupiter to match such thoughts. While Kanye as a rapper may not be the best in the business, he"s certainly the boldest. Of course, boldness oftentimes breeds vanity. Colloquially, vanity is said to be in the name of teenage girls. Well, said young women have nothing on Mr. West. Interestingly enough, Kanye has plenty of teenagers of both
genders falling over his feet at any given time. Well, that"s mostly because he isn"t afraid to try new things. His latest studio release, 2005"s Late Registration
, has been critically acclaimed as being one of the best hip-hop albums (or albums period) of the 21st century. I"m not one to refute this (to an extent), because I"m a fan of Mr. West"s. Still, there was no doubting that Late Registration
had quite a few flaws. Well, actually only one flaw, but oh what a flaw it was: filler. Kanye"s sophomore release was full of it. Now, Kanye, being a progressive-minded kind of guy, decided he would do something interesting with Late Registration
. He decided to throw a private concert for three hundred of his best friends, featuring a full orchestra, and containing not only tracks from Late Registration
, but from Kanye"s first release, The College Dropout
, too. Oh yeah, that"s ambition all right.
was recorded on September 21st, 2005 at Abby Road Studios of Beatles
fame, in the United Kingdom. An all-female, seventeen piece orchestra was compiled to play any and all music required for Kanye"s set. In addition to West himself, the show featured guest performers the likes of John Legend
, Lupe Fiasco
, and GLC
. Late Orchestra
was viewed only by personally invited guests (as previously mentioned in a more sarcastic light, three hundred or so) and a few lucky fans. As a fan, I"m insanely jealous of those three hundred people. As a reviewer, I"m insanely jealous of those three hundred people. Yes, the concert that would become Late Orchestration
is that good.
Everything about Late Orchestration
is impressive. Especially the live sound. Since the album was recorded in a small venue, you would expect the sound quality to be near studio level. This is far from true, though: the album is distinctly live. However, this is hardly a detraction. The album"s setting is intoxicating, and helps immerse you further in the music than you ever thought possible. With the help of the orchestra, even slightly dull Kanye tracks like "Diamonds From Sierra Leone" have new life breathed into them. Speaking of the orchestration, its top-notch. Brass, woodwinds, strings, the whole package, dear reader, the whole package. Who would have thought that hip-hop could be so beautiful? Certainly not rough and tumble rappers like those of NWA
or Black Moon
. This, of course, is yet another fantastic example of Kanye"s intelligence and brilliant intuitive vision.
For all of its musical beauty, however, Late Orchestration
retains plenty of natural grittiness. Profane lyrics of drug-laden and sexually explicit content still escape the lips of Kanye and his cohorts. Still, the rapping on Late Orchestration
is, as one would expect it to be, very impressive.
As you may expect, every artist that performs on Late Orchestration
sounds a little different than their studio efforts. Actually, that"s not true. You could really only apply that to the young Kanye prot"g", Lupe Fiasco. The aspiring rapper has his own verse in the Late Registration
hit "Touch the Sky." The same is true on Late Orchestration
. Unfortunately, young Lupe"s voice doesn"t quite hold out for him, and he comes off sounding like a prepubescent MC in the vein of Lil Romeo
(okay, maybe not that bad). Other than a little bit of a "fiasco" with a small portion of the vocals, the wordplay is fantastic. Kanye, in particular, is the shining star of the story. I mean, he wouldn"t have it any other way, even if his performance was horrible, but Kanye seriously elevates himself above anything else. Past the music, past the crowd, past his guests, Kanye ascends through the ranks to take his place on the Late Orchestration
Speaking of crowds, Kanye sure knows how to work one. Take his evoking of a chant of "Hell Yeah!" from his spectators on "Through the Wire," for example: Kanye proves to be a commanding maestro, conducting his orchestra by way of stage presence and sheer charisma. Kanye"s larger than life personality pours out all over his performance, and believe me, it"s quite a good thing. Everything works together in fantastic sync, from the magnificent rendition of the debauched "Crack Music," to the angst-ridden anthem of "Jesus Walks," and everything in between. Late Orchestration
is an extraordinarily polished album.
The only real complaint that I could scrounge up and direct towards Late Orchestration
is the exclusion of "We Major" of Late Registration
. Personally, I believe that of all of Kanye"s songs, "We Major" would be best suited for the environment in which Late Orchestration
was presented. However, this, much like Lupe Fiasco"s vocal woes, are hardly real complaints that I can draw against Late Orchestration
. I mean, it even has bonus content: an AOL-recorded live version of the wildly popular "Gold Digger," edited for a massive audience"s listening pleasure.
With this live release, Kanye West seems to have broken down all the barriers that were containing him. On Late Orchestration
Kanye has taken all of his greatest triumphs, meshed them with superb music, and (finally; thankfully) eliminated all of the filler. He"s shown admirable growth and maturity, even if its on the stage alone. Sure, most of the songs are generally more enjoyable to listen to in their studio-recorded form, but they"re still pretty damn awe-inspiring on Late Orchestration
. Kanye West is set to change hip-hop forever, and after hearing this, he has this humble reviewer convinced that he can do it. Let"s just hope he can cut his ego down to the size of an easier to manage planet. Say Saturn, for instance.