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Kanye West's *Late Registration* (album review)
reviewed by FreeJC
After Kanye’s first entry as a rapper, some considered The College Dropout one of the strongest debuts in hip hop history. Critics raved over the soul-sampling production and the message. Kanye returned to the studio with a multi-platinum album under his belt and a new found fan base at his back. He emerged with Late Registration, an album that can only be described as anything but a sophomore slump.
1.“Wake Up Mr. West”
“I knew I was gon' see you again,” exclaims Kanye’s fourth grade teacher: this is what everybody who heard The College Dropout was thinking in their heads with great optimism.
2.“Heard ‘Em Say” featuring Adam Levine
As soon as the descending piano riff hits, you’re drawn into the sound of song. Kanye matches the sound of the piano with deep synth bass and Adam Levine’s tenor voice to provide commentary on how at times life is difficult, but a good sense of hope can keep anybody on their feet.
3.“Touch the Sky” featuring Lupe Fiasco
This track is notable for a few things. First, Kanye basically sums up the monologue from Dropout’s “Last Call” in a few lines. Second, the horns, booming drums and bass, and sample make this a trademark Kanye beat, and his bars are pretty solid as well. However, last but not least, “Touch The Sky” features Lupe Fiasco, a newcomer at the time who kills Kanye on his own track. All in all, one of my personal favorites from this album.
4.“Gold Digger” featuring Jamie Foxx
More classic Kanye production on this catchy track dedicated to money seeking women and Ray Charles. Here, he explains how gold digging women make their living off rapper with lines like, “She was supposed to buy your shorty Tyco with your money/ She went to the doctor got lipo' with your money.” A popular song that got really hot on the radio and had mislead white and black kids singing “She ain’t messin' with no broke-broke.”
I shouldn’t even review this as the album skids to a halt for a fictional fraternity for broke black men. Not a personal fan of skits at all, but some people are.
6.“Drive Slow” featuring Paul Wall and GLC
A great track where smooth, lazy flowing rappers like Paul Wall and GLC help give listeners and idea of relaxing and taking everything slowly instead of rushing. Kanye’s guests both provide solid verses over the creeping beat that’s aided by a wonderful trumpet riff. Not a standout track, but in the end, not bad either.
7.“My Way Home” featuring Common
Common rhymes alone on the seventh track as Kanye samples Gil Scott-Heron. Common teaches us a lesson about the struggles in the hood with sharp lyrics like, “We wear strugglin' chains, divided only hustle remains/ makin' sense of it we hustle for change.” It’s strange to see Kanye give up the spotlight for another rapper, but Common flows so nicely, its not a problem.
8.“Crack Music” featuring Game
Right from the start, the booming bass and “la-la”-ing of the New York Communtity Choir give this song a stronger feel. This powerful track describing the history of the influence of crack in ghettoes, hip hop, and politics. Kanye calls out Ronald Reagan and George Bush while Game provides an angry hook. The climax of the track features the “Our Father” prayer with a related angle. This is definitely a memorable track.
The album takes a more somber approach here, as Kanye describes his grandmother’s degrading health. The hook comes from “Rosie” by Bill Withers. Not a standout track, but Kanye’s first verse pushes the idea of “with money comes power” as he mentions wealthy Magic Johnson’s miraculous health despite suffering from AIDS.
10.“Bring Me Down”featuring Brandy
A message from Kanye to everybody who’s ever been against him or hated on him. Nothing lyrically stands out on the tenth track, but the production features a great taste of the orchestral flavor that Late Registration is special for.
Etta James' “My Funny Valentine” is sampled excellently and the sly vibes of this track supply a great beat and Kanye discussing his main addictions: girls, money, and drugs/alcohol. An underrated track that ends with Kanye trying to get his woman to have a threesome with her friend.
“We broke, broke, broke, flat broke.” Ugh. Put your messages into song, Kanye.
13.“Diamonds from Sierra Leone Remix” featuring Jay-Z
Shirley Bassett’s theme song from Diamonds Are Forever of the James Bond films creates one of the most unique and skilled samples in hip hop history. The chilling beat fused with Kanye’s discussion of the blood diamond trade in African nations like Sierre Leone makes this track a standout. Jay-Z comes onto the beat halfway through the track and relates the topic to Rocafella and all it stands for. One of the top songs off the album.
14.“We Major” featuring Nas and Really Doe
The beat. The flow. The hook. The theme. There are too many things that are perfect about this track. Kanye gives us a celebratory verse and Really Doe provides a wild hook. Nas, however, rhymes the best on this track, and can’t pick between “fo-fo’s or black Christ? Both flows’d be nice/ Rap about big paper or the black man plight?” “We Major” is cocky and flagrant, but at this point in the album it deserves to be. Jay-Z’s favorite Late Registration song and arguably the best track on the album.
The joke about eating cereal with forks to save milk was kind of funny, at most.
Kanye dedicates a soulful song to his mother. The now-late Donda West joined the club of hip hop mothers to have a track made for them. Personally, the first verse strikes an emotional chord in the heart. Otherwise, the track was made for his mother, so nothing substantial stands out here.
Another underrated track where Mr. West goes from celebrating with his mother to celebrating with a woman. At the end of the day, the same themes from “Addiction” become present as Kanye spits over an orchestra and synth heavy beat.
Kanye gets kicked out of the phony fraternity. Thank god. No more interruptions.
19.“Gone” featuring Consequence and Cam'Ron
Standout track with everyone on the beat spitting some of the finest bars of their careers. The orchestra beat pairs with and Otis Redding sample laying down a solid beat, probably the most unique on the album. Kanye ends Late Registration on an amazing note.
20.“Diamonds from Sierre Leone” (Bonus Track)
Between this and the remix, a listener can’t go wrong. In my opinion, Kanye spits one of his best verses to open this track, with lines like “If your stripper name Porscha and you get tips from many men/ Then your fat friend her nickname is minivan.”
21.“Late” (Bonus Track)
The overall sound of the album is all over this bonus song: Jon Brion-like orchestral arrangements, soul samples, and ordinary, but witty Kanye West lyrics.
This album packs the same punch as its predecessor while bringing new elements to the table. The old saying is, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” but every rule has its exception, and in this case, it’s Kanye West’s Late Registration.
Overall rating: 9 out of 10 Geniuses
Great album review! I thought Late Registration was good, but not great. It had some stand-out tracks for sure, Gone is still my favorite song by Kanye. I personally feel MBDTF is a more complete and better overall album, but Late Registration definitely paved the way for it, and is in my opinion Kanye’s 2nd best album. Really great review though, only thing I would say is to rate each song on a 1-10 basis, but that’s just me, lol.
Thanks Vik. I appreciate the feedback. I agree that MBDTF was a better album and more complete as well, but Late Registration made Kanye West a household name and a hip hop all star.
Thanks again, JC
Not too shabby neighbor.
I would have likely given this 4.25/5, which would be a 8.5/10 on your scale; so you’re about spot on with my opinion. I love those skits as interludes. I always get a smile on my face when they come up. But to each their own.
Thanks Plat. I’m just really not a fan of hearing those skits, but as you say to each their own. I appreciate the feedback and will always use it to better myself.
Much love, JC
Touch The Sky was produced by Just Blaze, so technically its not a Kanye beat
I know he Just Blaze produced Touch The Sky, just a very Kanye-like beat. He made similar to that as well. Thanks habba
*I know Just Blaze produced Touch The Sky