Thursday, December 18, 2008

NearClassics: Kanye West - Late Registration

Before Kanye went autotune on us, he was one of the most perfect balanced mc's when it comes to subject matter. His balance was reflected on his first two albums, where he talked about everything from consciousness, to gold digging women, to family emergencies. While College Dropout is hailed as Kanye's best album, I actually liked Late Registration better. It's very rare that sophomores are better than debuts, but in this case the second LP was slightly better than the first. Allow me to introduce one of my favorite albums ever. They ask him "why you call it Late Registration 'Ye? Cause we taking these muh'fuckers back to school"

In 2004 Kanye West debuted with The College Dropout which was full of soul-sample production, witty rhymes, and a college theme complimenting the album title. After the groundbreaking album was released, Kanye did various song appearances on production and laying down verses. While most artists catch the sophomore jinx, fans and critics wondered if the same would happen to Kanye. The release of Late Registration proved Kanye was capable of dropping to hot albums in a row and also stepping up his lyrical skills.
On the albums first single "Diamonds From Sierra Leone", Kanye rapped about his success after his first album, using the title to not only represent his Roc-a-Fella family, but the tragic effects of blood diamonds in Africa. While the original was some of Kanye's best lyricism, he covered more of the topic of blood diamonds on the Jay-z assisted remix. Jay dropped a quite impressive verse on the remix, which caused Kanye to later say "On the "Diamonds Remix", I swore I spazzed, then my big brother came through and kicked my ass"; when Jay spits lines like "Shirley Bassey's in the red sayin' exactly/What I been sayin' practically my whole career/A diamond is forever, I been mining' this forever/Now the Louis Vuitton Don's timing' couldn't be better".
Another factor to Late Registration's great quality is the range of topics covered on this album. The album starts off with "Heard 'Em Say", where Kanye talks about the struggles of African Americans and even government conspiracies. The consciousness continues on "Crack Music". The Game feature was a bit misleading since he only says "That's that crack music nigga!, that real black music", but overall it's an excellent analogy of hip hop music and crack cocaine. On "Addiction" Kanye covers's addictions which is one thing everyone has in common. We seek happiness and satisfaction in things and once we find it, we can easily get carried away; in that case we would have to "Drive Slow".
Mr. West expresses his love for his family on this LP. First there's "Roses" with Kanye telling a story about his Grandmother in the hospital, and how nurses are more concerned about receiving autographs than his Grandma's health. "Hey Mama" is Kanye's version of 2pac's "Dear Mama", expressing his love and admiration for his now deceased Mother.
Aside from the album's content, the production was superb and featured more of an orchestral sound this time around. While the first album's soul-samples can still be heard on some tracks like "On My Way Home", a majority of the songs on Late Registration feature strings and orchestra sounds. The musical masterpiece that is "We Major" features Nas and ends with minutes of pure music and Kanye's excuses for being late. The orchestral sound persists on "Gone" which goes into a break of strings, but is then followed up with an excellent verse by Kanye West. Kanye expresses his thoughts on providing inspiration with lines like "I'ma open up a store for aspiring MC's/Won't sell 'em no dream, but the inspiration is free/But if they ever flip sides like Anakin/You'll sell everything including the mannequin" The album ends with a combination of College Dropout and Late Registration themed production on "Late". The thought about making a whole song about being late may sound silly, but Kanye saved one of the best for last.
For my closing statement, Late Registration shows Kanye at his finest. From the albums opening to it's closing, it's purely immaculate. My least favorite song on this album was "Gold Digger", but that was well receipted by the public. Though Kanye's style gets more and more eccentric each album he releases, this is my favorite out of the four. The lyricism, production, and vocals compliment each other exceptionally well on this album, makes you wonder what made Kanye change to the autotuned singer/rapper.

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