On Thursdays we review albums that are considered “classic”. This week we will review the classic sophomore LP that gave music fans tracks like ‘Diamonds from Sierra Leone’, ‘Gold Digger’, ‘Touch the Sky’ and more, Kanye West’s Late Registration. Coming off his critically acclaimed and Grammy Award winning debut The College Dropout, Mr. West and the rap world had great expectations for this album, expectations that most artists likely could not live up to. However, instead of falling victim to the sophomore album curse, Kanye delivered and put out another near perfect album. This album had Kanye’s biggest radio hit, in ‘Gold Digger’, and two of the best rap songs ever created, in ‘Diamonds’ and ‘Gone’ (which wasn’t even a single). You can easily make the case that Late Registration is Kanye’s signature project and his discography’s best album.
Late Registration opens with ‘Heard ‘Em Say’, the album’s third single and collaboration with Maroon 5’s Adam Levine. ‘Heard ‘Em Say’ truly showcases Levine’s vocal talents which works well with the beautiful Kanye and Jon Brion production, all while sending the message that “everything happens for a reason.” Next up is another collaboration, this time with fellow Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco, one of the songs (along with ‘Kick Push’) that helped build Lupe’s career. Although this Just Blaze produced beat is the only song on the album without Kanye’s production, the Curtis Mayfield sample of ‘Move On Up’ makes this one of Kanye’s most uplifting track, still today.
Although it may not be Kanye’s favorite track, ‘Gold Digger’ is fun and a favorite of many. Sure, it lacks no deep message that most Kanye tracks contain, but the track gave birth to a great music video with Jamie Foxx and you won’t see anyone complaining when this song gets played at the club (just don’t expect to see Kanye perform the song on tour anymore). ‘Gold Digger’ is definitely as much of a pop song as it is rap, but it says a lot that one of Kanye’s most commercially successful tracks shouldn’t even make a Kanye West Greatest Hits LP.
Maybe the most emotional track on the album comes with ‘Roses’, the track inspired by Kanye’s grandmother. In ‘Roses’ Kanye tells the story of visiting his grandmother in the hospital, while also dealing with the price of fame.
“If Magic Johnson got a cure for aids, and all the broke motherf*ckers pass away. You’re telling me if my grandma’s in the NBA, right now she would be okay?”
This track, along with ‘Hey Mama’ and Kanye’s new single ‘Only One‘ truly show Kanye’s sensitive side and are proof alone that the man isn’t the a**hole like he is often portrayed as. Later in the album comes Late Registration‘s first single, and arguably Kanye’s greatest track to date, ‘Diamonds from Sierra Leone’. You can take the remix or the original, both are on the album and both are great. ‘Diamonds’ is Kanye’s greatest production on the album and probably his greatest production overall, the track has a message (about blood diamonds in Africa), has a verse by the legendary Jay-Z, and in all aspects is a perfect song and one of the best tracks in rap history.
Another contender for one of Kanye’s, and one of rap’s, greatest songs of all time is ‘Gone’, which features rappers Consequence and Cam’ron. While both contributing rappers hold their own with their verses, it is the the Otis Redding sample (‘It’s Too Late’) and Kanye’s last verse that makes this song legendary. The track is over six-minutes of greatness, closes the album (excluding bonus tracks), and the instrumental build-up into Kanye’s final verse and the verse itself will give you chills. If anything in this review can close out and encompass how great Late Registration is, it is the last verse ‘Gone’ in its entirety. Enjoy.
“I’m ahead of my time, sometimes years out
So the powers that be won’t let me get my ideas out
And that make me wanna get my advance out
And move to Oklahoma and just live at my aunt’s house
Yeah, I romance the thought of leaving it all behind
Kanye step away from the lime
Light like when I was on the grind
In the One-Nine-Nine-Nine
Before model chicks was bending over or
Dealerships asked me Benz or Rover man
If I could just get one beat on Hova
We could get up off this cheap-ass sofa
What the summer of the Chi got to offer an eighteen-year-old
Sell drugs or get a job you gotta play your role
My dog worked at Taco Bell, hooked us up plural
Fired a week later, the manager count the churros
Sometimes I can’t believe it when I look up in the mirro’
How we out in Europe, spending Euros
They claim you never know what you got ’til it’s gone
I know I got it, I don’t know what y’all on
I’ma open up a store for aspiring MCs
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
They got a new bitch, now you Jennifer Aniston
Hold on I’ll handle it, don’t start panickin’, stay calm
Shorties at the door cause they need more
Inspiration for they life, they souls, and they songs
They said, “Sorry, Mr. West is gone”