Kanye West – Late Registration (2005): Review

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Produced by Kanye West, Jon Brion, Devo Springsteen, Just Blaze and Warryn Campbell
Label – Rock-A-Fella, Def Jam

So how was the new self proclaimed King of hip hop/ r&b going to follow up his conquest of the music world? The music press already claimed him as the most important artist in his field to almost messianic proportions. His appearances at awards ceremonies were reported by star struck hacks who almost treated every sighting as a kind of second coming. Kanye West had conquered his musical genre with the debut release “The College Dropout”, so it was obvious that his next move would be to charge headlong into the mainstream charts with the follow up. Taking on John Brion as his producer was a brave step considering that he had no experience in the genre, and admittedly this works to a large extent. Brion brings in some useful pop arrangements and certainly embellishes West’s beats with some suave symphonic touches. Does West’s foray into the pop/r&b world work as successfully as he assumes? Judging by the popular rock press it scores an immediate maximum. Rolling Stone magazine claim it “The most important” and “A triumph”, and it seems most reviews carry words of a similar gushing nature. To a degree there are some extremely fine moments, mixed with a certain amount of chest beating bravado which to this reviewer smells like filler.

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At over 70 minutes there has to be some gargantuan song writing skill to maintain a consistent quality throughout, and in popular music history one could count the great albums of this length on one hand, well maybe two at most. “Late Registration” could have been thinned down by at least 25 minutes by taking out the ridiculous Skits, the unnecessary reprise of “Diamonds From Sierra Leone”, the sickly sweet “Hey Mama”, and the dull “We Major”. Only then would we have a contender for a top class album. To West’s credit he does get it just right on occasion. The haunting, tinkling piano and Adam Levine’s sweet soul addition to “Heard ‘em Say” has a nagging insistence. “Drive Slow” has a respectfully reminiscent and interesting storyline of the young Kanye chasing the dream (and the girl) only to be told to slow down by a dear friend and is well complemented by Paul Wall. “Diamonds From Sierra Leone” puts an interesting slant on the rap community’s love of bling, warning that some of it may have been raised from the ground by slave driven Africans and Brion adds the chilling Shirley Bassey sample of “Diamonds Are Forever” as a kind of anti-anthem. “Roses” speaks of the closeness of the West family during the illness of his Grandmother and is honest and tender in its sentiment. The addition of R&B star Brandy definitely adds a cool melody to “Bring Me Down”.

Don’t let the music press make you believe that “Late Registration” is the most important album of the century. It’s good, but nowhere near great. Now get over it.

7/10

Track Listing
1. “Wake Up Mr. West” 0:41
2. “Heard ‘Em Say” (featuring Adam Levine) 3:23
3. “Touch the Sky” (featuring Lupe Fiasco) 3:57
4. “Gold Digger” (featuring Jamie Foxx) 3:28
5. “Skit #1” 0:33
6. “Drive Slow” (featuring Paul Wall) 4:32
7. “My Way Home” (featuring Common) 1:43
8. “Crack Music” (featuring The Game) 4:31
9. “Roses” 4:05
10. “Bring Me Down” (featuring Brandy) 3:18
11. “Addiction” 4:27
12. “Skit #2” 0:31
13. “Diamonds from Sierra Leone (Remix)” (featuring Jay-Z) 3:53
14. “We Major” (featuring Nas & Really Doe) 7:28
15. “Skit #3” 0:24
16. “Hey Mama” 5:05
17. “Celebration” 3:18
18. “Skit #4” 1:18
19. “Gone” (featuring Cam’ron & Consequence) 6:02
20. “Diamonds from Sierra Leone” 3:58
21. “Late” (hidden track) 3:50

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