The sophomore album by the audacious Kanye West had quite the task to follow up to the critically acclaimed The College Dropout, to which the success only further boosted his ego, so West decided to respond by expanding. Expanding the album length, the number of guest artists, the number of production techniques, instruments, genre influences, and quite plainly, expanding the hip hop sound. If his debut introduced a rising star, Late Registration confirmed his status.
From true opener, “Heard ‘Em Say” and grandiose follow up “Touch the Sky”, it is evident this album will be far different to his debut, with the latter an anthemic event in popular hip hop. The production, for once not handled by West himself but by Just Blaze, capably holds its own amongst, if not betters, most other tracks on the record. “Gold Digger” then succeeds that with its infectious beat, catchy chorus and good lyrics both ridiculing and empowering women. Somehow, West then caps off a near perfect opening four tracks with the smooth collaboration, “Drive Slow”, in which Paul Wall drops one of the best guest verses on the record, with articulate rhyming patterns and the great lyric, “the disco ball in my mouth insinuates I’m ballin’”.
An album standout, “Diamonds from Sierra Leone (Remix)”, has West tackling the large issue of conflict (blood) diamonds and the implications of their actions, before Jay steps in to brag some more about himself, “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man! Let me handle my business, damn”. The ode to West’s mother, “Hey Mama”, follows that, and is lyrically the best track on the record. Honest and heartfelt, something unexpected, it feels entirely appropriate for Late Registration, and the lyrics tell us all how great this lady was (My mama told me go to school, get your doctorate, something to fall back on, you could profit with, but still supported me when I did the opposite). The album’s best track is the intricate and lavish, “Gone”, with orchestral production sounding at home alongside an Otis Redding sample, supporting without any doubt some of the best verses on any Kanye album.
This album is as influential and important as any hip hop album ever released, with its only detractor being the length and the fact a couple songs are weak in comparison. With both his first two albums both regarded as classics, it seemed West could do no wrong. The thinking hip hop fan’s favourite Kanye album, because when it comes right down to it Kanye, “Even your superficial raps is super-official”.
Top Songs – “Diamonds from Sierra Leone (Remix)”, “Hey Mama”, “Gone”