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KANYE WEST: Late Registration

 

Million of albums, temper tantrums and dollars later, Kanye West returns to prove The College Dropout was not a fluke.  And just to make it interesting, Kanye teams with Jon Brion, renowned for his distinctive production work with Fiona Apple and film scores.  While most people hesitate to destroy their winning formula on their sophomore project, Kanye does just the opposite as he teams with one of the most non hip-hop producers around.  So, does his approach work?

 

Late Registration breaks any preconceived notions of repetition with “Heard Em Say.”  Featuring Adam Levine of Maroon 5, the track provides a smooth lullaby appeal by way of piano chords. “Touch the Sky” featuring Lupe Fiasco (and reminiscent of Jay-Z’s “Encore”) finds Kanye testifying about his new found success: “I went to Jacob an hour after I got my advance, I just wanted to shine/ Jay favorite line, ‘Yo, dog in due time’/ Now he look at me, like ‘Damn dog, you where I am,’ a hip-hop legend/ I think I died in that accident ‘cause this must be heaven.”  If it ain’t broke don’t fix it appears to be the thought pattern of Kanye as his second single finds success with Jamie Foxx (who appears to be reincarnated by Ray Charles) on “Gold Digger.”  Similar to Kanye’s first single from his debut album, “Slow Jamz,” the duo mix humor with good music:

 

“18 years

18 years

She got one of yo kids, got you for 18 years

I know somebody payin child support for one of his kids

His baby momma's car and crib is bigger than his

You will see him on TV any Given Sunday

Win the Superbowl and drive off in a Hyundai

She was spose to buy ya shorty TYCO with ya money

She went to the doctor got lypo with ya money

She walkin around lookin like Micheal with ya money

Should of got that insured got GEICO for ya moneeey”

 

“Drive Slow” finds Kanye spreading his wings as he expands his musical style with screwed up soldier Paul Wall.  Although he may not become a screwed regular, it was a treat to see Kanye leave the sped up samples to branch out.  Other standouts include “My Way Home” which finds Common giving a solo performance.  Coming in at less than two minutes, Common gives listeners a taste of why home is not always a place of peace: “They say home is where the hate is.”  A personal favorite, “Bring Me Down” featuring Brandy finds a more solemn Kanye facing naysayers:  “It’s funny how these wack n*ggas need my help/ Won’t around when I couldn’t feed myself… Made a mill myself/ And I’m still myself/ And I’ma look in the mirror if I need some help.”  Following suit is “Rose.”  Here, a more introspective Kanye tells the frustration of waiting helplessly at his grandmother’s bedside during her near death experience.

 

In between silly skits, Kanye uses “Diamonds From Sierra Leone (Remix)” featuring Jay-Z to raise the consciousness of listeners:

 

“Sierra Leone connect to what we go through today
Over here, its a drug trade, we die from drugs
Over there, they die from what we buy from drugs
The diamonds, the chains, the bracelets, the charmses
I thought my Jesus Piece was so harmless
'Til I seen a picture of a shorty armless
And here's the conflict
It's in a black person's soul to rock that gold
Spend ya whole life tryna get that ice
On a polar rugby it look so nice
How could somethin' so wrong make me feel so right, right?

 

Unfortunately, Kanye’s noble attempt is almost overshadowed by Jay addressing his personal and public saga of accosting the team-built label, Roc-A-Fella, head-on:

 

“The chain remians, the gang is in tact
The name is mine, I'll take blame for that
The pressure's on, but guess who ain't gon' crack?
Part of me I had to laugh at that
How could you falter when you're the rock of
Gibraltar
I had to get of the boat so I could walk on water”

 

Bearing the same name as the aforementioned, the first single, “Diamonds From Sierra Leone” (less Jay-Z) conveys a less humble Kanye.  While that behavior is often ridiculed, it’s that candidness that makes so many people love him.

 

“I was sick about awards
Couldn't nobody cure me
Only playa that got robbed but kept all his jewelry
Alicia Keys tried to talk some sense in him
30 minutes later seems there's no convincing him
What more could you ask for?
The international asshole
Who complains about what he is owed?
And throw a tantrum like he is 3 years old
You gotta love it though somebody still speaks from his soul”

 

While most artists run to Kanye if they need a hit, he is not above mishaps.  “Gone” featuring Cam’ron and Consequence simply doesn’t work.  The lyrics of heavy weights Cam and Kanye leave little to be desired.  Even more distressing is the track which appears to be an outlier among such great cuts as “Diamonds from Sierra Leone.”  At six minutes, this cut is just painful.  Following suit is “We Major” featuring Nas and Really Doe.  While the track is solid, at seven minutes I begin to wonder, ‘Why?’  Aside from the music, one can only imagine why the Louis Vuitton Don has Broke-Phi-Broke skits sprinkled throughout the album.  After listening to tales of Kanye putting down his drop-top, how serious can the sits be taken?

 

Kanye may not be the best wordsmith, but what continues to draw the masses toward him is that he does indeed speak from his soul.  While many listeners can’t relate to parties on the yacht, Bentleys and penthouse, most know the reality of the insecurity, death and addictions that Kanye brings to life.  Also bearing mentioning is the help from co-producer Jon Brion.  While his name may not ring with familiarity among hip-hop circles, his pop/ rock background brought a grand sound that sped-up oldies couldn’t bring.  Without his aide this could have been just a 2005 version of The College Dropout. 

 

So, is this album worthy of 5 mics?  Four and a half is probably more accurate.  It’s not a perfect score, but it’s light years ahead of the rest.

 



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