Friday, August 19, 2005

album review! kanye west: late registration

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i should have written the review last night. someone beat me to the punch. i'm not going to give him any shine on my site, but i read a review this morning. cut me some slack; it was like 2:30am when i downloaded it. on with the review!

so, you've heard all of the precursory hype. i read today that this album costs two million dollars to make. weeks ago, there was kanye exclaiming that late registration was "killing everything out there". i honestly didn't get hyped up until i heard jon brion was going to be the co-producer. that's what showed me that kanye might be really dedicated to creating a classic album, to the point where he'll swallow his pride (which is the equivalent of inhaling a basketball) and construct something amazing without taking every shred of the credit. i hear kanye wants to open for U2, and has been talking to coldplay, as well. so, with all the hype (from himself, naturally) and criticism (from others), the question was reaching a fever pitch-- could kanye knock another one out of the park?

i'm reviewing the songs. i can't stand skits on albums, unless they're creative sampled instrumental/skits (ala mf doom), or if they're classic (see masta ace's 2002 opus, aka "the most underrated rap album ever"-- disposable arts). just the songs on kanye's album. although the skit before "hey mama" is the best skit on the album, if you're into that sort of thing.

two. "heard 'em say (featuring adam from maroon 5)--
starts out with a polyrhythmic drum pattern, and in comes the twinkling piano. kanye gets all political, talking about how the government administered aids, and how his cousin's boss thinks he's "too niggerish". you know, just like mostly everything in rap, nothing you haven't heard before, but it beats the shit out of talking about guns and bitches and bling incessantly. one verse from kanye, the chorus from adam, and a long instrumental outro. you'll see this a lot on this album.

three. "touch the sky (featuring lupe fiasco)"--
musically, kanye has three styles of beats. he has the "chipmunk soul sample", he has "the overtly dramatic, string-based beat", or the "bombastic horn, uptempo track". this one is the latter. basically, it's "encore", minus jay-z with a different horn sample. same tempo, almost the same drum programming. lyrically, this is kanye talking about the beginning of his career. lupe fiasco doesn't really say anything memorable. which is what i don't understand. why does every rapper who runs a record label only sign acts that can't rap as good as them? vanity? insecurity?

four. "gold digger (featuring jaimee foxx)"--
everytime this video comes on mtv, i turn my television's volume up to 30, and dance around my living room. this is, undoubtedly, the best rap single since "drop it like it's hot". the only thing that comes close is "mic check" by juelz santana. i love the saxophone-ish instrument at the end of the track, and some of kanye's best lyrics are on this track (ex. the first-half second verse, ending with "should've got that insured, geico for your monay, monay..."). i can definitely see white people awkwardly singing the chorus. "there's dishes in the back, you gotta roll up your sleeves."

six. "drive slow (featuring paul wall and glc)"--
this is going to be the mixtape freestyle beat of the year. the sound of the drum fill at the beginning is superb. kanye talks about his upbringing in chicago. surprisingly, paul wall steals the show, giving the best lyrical performance i've ever heard from him. glc's verse is forgettable. the most memorable production moment on the entire album is at the end of this song when the track gets "screwed".

seven. "my way home (featuring [more like "starring"] common)"--
common does a good job flowing over the melancholy soul sample. no drum programming; just common rapping over the sample. at first listen, it seems like this is just an outtake from be. however, when you think about it, it's kinda like when ghostface took an entire track on raekwon's debut album (and my favorite wu-tang release, as well as my favorite hip-hop album of all-time) only built 4 cuban linx. it's a nice little interlude.

eight. "crack music (featuring [but not really] the game)"--
kanye waxes poetic about reganomics, and how the black panthers were killed off by genocide (i.e. drugs being pushed into the hood). falls short of being revolutionary, due to kanye's liberal use of the word "nigga" in the chorus. that's just my opinion, though. the use of the "a" is uplifting to some blacks. i'll save the soapboxing. lengthy instrumental outro, and then a poem by someone whom i've never heard delivers the best vocal performance of the album.. "now we ooze it through their nooks and crannies, so our mamas ain't got to be their cooks and nannies," is the best line that saul williams never said.

nine. "roses"--
dramatic intro. kanye raps over somber keyboard line with no beat, and talks about how "magic johnson has the cure for aids" because he's rich. it's either heart-wrenching, or entirely forgettable, depending on who you ask. i think it's both, partially due to kanye's lackluster lines, or attempts at trying to be clever at what is supposed to be a dramatic moment. first, he tries to rhyme "strong" with "from". no way. then, he talks about having so many aunts at the hospital visiting his grandmother that "you could start an auntie team." either kanye should have been a little more serious about this song, or he should have left it on the cutting room floor. another lengthy outro.

ten. "bring me down (featuring brandy)"--
kanye attempts, once again, to try and spit humor over a dramatic track. one verse. brandy sings the chorus, another lengthy instrumental outro.

eleven. "addiction"--
fast-paced beat backing a dark electric guitar sample. it's a good beat, but kanye doesn't do anything with it, and the song just drags.

thirteen. "diamonds (from sierra leone) remix (featuring jay-z)"--
kanye gets political again, talking about conflict diamonds. i first learned about conflict diamonds reading a tv on the radio interview, but that's for a different blog. don't worry, kanye; conflict diamonds can only be bought on the black market. i doubt jacob gets down and dirty like that. then, hov comes in-- and gives his most lackluster guest performance in years, but he gives insight into his favortism to the frustratingly mediocre memphis bleek ("bleek might be one hit away his whole career. as long as i'm alive, he'll be a millionaire. but even if i die, he's in my will somewhere..").

fourteen. "we major (featuring nas and really doe)"--
really doe, kanye's newest (and yet another mediocre) artist comes in with the catchiest chorus on the album. kanye just breezes his way through the verse. nas kinda does the same thing, really. "first time i heard the beat, i ain't know what to write", and it shows. comparing himself to jesse jackson on the balcony when martin luther king jr. got shot, he's only slightly exaggerating. he was friends with biggie, and was going to truce with tupac. there's good reason for this being a mixtape staple, and it's all in the beat. then, kanye comes in and talks shit after the no-name guy (it's not john legend) sings a little outro. "can i talk my shit again?" he talks shit, but never as good as dame dash.

sixteen. "hey mama"--
take it at face value. it is what it is. play it for your mom on mother's day. best line? "could give me anything in the world, micheal jackson leather and the gloves, but didn't give me the curl.." i heard this song a year and half ago, and jon brion put a little touches on it, but didn't change the track much.

seventeen. "celebration"--
the synth stabs are cheesy, and it's another sped-up soul sample. this song drags, too.

nineteen. "gone (featuring cam'ron and consequence)"--
this is the most sparsely produced song on the album, with a little piano sample, some strings and the beat. "even your superficial raps is super official." then, cam comes in and steals the show, showing why he's the most underrated mainstream gangsta rapper in the game. blender said it best when they called him "a gangsta ned flanders". oh, and consequence doesn't say anything memorable. that's predictable. dramatic outro, though. nice touch.

hidden tracks:

twenty. "diamonds from sierra leone"--

the original is nowhere as good as the remix, and i don't really like the remix too much, anyway. you've heard enough about this song.

twenty-one. "late"--
..and what do you know? the best song on the entire album is the very last one. this is, in my opinion, the best beat, and kanye's best vocal performance of the entire album. he talks about his late registration, predictably, and getting stuck in woodshop and basketweaving with the dumb kids. i've heard the "old folks pissing" line before, though. kanye rides the beat better than almost every other beat he's ridden in his entire life.

summary: it's hard to compare this to college dropout, but if i had to, i'd have to say that late registration is slightly better. it drags after the first eight tracks, and picks up steam at the end. if this album were only fourteen tracks, it would be rap album of the year. it's the second best, but this year has been so lackluster for rap music, that if jay-z came back and recorded himself taking a bath, he'd have the second-best rap album of the year. we know this is going on a year-end list or two. maybe kanye can trim the fat and capitalize on his absurd level of potential when graduation day comes along.


Anonymous uwmryan said...

I think the album is pretty fantastic. Good review.

8:14 AM  

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