(Originally printed in the Rose Thorn, Volume 41, Issue 1. Definitely not my best-written review, but writing it helped fill all these empty hours I have…)
Kanye West has been making plenty of headlines recently with his criticisms of the government’s handling of the Katrina disaster relief, but he also recently put out an album, Late Registration, that’s been making waves with listeners and reviewers. Call this a late review, if you will.
I’ve always been one to appreciate West’s flow. Some of it is his Chicagoan accent, but a good bit of it is the fact that he managed to use “Chicagoan,” “Chicago ends,” and “Chicago wind” to form a rhyme in three sequential lines in the Dilated Peoples’ song “This Way.” That was so definitely cheating it made me laugh out loud to hear it. I like rap that doesn’t take itself too seriously but can still slip in the truth where appropriate.
With the immense pressure to make a second album better than his first, West cranked out a CD in August that managed to hold my attention more than The College Dropout. Featuring acts such as Jamie Foxx, Brandy, Game, Cam’ron, and Nas, it’s a top-notch variety of styles that come together masterfully.
The first song that really caught my ear on this CD was “Gold Digger”. The Ray Charles-style background vocals (courtesy of Jamie Foxx) work well with the beats.
West’s lyrics are simply hilarious, if largely unprintable in this newspaper.
“Crack Music” chaffed lyrically initially, but then I listened to the last stanza… and it became so much better. Kanye used a metaphor (which I won’t reveal) that simply blew me away. Awesomely done.
“Roses” is also an amazing song. West’s song-writing has become a lot better since The College Dropout. West deals with the emotional rollercoaster of a
sick relative, including how his newfound fame affected her hospital care. Songs like this make this CD the novelty that many claim West couldn’t make again. Haters, sit down.
Brandy helps West keep this novelty going in “Bring Me Down.” Although Brandy’s vocals are a little over-processed, the song is beautifully done, and West shows his ability to handle a variety of styles by dropping this R & B-style track in the middle of his CD.
“Addiction” isn’t nearly as novel, but it’s also simply amazing. West’s jerky flow on this track matches the complex meter of the music, and the lyrics (background
lyrics included) are rather funny. West does humor quite well.
“Diamonds” may in fact be the most tired song in existence at this point. Wait, no. Actually, that’s the Ying Yang Twins’ “Wait.” My bad. “Diamonds” is still overplayed,
although I liked it when it first came out.
West lost me on “We Major,” although I love Nas in general. I just don’t like the horns on this, even though West got it right on the earlier track “Touch the
I won’t provide a blow-by-blow on all 21 tracks on the CD, but I will say that the album is definitely worth a listen to those that like Kanye’s style (or want to give it a second try). iTunes is selling it for $10, so getting it probably won’t empty your pocket. Besides, loan refund checks are due out within a week.
Quite frankly, the more I hear it, the more I love it, and I’ll be keeping this one on repeat for quite a while.