Late Registration is the “Empire Strikes Back” of Kanye’s discography. “A New Hope” and College Dropout both were the start of something magical, but personally, their sequels take everything above and beyond to an exciting new level. In this case, I simply enjoy more of Late Registration than its predecessor, and almost all of the album clicks with me both lyrically and instrumentally.
West isn’t afraid to explore a wide variety of themes such as drug trafficking, racism in hip-hop, and even the blood diamond trade. It’s never gets overly preachy, and his observations about the world feel more thoughtful than hollow. And unlike today where politics has a major foothold in the hip hop and musical landscape, nobody was asking Kanye to cover these themes.
In, “Heard em say” , as the piano is lightly played in the background, he recites his thoughts about the world in a grounded, conversational manner as he tags in Adam Levin for a delightful collaboration. Storytelling in rap is also perfected as Kanye delivers an emotionally charged performances, both when he griefs over his grandmother’s death in,“Roses”, and when he makes a warm and fuzzy outreach to his mother in, “Hey Mama”, bringing near tears to the eyes, especially heart wrenching after her death just two years later.
I actually appreciate the absence of sampling and more of an emphasis on orchestration, with each track creating a more lush and polished project than College Dropout. But more specifically, Jazz has a large presence on the album with consistent, smooth, and catchy loops in songs like, “Touch the Sky” and, “We Major”. “Addiction” will always hold a special place in my heart for it’s mysterious guitar rift, dancing bongo beat, and hilarious hidden meaning.
And while “Gold Digger” is a bit overplayed, it’s Kanye at the absolute top of his game, delivering crisp lines on top of fast and loud drum kicks. This goes for about every album, but regardless of how fast the tempo goes, West’s flow doesn’t have a scholarly level of diction, but it’s certainly refreshing to not have to research each song on Genius to understand the lyrics. This album delivers on so many levels and solidified Kanye West as a central figure of modern rap for decades to come and a hip-hop phenomenon.