21 Songs, 1 Hour, 9 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Soulful instrumentation and crisp beats define Kanye's second release. The Chi-town rapper used the extra cash earned from The College Dropout to orchestrate a lush, dynamic follow-up that marries pop-soul grooves and explosive hip-hop rhythms. The soul-inflected “Celebration” and the R&B brooder “Bring Me Down” showcase his seductive mix of hard-edged, city-bred beats with soaring strings. He hits heartbreaking heights with the stormy “Roses,” a powerful ode to his dying grandma. But it’s the Ray Charles sample and the irresistible thump of “Gold Digger” that cemented the world’s Ye addiction.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Soulful instrumentation and crisp beats define Kanye's second release. The Chi-town rapper used the extra cash earned from The College Dropout to orchestrate a lush, dynamic follow-up that marries pop-soul grooves and explosive hip-hop rhythms. The soul-inflected “Celebration” and the R&B brooder “Bring Me Down” showcase his seductive mix of hard-edged, city-bred beats with soaring strings. He hits heartbreaking heights with the stormy “Roses,” a powerful ode to his dying grandma. But it’s the Ray Charles sample and the irresistible thump of “Gold Digger” that cemented the world’s Ye addiction.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5

2269 Ratings

You Gotta Love it Though, Somebody Still Speaks From His Soul

ScooterKSU,

For the last couple years, rap has become very anemic, the same rappers saying the same thing talking about how much ice they have and how many groupies they have scored with. Yawn. Then along came a guy with a backpack and a teddy bear mascot with the vibe of A Tribe Called Quest (by his own admission) and clever wordplay that rivals the Beastie Boys in their prime. Kanye West's The College Dropout was not just the best rap album of last year but it was easily the best rap album of the last five year. On the album, West pushed the boundaries of rap touching on topics that most rappers found on the radio and MTV including religion and even admitting he was self conscious. West is now back with his sophomore effort, Late Registration and is pushing the boundaries of rap even further. This is most notable in the addition of Fiona Apple's producer Jon Brion helping West out on the boards. Brion presence is definitely felt on tracks Touch the Sky with horn the rival those sampled on Crazy in Love, and string section featured in Bring Me Down, Diamonds from Sierra Leone, and Gone. They even bring in full orchestration on Celebration. With Brion by his side, West even stepped up his own game, avoiding the easy way out by copying his signature sound of sped up vocals (not counting the hidden track, Late), and instead created a whole new sound for this album. Kanye is pushing the boundaries with his choice of topics on this album too. Instead of an ode to Jesus, Late Registration had a song devoted to another subject much ignore subject in rap, his mother on Hey Mama. West saves his best production for this song with a choir of multi-layered la la's playing throughout the song and Kanye even gives a shot at sing a verse and a chorus. Late Registration is also more political than most major rap releases in recent years. But Kanye comes off more like Oliver Stone than Public Enemy with accusations like, "And I know the government administered AIDS" (Heard `em Say), "How we stop the black panthers? Ronald Reagan cooked up an answer," and, "Who gave Saddam anthrax? George Bush got the answers" (Crack Music). Kanye also takes on the state of the health care in our country on Roses, but this time no conspiracy theories are needed and he asks a question that needs to be posed to our political leaders: "If Magic Johnson got a cure for A.I.D.'s and all the broke (expletive deleted) past away, you tellin me if my grandma was in the N.B.A. right now she'd be ok?" Unfortunately, with all that said, Late Registration does not entirely live up to the promise of The College Dropout. One thing that really disappointed me was when the album was being made, Kanye mention that he wasn't going to any guest except John Mayer and Common. But West decided to bring in more guests some with better results then others. Out is John Mayer, instead we get the new token white accessory to rappers, Adam Levine of Maroon 5 helping out with a soulful performance on Heard `em Say. Also Jamie Foxx shows why he got the Oscar for his portrayal of Ray Charles as I originally though Gold Digger had a sample of Ray's I Got a Woman, until I realized that it was different lyrics. Other decent appearances include Jay-Z on Diamond from Seirra Leone (Remix) along with Consequence and Cam'Ron on Gone. But on the flip side Brandy can't carry a tune and lives of to the name of her contribution, Bring Me Down. Lupe Fiasco gives an uninspiring verse on Touch the Sky. The Houston inspired Drive Slow featuring Paul Wall and GLC drags the album down too much. And even though Nas is in my top 5 rappers, his contribution We Major falls flat. Another major different between Kanye's two albums is that The College Dropout sounded like a concept album revolving around college with track flowing into each other perfectly. The thoughts on Late Registration sounds more like great songs that are thrown together. For instance, there is a bad transition between Touch the Sky that goes straight into Jamie Foxx's acapella beginning of Gold Digger. The only thing that barely hold Late Registration together are the four skits throughout the album dealing with a fake fraternity, Broke Phi Broke. The highlight of this album, much like his last, is Kanye's quirky wordplay. He doesn't drop references as obscure as the Beastie Boys, but he's working on it. But what other rapper would quote John Denver; "I'm going on an airplane, and I don't know if I'll be back again" (Touch the Sky). Tim Hardaway, Gil Scott-Heron, Shirley Bassey, Sam Cooke, Forrest Gump, Nicky Giovanni, The Jeffersons, Gone with the Wind, Anakin Skywalker, and Jennifer Aniston all get namedropped throughout the album. But like his last album, the best line involves Michael Jackson, "She was suppose to buy ya shorty Tyco with ya money. She went to the doctor got lypo with ya money. She walkin around lookin like Michael with ya money" (Gold Digger). But honorable mentions go to "Ask the reverend was the strip club cool if my tips help send a pretty girl through school" (We Major) and "If a stripper named Porscha and u get tips from many men, then your fat friend, her nickname is Minivan" (Diamonds from Sierra Leone).

Rap back for good

Realraplover,

For the past six years, rap has gone into its "riches" era. Who can find the best way to rap about their cars, girls, money, jewels, and clothes? Okay, I admit it was kind of catchy for the first couple years, but then it just never went away. IT'S HORRIBLE NOW! Late Registration is real music. Kanye raps not about his nices and his ices, but things that he believes in and cares about. The beats are CRAZZy on this album. And along with Kanye's INSANE lyrics, this album is a classic. "So if you tell me my grandma was in the NBA, right now she would be okay. But since she was just a secretary workin for the church for 35 years, things supposed to stop right here?"

About Kanye West

In the span of three short years, Kanye West went from hip-hop beatmaker to worldwide hitmaker, as his stellar production work for Jay-Z led to a major-label recording contract and, ultimately, a wildly successful solo career. West paired his beats with tongue-twisting raps and a self-assured, flamboyant personality. His dapper fashion sense set him apart from many of his rap peers, and his confidence often came across as boastful or even egotistical, albeit amusingly so. This flamboyance, of course, made for good press, something that West enjoyed in spades during his sudden rise to celebrity status. He was a media darling, appearing and performing at countless awards shows (and winning at them, too), delivering theatrical videos to MTV, and mouthing off about whatever happened to cross his mind. He frequently spoke out against the rampant homophobia evident in much rap music, posed for the cover of Rolling Stone as Jesus Christ, and even claimed during a televised Hurricane Katrina fundraiser that "George Bush doesn't care about black people." West courted controversy, no question about it, but his steady presence in the celebrity limelight couldn't eclipse his musical talent. His production abilities seemed boundless during his initial surge of activity, as he not only racked up impressive hits for himself (including "Jesus Walks" and "Gold Digger"), but also collaborated on smash hits with the likes of Jay-Z and Ludacris. As his career progressed throughout the early 21st century, West shattered certain stereotypes about rappers, becoming a superstar on his own terms without adapting his appearance, his rhetoric, or his music to fit any one musical mold.

Coming out of left field (i.e., Chicago, a city rarely praised for its hip-hop exports), West was an unlikely sensation and more than once defied adversity. Like so many others who were initially inspired by Run-D.M.C., he began as just another aspiring rapper with a boundless passion for hip-hop, albeit a rapper with a Midas touch when it came to beatmaking. Indeed, it was his beatmaking prowess that got his foot in the industry door. Though he did quite a bit of noteworthy production work during the late '90s (Jermaine Dupri, Foxy Brown, Mase, Goodie Mob), it was West's work for Roc-a-Fella at the dawn of the new millennium that took his career to the next level. Alongside fellow fresh talent Just Blaze, West became one of the Roc's go-to producers, consistently delivering hot tracks to album after album. His star turn came on Jay-Z's classic Blueprint (2001) with album standouts "Takeover" and "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)." Both songs showcased West's signature beatmaking style of the time, which was largely sample-based; in these cases, the former track appropriated snippets of the Doors' "Five to One," while the latter sampled the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back."

More high-profile productions followed, and before long word spread that West was going to release an album of his own, on which he planned to rap as well as produce. Unfortunately, that album was a long time coming, pushed back and then pushed back again. It didn't help that West was in a tragic car accident in October 2002 that almost cost him his life. He capitalized on the traumatic experience by using it as the inspiration for "Through the Wire" (and its corresponding video), which would later become the lead single for his debut album, 2004's The College Dropout. As the album was continually delayed, West continued to create big hits for the likes of Talib Kweli ("Get By"), Ludacris ("Stand Up"), Jay-Z ("'03 Bonnie & Clyde"), and Alicia Keys ("You Don't Know My Name"). Then, just as "Through the Wire" was breaking big-time at the tail end of 2003, another West song caught fire, a collaboration with Twista and comedian/actor Jamie Foxx called "Slow Jamz," which gave the rapper/producer two simultaneously ubiquitous singles and a much-anticipated debut album. As with so many of West's songs, the singles were driven by somewhat recognizable sample-based hooks: Chaka Khan's "Through the Fire" in the case of "Through the Wire," and Luther Vandross' "A House Is Not a Home" in the case of "Slow Jamz."

In the wake of his breakout success, West earned a whopping ten nominations at the 47th annual Grammy Awards, held in early 2005. The College Dropout won the Best Rap Album award, "Jesus Walks" won Best Rap Song, and a songwriting credit on "You Don't Know My Name" for Best R&B Song award was shared with Alicia Keys and Harold Lilly. Later that year, West released his second solo album, Late Registration, which spawned a series of hit singles ("Diamonds in Sierra Leone," "Gold Digger," "Heard 'Em Say," "Touch the Sky"). The album topped the charts, as did the "Gold Digger" single, and Late Registration eventually won a Grammy for Rap Album of the Year. West's production work continued more or less unabated during this time; particularly noteworthy were hits for Twista ("Overnight Celebrity"), Janet Jackson ("I Want You"), Brandy ("Talk About Our Love"), the Game ("Dreams"), Common ("Go!"), and Keyshia Cole ("I Changed My Mind"). West also founded his own label, GOOD Music (i.e., "Getting Out Our Dreams"), in conjunction with Sony BMG. The label's inaugural release was John Legend's Get Lifted (2004), followed one year later by Common's Be. In addition to all of his studio work, West also toured internationally in support of Late Registration and released Late Orchestration: Live at Abbey Road Studios (2006) in commemoration.

After retreating from the spotlight for some time, West returned to the forefront of the music world in 2007 with a series of album releases. Consequence's Don't Quit Your Day Job and Common's Finding Forever, both released by GOOD, were chiefly produced by West; the latter proved to be particularly popular, topping the album chart upon its release in July. And then there was West's third solo album, Graduation, which was promoted well in advance of its September 11 release (a memorable date that pitted Kanye against 50 Cent, who in one interview swore he would quit music if his own album, Curtis, wasn't the top-seller). A pair of singles -- "Can't Tell Me Nothing" and "Stronger," the latter an interpolation of Daft Punk's 2001 single "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" -- led the promotional push. It became his third consecutive chart-topping album, and its success culminated in eight Grammy nominations. West was the victor in four of the categories, and he performed two songs during the ceremony, including Late Registration's "Hey Mama," chosen in honor of his recently deceased mother. That loss, compounded by a breakup with his fiancée, informed 2008's 808s & Heartbreak, a major change of pace that saw West singing most of his emotionally pained lyrics with the assistance of Auto-Tune. The album went platinum.

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, most of which was recorded in Hawaii and involved guest vocal spots from the likes of Nicki Minaj, Kid Cudi, Rick Ross, and the RZA, was released in November 2010. It was preceded by the bombastic, King Crimson-sampling single "Power." A sprawling and audacious album, MBDTF debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and also went platinum. While the album was still hot, West recorded the aggressive and boast-heavy Watch the Throne with Jay-Z and numerous producers and songwriters. Billed as a set by the Throne, it was released in August 2011 and entered the Billboard Top 200 chart at number one. In September 2012, he released the GOOD Music collaboration album Cruel Summer, which featured artists such as Big Sean, Pusha T, and Lifted. Four singles ("Mercy," "Cold," "New Flow," and "Clique") were released as promotion for the record.

Toward the end of 2012 there were rumblings from acclaimed producers that a new album would emerge soon. These murmurs were soon confirmed when West himself announced that he was working on his sixth album with the likes of Daft Punk, King L., Justin Vernon, Rick Rubin, Chief Keef, and many more contributing. As one of the most eagerly anticipated albums of 2013, Yeezus was released to rapturous reviews from critics. West touched upon controversial and sensitive topics and delivered an astonishing and bold record, described as his most confrontational and bravest album to date. Despite leaking four days early upon its release, Yeezus sold almost 327,000 copies during its first week and the album's first single, "Black Skinhead," was certified gold by mid-October. The year 2013 also proved to be a personal milestone for West, as he became a father for the first time, with partner Kim Kardashian giving birth to a baby girl in June of that year. In 2014, he announced a new album and released "Only One" featuring Paul McCartney, which, like his 2015 single "FourFiveSeconds" with McCartney and Rihanna, remained a non-LP release. In 2015, he announced another, different album, titled So Help Me God, which later turned to SWISH, then Waves, and finally T.L.O.P. The album was released in 2016 and featured the single "No More Parties in L.A.," with guest Kendrick Lamar and production from Madlib. ~ Jason Birchmeier & Andy Kellman

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