Updated: Jul 30, 2020
Kanye season continues with the follow up to his classic 'The College Dropout' titled 'Late Registration'. Following the success of TCD, there was pressure for Kanye to follow up with another great album - and as you know by now, pressure creates diamonds and just makes Kanye go that extra mile. While this personally wasn't as good as TCD for me, it was still a very good album from Kanye and proved he was to be in this game for long. Before continuing, just a quick mention that the album being reviewed here is the UK edition which has 22 tracks - including 'We Can Make It Better' which the US version does not have. So to get into the review we have to start with what Kanye's music is known for - his production. The production is still really good, however nowadays it's slightly outdated but it's a great showcase of how Ye has moved with the times and is always improving. The sampling is really enjoyable to listen too and when Ye throws all these other instruments in it just all comes together perfectly. The features also always do a job on this whether they sing or rap - Ye knows how to get the best out of his features. Thematically it's a continuation of what was found on the college dropout with the social themes (such as black injustices, growing up in poverty stricken areas, problems with money etc.). However, we get some more triumphant songs (such as 'Touch The Sky') now that he's made it, as well as some fun party songs too. Again, as it's a Ye album we get some personal songs like the emotional 'Roses' or the heart warming 'Hey Mama' creating a pretty varied album in terms of topics. The one thing that you can say isn't Kanye's strong point is his technical ability or complexity in lyrics. His flows aren't overally impressive but come across quite smooth while his delivery has definitely improved since the last album. As mentioned he's not lyrically complex but he does have some clever one liners and punchlines as well as the ability to make you feel what he wants you to feel because he just comes across so human.
The know the deal, too many songs to cover them all in detail so some will merely evaluated less. We begin this track list with a skit titled 'Wake Up Mr. West' that continues the college theme of the previous album. It's a pretty funny skit and a nice addition. The opening track however 'Heard 'Em Say' is a strong opener. It carries on the same themes found on the college dropout, such as the injustices of black people in America, the hood and that theme of doubt and being told that he couldn't make it as a rapper - he was just a producer. The base line is crazy while the piano in the instrumental is very nice and Adam Lavigne's hook is beautiful, with hints of sadness behind each work in the emotional hook. Following that is a classic and one of Kanye West's best ever songs - the triumphant 'Touch the Sky'! Firstly the sample of 'Move On Up' by Curtis Mayfield is incredible because it's already a solid beat, but Ye speeds it up and it sounds even better. The subject matter focuses on Ye finally making it and being successful (touching the sky). You can't help but feel happy when hearing it, listening to the story of an underdog who made it - especially when he went on to become one of the biggest and most successful artists of all time. Lupe Fiasco hops on verse 3 and delivers some very clever lines, "But I still feel possessed as a gun charge//Come as correct as a porn star". Not to mention how catchy the hook of it is and the great mood it puts you in. From one classic to another, we all know 'Gold Digger' featuring Jamie Foxx, so to quickly mention the track it's a fun song about gold diggers, using a nice sample and including some funny lines "Eighteen years, eighteen years//And on the 18th birthday, he found out it wasn't his". We then get 'Skit #1' which is one of four skits about a broke fraternity at college (used to prove a point), and they too are a funny addition to the track list.
'Drive Slow' is an enjoyable track which uses it's ominous beat, soldier drums (that's what I like to call them) and jazz influence to complement verses from Paul Wall, GLC & Ye providing us with a solid verse from each of the artists. Common makes an appearance next on the track 'My Way Home', it's just a Common verse which is pretty solid but overall not really a memorable part of the album. After a great run, we hit a track that probably won't make my favourites titled 'Crack Music'. It's not bad, in fact it is an enjoyable song with a nice beat focusing on the 1980's crack epidemic of America - I just don't have it as high up as I do the other songs we've already heard on this album. Also why does The Game have a feature credit for two lines? Next up is an emotional one titled 'Roses'. The song begins with Kanye's grandma in the hospital, thinks are looking bleak as Ye and his family visit for what to them may well be the last time. The beat is desperate, and gives Kanye the room to express his emotions on the track, while describing his family as metaphorically flowers that you leave at the hospital for someone. It has a happy ending as Kanye's grandma lives in the end! We get a nice Brandy feature on the triumphant 'Bring Me Down' which is esentially a big fuck you to the haters. The epic piano seems menacing, and Ye has some hard lines "Cause when I was barely livin', that's what kept me alive//Just the thought that maybe it could be better than what we at at this time", but what lets it down is it's only one verse and the verse isn't good enough to call it an amazing song. Ye provides us with a playful delivery and great sample on 'Addiction', as he talks about the addictions that come with fame such as sex, money and drugs. Again, it's an alright track and by no means do I dislike it - just don't think it's as good as some of the others on here.
Following 'Skit #2', we have a great example of conscious Kanye 'Diamonds From Sierra Leone (Remix)' - which is better than the original for me. Kanye focuses on blood diamonds, especially from Sierra Leone, and uses some graphic images to get you thinking, "I thought my Jesus piece was so harmless//'Til I seen a picture of a shorty armless". The sample used on the hook fits very well and this remix features a nice verse from Jay Z who flows well discussing his record label and how despite all the fall outs, they're stronger than ever (ironic now). Nas & Really Doe partners Ye for 'We Major' where everybody does a great job - I just think it could've ended a bit earlier and it didn't need to go on for seven minutes. After 'Skit #3' we get the heartwarming 'Hey Mama'. A track devoted to Kanye's mum - all to say thanks for always being there for him and honestly everything about this track is beautiful. The production, the emotion and heart in Ye's delivery, the hook and the lyrics such as "I said mommy I'ma love you 'til you don't hurt no more//And when I'm older, you ain't gotta work no more//And I'ma get you that mansion that we couldn't afford" give you a great big smile. What's heart breaking is listening to it post Kanye's mums death, it can bring a tear to your eye. Beautiful track and a real highlight on here. The production is amazing and the whole atmosphere is relaxed on 'Celebration' but other than that it's a pretty forgettable track on the track list which is followed by the final skit, 'Skit #4' where Kanye is outed as not being broke due to his production work. We're straight back to it on the next track 'Gone' which is a fine track with fun production and great features from Cam'ron & Consequence. The original 'Diamonds from Sierra Leone' follows next and while it's not as good as the remix, it's still a pretty good song. UK version only song 'We Can Make It Better' is the penultimate track on Kanye's sophomore album and as not everybody gets this song, I'll just say it's good and you should check it out on YouTube if you can. It focuses on making things better in America between white people and black people, as well as some of the injustices still going on and has features from Q-Tip, Common, Rhymefest & Talib Kweli who all do a very good job. Finally, we have the hidden track (on the album version) 'Late'. It's a fitting end but not exactly a stand out track to finish the album off - production as expected is still good.
So there we go, Kanye's 'Late Registration' realistically is consistent with only a few forgettable tracks - but I don't think it has as many high points as 'The College Dropout' although 'Touch The Sky' trumps them all.
FAVOURITE TRACKS: Heard 'Em Say, Touch the Sky, Gold Digger, Crack Music, Roses, Bring Me Down, Diamonds From Sierra Leone (Remix), We Major, Hey Mama
LEAST FAVOURITE TRACK: Celebration
OVERALL RATING: Solid 9/10
*REVISED SCORE: Review may not match favourite tracks and overall rating because I've since re-listened and changed my score.*