Hearing Kanye rap for the first time I was un-impressed. I'm too used to rap with voices which fail to grab me, and as a result, he struck my ears as a privileged producer turned rapper, like that of a singer turned actor. It's this though, which also lead to the delight of hearing his music a second time around. What initially began on a wrong note quickly turned into making his lack of a normal sounding voice into an endearing quality.
College Dropout was arguably one of 2004's best releases. There was very little filler, and the commercial appeal it yielded with "Jesus Walks" and "All Falls Down" garnered Kanye worldwide success, Grammy nods and more. It also enabled the Chicago emcee to have plenty of leeway with Late Registration. The album Kanye lists as part two of a four part series, and it seems that if the rest of the series are as effective, we have a lot to look forward to.
From "Heard 'Em Say" (featuring Maroon 5 front man Adam Levine) through the lyrics Kanye utters are a mixture between witty and poignant, "Hey Mama," which has been heavily bootlegged is also a gem in praise of his mother is another example of this.
"Gold Digger," the huge club hit with Jamie Foxx and "Diamond From Sierra Leone," the unexpected and breathtaking first single are both present as well as various other commercially viable gems. "Addiction" also sounds ideal for the clubs as it's very suggestive and catchy. "Drive Slow" featuring Paul Wall and GLC features the three bragging and advising to take things slowly so as to not miss opportunities.
As with College Dropout, Late Registration has a variety of guests. Common appears on the short but succinct "My Way Home," Nas and Really Doe are present on "We Major" and "Gone" features Consequence and Cam'ron."
Enlisting Jon Brion to co-produce the album, West appeared to have a specific desire for a feel to exist within the material. Brion, responsible for scoring many credible films and other integrity-driven artists serves as a welcomed addition. Though some tracks feel quite eclectic, Brion helps make the bridge from song to song seamless.
A couple of tracks fall short of greatness. "Roses" is amazing during Kanye's verses, however, the overly dramatic hook feels out of place. Though it's appeal grows on you, it takes some time. "Bring Me Down" which immediately follows, would also be a gem had Kanye not gone off kilter with his lyrics. He begins staying on the title's subject but falls into his bragging mode, ruining an otherwise worthwhile track. "Celebration" is another so so song. The hook utilitzes Dave Chappelle's Rick James catchphrase "It's a celebration, bitches!" His lyrics aren't anything special here, and above the beat, you're not really bothered by it.
Late Registration isn't up to the overrated scores it has been receiving, but it is a triumphant sophomore album. It serves as a great follow up to the brilliant College Dropout. A worthy purchase.