Second album shows West's musical genius
"I'm trying to right my wrongs/ But it's funny the same wrongs help me write this song," Kanye West raps on his new album "Late Registration." West is by no means a typical rapper, most notably he never grew up in a rough neighborhood. Instead of the traditional thug who raps of his past, West doesn't hide his middle-class upbringing and consequently produces a different kind of sound. In the case of "Late Registration," different is most certainly a positive.
West shows no signs of a sophomore slump with his second album. On his first album, "The College Dropout," West crammed too many of his thoughts into the album, because he finally had his chance to rap after being a producer for so many years. On "Late Registration," however, West knows he has the spotlight so he chooses his words more carefully. The result is a much more polished and innovative sound.
West's first track, "Heard 'Em Say," features vocals by Adam Levine of Maroon 5. The beat on this song is different from typical hip-hop beats with the sound of a piano punctuating the soft, soothing melody. The odd pairing makes for a unique track as Levine's soft voice blends with West's powerful verses. The Levine compliments the melody nicely with his vocals in the chorus: "And I heard 'em say/ Nothing's ever promised tomorrow today/ But we'll find a way. West has a few other slow, meaningful tracks on the album which include the eloquent "Hey Mama," whose soft beat and sappy hook could appeal to any mother. "I wanna scream so loud for you, cuz I'm so proud of you/ Let me tell you what I'm about to do/ I appreciate what you allowed for me/I just want you to be proud of me," raps West on the song.
The upbeat track, "Touch the Sky," marches to a different beat and conveys West's ambitions. In the background a voice sings: "You on top of the world, baby you on top of the world." He also talks about his peer, Jay-Z: "I just wanted to shine/ Jay's favorite line, 'dawg in due time'/ Now he look at me like 'Damn you where I am'/ A hip hop legend." The beat features a brass band which compliments the bass in the song. Each beat on Late Registration is immaculately produced, but the beat on "Touch the Sky" is without a doubt the best on the album. In "Gold Digger," Jamie Foxx sings in a high, bluesy, Ray Charles-like voice, setting the track's tone in the opening lines: "She take my money when I'm in need/ Yea she's a trifflin' friend indeed/ Oh she's a gold digger, way over town/ That digs on me." West also makes a few jokes throughout the song about how the so-called gold digger woman is richer than the man. "You will see him on TV Any Given Sunday/ Win the Super Bowl and drive off in a Hyundai."
There is something for every hip-hop fan on "Late Registration." There are the gangster tracks such as "Gone," featuring Cam'Ron and Consequence, as well as "Drive Slow," featuring the dirty south drawl of Paul Wall and GLC of Swishahouse. West also has a few politically subversive song such as "Crack Music," which features The Game, and is comprised of controversial lyrics that would make Public Enemy proud. This song uses irony well to ridicule the president for his handling of Iraq in the two simple lines: "Who gave Saddam anthrax? / George Bush got the answers." "Crack Music" also directly addresses the drug problems faced by millions: "When our heroes and heroines get hooked on heroin/ Crack raised the murder rate in DC and Maryland/ Sometimes I feel like music is the only medicine." West's ability to make political statements or voice opinions in songs is a powerful quality that not all artists--especially hip-hop artists-- are able to pull off.
The track "My Way Home," on the other hand, is in no way a gangster track, but rather one of the albums best overall songs. Provocative and brief (1 minute 43 seconds), it features powerful verses by West's friend and fellow Chi-town rapper, Common Sense: "Hypes fighting for hits to heighten they hell/ Don't he know he only get as high as he fell/ Show money becomes bail/ I wish love was for sale."
Every rapper has a certain amount of arrogance, and Kanye West is no exception. In the tracks "Bring Me Down" and "Celebration," West seems to brag about finally making it big. He is, of course, entitled to this egotism after nearly every major recording company laughed at his potential as a rapper. On "Bring Me Down," which features the soulful sound of Brandy, West produces a modern day hip-hop equivalent to MC Hammer's "Can't Touch This" minus the annoying chorus and the blatant hubris, which he uses to announce that he has made it big: "Since Pac past away/ Most you rappers don't deserve a track from me."
"Late Registration," overall, is a flawlessly produced album that commands the listener's ears. Kanye West proves all over again that he is the newest alternative to the traditional gangster rap. West tackles stereotypes such as race and class by magically blending beats and lyrics. Such a musical genius is worth listening to.
Josh Zipin. Josh Zipin has trouble paying attention for more than three seconds at a time... More »