jessi83 Posted August 31, 2005 Share Posted August 31, 2005 'Registration' earns master's in hip-hop Album reviews By Kelley Carter Detroit Free Press Kanye West doesn't really care what so-and-so the music critic thinks about his sophomore effort, "Late Registration." He knows it'll be regarded as one of the greatest things to happen to hip-hop since the advent of the boom box. But just to be clear: It's incredible. And after blowing his production budget and persuading his label to shell out $2 million - that's a lot of cheddar - it better be. The album arrives fresh from West's MTV Video Music Award win Sunday night for best male video for "Jesus Walks" off of his debut disc, "The College Dropout." West teamed up with producer Jon Brion, a composer who has worked with artists such as Aimee Mann and Fiona Apple, and brought more musicianship to his rap music. West, a sought-after producer, is known for taking old soul tracks, speeding them up, and giving the tunes new life. With "Late Registration," he doesn't abandon the sound that had him dominating radio - urban, pop and otherwise - all of last year; he just dramatically enhances it. Together, West and Brion deliver a collection of songs that sound like a film score - a soundtrack of urban blight and desire for a better life. There's sadness, there's pain, there's humor, history, hope and celebration. West spits verses over melodic 40-piece string sets, 30-piece horn sets and DJ scratches. Hip-hop has never had a sound like this. In the single "Gold Digger," there's a trace of the old West. It's one of the fun, lightly satirical pieces on the project that feels very much like modern-day hip-hop, but with a dead-on direct message. In the almost haunting song "Crack Music," West takes on drugs in the black community, and paints a very visual picture of life in some neighborhoods. The album is filled with guest spots, including Jay-Z, Jamie Foxx, Brandy, Paul Wall, Cam'ron, Adam Levine of Maroon 5 and John Legend. But the most impressive pairing comes with rapper Nas, who joins West on "We Major," with West challenging him to go back to his "Illmatic" days, a reference to Nas' 1994 debut on which he demonstrated an impeccable lyrical talent. Nas answers the call. If for some strange reason this album doesn't outdo "The College Dropout," (which sold nearly 3 million copies), it's merely showing that his hip-hop maturity far exceeds the marketplace. West knows that he stretched himself with this album; so much so that he says he will be touring with U2 and is talking with Chris Martin of Coldplay about going on the road with that band. But his music doesn't push itself too far beyond what we know and love about hip-hop. The stories and sketches are visual and just as conversational as they've always been. And when West is rapping about Africa's blood diamonds, stateside drug problems and the glory of everyday living, that's not too bad of a deal. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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