Why have I chosen Late Registration today over any other classic hip-hop album such as Illmatic or Reasonable Doubt? Simple! Neither of those albums are musically astute in the same way. With Kanye’s intelligent incorporating of samples into his music with Jon Brion’s many-layered orchestral tracks, creativity is showcased in its highest form.
The inspiration for Kanye came from Portishead in the late 90’s when they introduced a number of orchestral instruments into their work. However, unlike Portishead, the rapper adds extra layers of deep and satisfying drum beats adding that additional special little aspect of soul to the sonic backdrop.
Of course, the lyricism of Kanye West is often not thought to match rap’s heavywieghts such as Jay Z, Nas and other lyricists like Lupe Fiasco and Common, all of whom are featured on Late Registration. Kanye more than makes up for any perceived deficiency with his musical palette and creates inspiration for even the most unimaginative thinker; at times, the passion in his lyrics make him appear lyrically equal to his previous idol and now fellow artist, Shawn Carter.
Kanye’s best moment, in my opinion, in the album comes on its penultimate song ‘Gone’. On the final verse of the song he changes the cadences several times in the verse and this device adds to the passion the song conveys. Many would agree that this still ranks in terms of lyrics as one of Kanye’s top three verses ever with the unforgettable line ‘I won’t sell ‘em no dream, but the insipiration is free’.
What also makes this album so appealing is that there is a way for anyone to associate with it; it has universal value and appeal. Songs like ‘Hey Mama’ and ‘Roses’ detail the pain and heartache of having a single mum and a dying relative, feelings so many people from different walks of life have had to deal with in one way or another.
Kanye acts as though everything affects him, unlike his idol Jay Z, and this vulnerability makes him fascinating as a public figure and, of course, as a musician, as shown on Late Registration.
With this album we see a true ‘artist’ emerging and with that thought, the quote of Leonardo Da Vinci beckons showing what Kanye managed to achieve where so many other rappers failed.
“Good artists copy, the best artists steal”
Perfecta, trifecta, right order. Nine months.