August 21, 2005
Kanye West "Late Registration" Review
Forgive me for stating the obvious, but the thing about Kanye West records is there's a rapper named Kanye on them.In every aspect but the vocals Late Registration is a masterfully executed pop music album. Sure I'd love to hear more grit and harder drums, but that's just not the type of record he was trying to make. I'm tempted to say he's delivered the "musical" hip-hop album Outkast was reaching for last year, but didn't quite have the chops to deliver.
Some may complain about Jon Brion's influence but I think it gave Kanye just what he needed to take giant steps forward, in the art of making songs while everyone else makes beats. The song structure, all the extra details and flourishes of instrumentation.. words like anthemic, evocative and cinematic will be tossed around aplenty, but however you phrase it, when I hear these tracks I am convinced that something important is happening.
But then, 9 times out of 10, Kanye starts rapping and totally kills the mood. No matter how hard he tries to get serious, he just can't help sounding petty. Whenever the music is taking me somewhere he brings me crashing back down to earth with his cornball cadence and inflections, his clunky puns and punchlines. Kanye makes music that demands to be taken seriously, then gets on the mic and turns it into a joke.
Everyone won't hear it this way, and I wish I was one of those lucky souls who doesn't suffer from Kanye intolerance, so I could enjoy this album without reservation. But Kanye's emceeing is an acquired taste I simply cannot acquire, so for my ears this album is equal parts joy and frustration. A collection of near-classics begging for a worthy vocal centerpiece. Count me among those who wish this was Common's album.(One near-miss that wasn't Kanye's fault: "We Major". Who is Really Doe, and why was he invited to this party?)