Late Registration 

Kanye West

(Roc-a-Fella)

Don't believe the hype: College dropout's sophomore album sounds great, less filling.

When Eminem began to bland out a couple of years ago, Kanye West was there to step into his place as the most interesting mainstream rap artist. Jay-Z had the flow, but West, like Eminem, had the content. West was conflicted, prickly, and self-deprecating like Eminem, but he wasn't an outsider. He was an insider, pulling mainstream rap and bohemian counterparts together in a third-way path he alone was creating.

It took Eminem three albums to sound ordinary, but West has gotten there in two. On The College Dropout, West was a conceptualist, confessor, provocateur, and idea man. On this so-far overpraised follow-up album, he's become something close to what his mildest doubters always suspected: an ace producer moonlighting behind the mic.

West is still a brilliant producer. The best, most immediately memorable parts of Late Registration are musical: the rubbery beat and watery piano loop on "Heard 'Em Say." The languid Dirty South goes jazz-hop groove of "Drive Slow." The pairing of Ray Charles sample and stomping beat on the single "Gold Digger." The way West slices and dices a sample from Otis Redding's version of "It's Too Late" across "Gone."

But lyrically, despite the late-blooming conscience of "Diamonds From Sierra Leone (Remix)," this is hardly the same guy who pulled an entire genre into new territory with singles like "All Falls Down" and "Jesus Walks." Instead, this is West working genre tropes, seeing how much interest he can pack into a standard-issue hip-hop mama tribute, littering the album with accomplished but purposeless guests rather than orchestrating them for cumulative effect. -- Chris Herrington

Grade: A-

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Blogs

Hungry Memphis

Another Best Memphis Burger Fest in the Books

From My Seat

A (Slightly Premature) Redbirds Season Wrapup

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Music Video Monday: Don Lifted

Hungry Memphis

Guess Where I'm Eating Contest 110

News Blog

MATA Security Guard Placed on Diversion in Passenger Death

News Blog

Top Guns: Shelby Tops Tennessee in Handgun Permits

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Movies and Video Games Meet at the Cossitt Library

News Blog

President Jimmy Carter Discusses His Work with Habitat

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Chris Herrington

  • Last Words

    In "Enough Said," James Gandolfini makes his last lead film role his best.
    • Sep 26, 2013
  • Masters of Sound

    New albums from two of Memphis’ most distinctive stylists.
    • Sep 19, 2013
  • Hayes Carll at the Hi-Tone

    • Sep 19, 2013
  • More »
ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2016

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation