Ever since the success of sped-soul single which sampled Chaka Khan’s Through the Fire–Through the Wire–I’ve known who Kanye West is. For a while before that, Kanye’s name had been floating around as a producer for Jay-Z’s Roc-a-Fella Records, ever since The Dynasty: Roc La Familia and Jay-Z’s hit Heart of the City.
After blindsiding the rap game by selling platinum the first time around, thanks mostly to Ye’s smash single Slow Jamz with Twista and Jamie Foxx and in part his religiously oriented club banger Jesus Walks, Ye returns for a second strike at the iron with Late Registration.
LR starts off in the K West tradition of a comedian, this time Bernie Mac, telling Ye he’s going to be late for registration and he has to wake up. The track leads immediately into Heard Em Say with Adam Levine of Maroon 5; an odd combination, of course, but it does work. Its ambient piano keys, basslike horns and modest but compelling drums provide a good backing for Ye to tell us that we should enjoy our lives while we can, with Levine’s soulful crooning coming in to finish off the track.
Extravagant horns on Touch the Sky with Lupe Fiasco bring a happier mood, with talk of flyness and living it up; the second single Gold Digger brings a slight lull in the album, though even this isn’t all that bad. A hilarious skit about Ye’s fictional college fraternity “Broke Phi Broke” ensues, followed by Drive Slow with Paul Wall and GLC.
I didn’t expect much from this track, but I’m surprised at how good it is. The beat starts slow and brings in a very Chicagoan 30’s style saxophone; Kanye doesn’t disappoint, and more importantly–more surprisingly–neither does Paul Wall.
The next track, My Way Home with Common (no appearance by Ye) has a compelling deep string beat/soul sample combination, over which Common spits a verse of fire about a man who gets incarcerated and wishes to be with his family again.
Crack Music doesn’t really feature Game–no verse, he just shares a hook with Ye–but it’s a good song nonetheless. A chorus provides backing for a militant drum and horn pattern, with Kanye spitting about American drug policy and dealing narcotics on the streets (putting himself in the place of those who do it, not claiming he was ever a dealer himself). Roses, which follows, brings an emotional and saddening account of his grandmother’s hospitalization, which Ye spits over simply a string–the drums, bass and extra sounds all come in only for the chorus, with great effect.
Bring Me Down with Brandy is triumphant, Addiction is successfully experimental, and the album goes on to show us a Kanye that’s growing out of the niche in hip hop he’d created over the years. Highlights include We Major with Nas and the Diamonds remix with Jay-Z; expanding his boundaries with LR sounds great, and moving away from the sped-soul was definitely a good move.
El Rating – 4.5/5 (Really *****in Good)
Recommendation – Download this to preview (Kanye doesn’t mind), then go buy it.