Monday, October 12, 2009
I've been going through the Pitchfork top 200 albums of the decade list recently, trying to listen to all of the albums that I own and are uploaded to my library. Just got done with #18, Kanye's Late Registration, which I hadn't listened to in eons. Dammm, so good, it totally vindicated it's status as Nick Holowka's favorite Kanye West album. No question it's choppy: starts well with all of the radio crossover stuff, Touch the Sky, Gold Digger, Drive Slow, etc., hits a really bad middle stretch with Roses and Bring Me Down, then closes immaculately. In particular, I'm talking about 'We Major' and 'Gone', the two best songs in Kanye's catalogue. Both are long and ridiculously over produced, and both feature show stopping guest spots, Nas on the former ("I heard the beat and I ain't know what to write/ First line, should it be about the hos or the ice?/Fo-fo's or black christ, both flows would be nice"), and Killa Cam on the latter ("You ever dealt with a dealer?/ Well here's the deal ma, we goin' to the dealer"). They also both boast fantastically triumphant vocal outros by Kanye that ride over ever-changing beats that make up very unconventionally structured rap songs. This sense of pop-ready adventure hasn't been touched since in rap music, which is what makes Late Registration a masterpiece in spite of all its flaws. As my brother has frequently pointed out, the album contains some of Kanye's worst verses, but I could just as easily argue it contains many of his best (see Gold Digger, Drive Slow, both versions of Diamonds). Plus, when you have as many good guest appearances as this album, the point becomes somewhat moot. But its the sense of studio experimentation which really separates this album from the pack. Nothing in pop music before or since sounds like it, and nothing in mainstream rap apart from the Outkast camp has ever been as adventurous. Being a pessimist when it comes to hip-hop, I'm inclined to think that it's going to stay that way.