Wake up Mr. West. It’s time for your sophomore album.
Heard ‘Em Say
A belief of mine is that the opening track of an album is way beyond important. It colors your view of the entire album. Frontload an album with something great and the good vibes take you through. Songs about being black in america never get old for me. Especially when they’re as well crafted and divergent as this song is. I can’t get enough of it.
Touch the Sky
duuuuuuuuuuuuuude, these horns. What’s better than an awesome intro. Two killer songs in a row. First pianos then horns. I love horns. The world needs more big brass sections. This was also my introduction to Lupe Fiasco. This song is just throwing good vibes everywhere. It has a weird sort of nostalgia feeling that’s difficult to pin down. If more radio rappers talked for serious about how they grew up in the game and the struggles they went through and the life they were living at the time I might listen to the radio. It’s so rare to hear someone as big as Kanye was even at this time just talk about the mundanities of every day life for someone trying to get signed.
Also, love Curtis Mayfield
Jamie Foxx really thinks he’s Ray Charles, which is cool with me. This is a song that’s much smarter than it’s given credit for. On it’s surface it’s stupid hating stuff or whatever, about gold diggers and other shit stupid people say, but you gotta listen to it. You might learn something, like Kanye West learning about the way small super insular dating circles of celebrities. Shit’s a trip. This song isn’t about people, it’s about that really fucking weird subsection of pretty rich people. The second verse does perpetuate misinformation about how child support payments actually work. I have some books on the subject if Kanye is interested. Thing is, it’s noted that gold digging is a hustle and if you gonna be out here treatin women bad and like they’re some sort of commodity this is the life you live and you can’t get anything close to mad about them flipping the game on you.
The third verse is awesome. The way the beat switches up here is actually a pretty classic trick, doesn’t make it any less effective. It’s just a separation of parts. Simple and beautiful. It’s there the whole time. Listen on vinyl.
BROKE BROKE BROKE FI BROKE WE AINT GOT IT
I’m going to attempt to put into words something that doesn’t work in a literary medium. The way the beats drop on this song, in conjuction with the oregon, with the synth voice in the background, with the saxophone note coming in occasionally with the midi clarinet, the high hat hits. All of it, it’s wizardry. The slow motion of this song without actually being chopped and screwed, it’s. . . I don’t know. It’s really great. The first time I heard this song I didn’t hear a single word Kanye said. Sometimes I still miss the first verse. This is what good music does.
The thing about hearing music you’ve created pump out through someone’s speakers is so real though. That shit gives you fucking super powers.
Paul wall was a thing, you remember that?
That beat is still kicking it, and it doesn’t change. I’m always suckered in by interplay between two rappers. The sort of two man game that springs up has really high potential.
Then it gets screwed. And I died. My spirit just left my body.
My Way Home
A common track found it’s way to Kanye’s album. Weird. Common is cool. Sometimes too boring and caught up in being common, but often times just really good. He is so good at what he does. Just a slow and steady flow of rhymes. Then it’s just a beautiful old R&B song. Like, this Kanye is my favorite Kanye.
This is my Kanye. This is my Rap Music. This is my life.
This is what I live for in music. This is a religious experience. From the hard basss drum kicks with the smooth snare into the high hats all the way to the synth horn to the lyrics. This is where I fell head over heels in love with Kanye West. Want an introduction to radical black theory? Listen to this song. Seriously. This is the intro to black nationalism. This is a pure distillation of everything I had to learn outside of school and my parents as a child. Right up into the questioning of God, which is something that was not something to do in thinking about the sort of prototypical black american experience. The thing about the black panthers is spot on. The stuff about just the grimey parts of growing up in substandared living conditions hits hard.
Then we get poetry and with the beat behind it it’s a crucial piece of the entire song.
This is the only song you need to dispute everything everyone ever says negatively about rap music. Everything. The beginning is so painful and just overloaded with thick emotions. I know how it feels to sit around a hospital room not knowing what’s going on and if someone is going to make it and how long every second feels. All the things we say to each other in that situation, the deep hopelessness that exist because there’s NOTHING you can do. You manufacture things to do and try to learn everything you can knowing that it is all ultimately useless.
This is another frontloaded rap song. The reasons behind this one are different though. it is supposed to leave you with a different feeling than you had at the beginning of the song. He stops rapping on a purely happy note and that changes the timbre of the melody for the next two minutes. Nothing in the music actually changes, but just the spark of good news gives this an entirely different feeling. That’s just good music.
Bring Me Down
This song has a whole lot going on in it. There’s this dancing of the piano and strings over good old fashioned hip hop drums that carries a lot of feeling with it. Brandy is putting it fantastic work here as well, and her voice is well suited to what is going on here. As toned down as this younger Kanye West is you see the path he’s taking. This song, as much as the album as a whole, is a confidence builder. It’s sort of a self reassurance exercise.
The opening line here is six levels beyond brilliant. It needs a standing ovation. Listen to it again.
I still have a sort of love for this early Kanye where songs played with conventional set ups by frontloading them.
This is just a song that I like. It’s so understated. It’s just Kanye’s voice and not as many bells and whistles going on. It’s a song about sex. And it’s not objectifying and it’s not skeevy in really any way. It’s just a song about sex. That’s awesome. There are so many places this song could fall apart and it doesn’t. I didn’t realize it was Etta James in the background until I was listening to an old album of hers and just heard the line. It’s also about drugs and alcohol, but in the context of sex as well. People should strive for this sort of thing more. Nothing against lude sex songs, but there’s something very nice about a song being this subdued and relaxing. There’s a negotiation for a threesome that’s hilarious.
Diamonds from Sierra Leone [The Remix]
Shirley Basset really could belt it out in the 70s. She kicked the shit out of all those James Bond Songs.
This song is so fucking real. This applies to so much more than just diamonds. It’s about everything we do in life. Diamonds, gold, leather, shoes, computers, smart phones, clothes and jeans, and cameras and all that shit. All of what we do is built on exploitative labor and the histories of these labor markets are just gross and disgusting.
But are we going to give any of it up? Nope!
Hey! It’s Jay-Z! What’s he rapping about? Jaz-Z? You got it! Did you know he sold cocaine? He’s also a business. Which is true. I love when Jay-Z verses on Kanye tracks just keep going.
FUCK DUDE. This is my jam. This gets me up in the morning when I can’t muster it much myself. This gets me to work when I’m not really feeling it. This gets me out of a bad funk. This song makes my day better. Just turn the volume all the way up and let it soak through you.
Now, it’s annoying that he traffics in the stupid women are someone else’s property thing with the idea that you won’t like creepin on chicks when it’s your daughter.
The rest of the song is dope though.
It doesn’t matter what anyone else actually says. We’re just having a good time here. Just having that trumpet circulate through the blood stream is enough. That synth drum hit is so staccato. The harshness provides cotrast for the rest of the song. Really Doe just lays down life affirmation in the chorus.
Yo. The end of this song just raises the spirits of eveyone who hears it. This is how you should get dressed. Kanye can talk to me as much as he wants on track though.
Okay. Just sing along now. Roll the windows down on the car and belt it. Throw all your cares away.
Kanye cant’ sing, but that’s PERFECT for this song. The childishness of singing this for his mom is too much. I’ll probably tear up half way through this. This is black music for real. Not everyone has great moms, but some people do, and it’s great when you get songs like this. Black women got it rough, and don’t get nearly the respect they deserve through the whole of American Culture. That thing about his mom supporting him even though he went the opposite of the way she wanted for him hits close to home. The sort of longing and hope of this song mixed with the sort of regret of not pleasing her sooner mixes perfect with the realization of all of his hard work and how much of the credit for his success she deserves. It’s super touching and super heartfelt and just great. And fuck everyone who hates Kanye. It’s cool also, because as specific as this song is about Kanye and his mother, it’s totally designed to work as a reflective tool for the listener. It works.
I love these strings. This is just another feel good song. That’s part of why I love Late Registration so much. So much of the album just feels good. Just relaxing party stuff. Not wild Andrew W.K. parties, but the kind where you might actually be able to hear the person beside you while talking. I love these short verse songs. Just like four five bars of verse and a small rotating chorus .
Uh oh! I like when Kayne just raps. Kanye rapping about how obnoxious Kanye is is high class Kanye. Kanye knows he has a big ego, and that he annoys you, and he doesn’t care. He interweaves his life with the fictional story of other people with fictional stories of himself with real stories of other people with random rap music rhymes and lyrics.
that’s not how knock knock jokes work Cam’Ron.
I’ve never really understood the appeal of Cam’Ron.
Consequence fucking kills it. Just how this story unfolds with rapping about a non event that ends up in the worst way is so great. Especially after whatever the fuck Cam’Ron did.
Then we get music. And is the song gonna go on for three minutes with no more rapping. It would be in keeping in line with the rest of the album,
but no. Surprise.
It’s Kanye West. Ahead of his time. Sometimes years out. Still with the talking about how hard it is to do what you want sometimes. Sometimes fame isn’t great. The struggle to get up off his cheap ass sofa is real. Getting fired from taco bell for giving out free food is real. This is just sort of an onslaught of good rapping from Kanye here at the end.
Diamonds From Sierra Leone
Yeah, we’re back. This is the version without Jay-Z. That means we get a WHOLE OTHER VERSE. Cool, no? I think so.
I love Kanye talking about how mad he was about the grammy. He did get robbed though. Like, for real, he got jobbed. I love the idea of plaques for Kanye saying Kayne. I love how unrelenting he is about how good he is and how much people fucked up by sleeping on him.
We Can make It Better
This isn’t on the US version of the album. This song is the truth though. I like songs about doing better. There is so much stuff in here just for black people though and it’s wonderful and dangerous.
I love the mini verses. A bunch of good rappers not overstaying their welcome. I like it. Talib rocks it. Q-Tip comes in and is cute and adorable. Common is common and it’s surprising how good he is in this short format. Rhymefest shows up and kick ass here too. Just good work all around.
Aww yeah hidden track.
There’s some awesome musical theory stuff happening in this song. His second verse on the track mixes up lyrics on purpose. Not says them wrong, but you could read them in a different chronological order. His voice is working at odds with the beats which are working in harmony with the bass line and come across to the sample of the whatnauts. This is all you can really ask for from a
bonus mode: Check out Late Orchestration. It’s so good. Live orchestra and Live DJ make so many tracks on this album so much better. His energy on this concert recording is just fucking phenomenal.