“So they asked me: ‘Why’d you called it Late Registration ‘Ye?’ / Cause we taking muthaf—kas back to school…” — Kanye West, “We Major” (2005)
He brought the soul on College Dropout, but on Late Registration, Kanye West invoked the spirit and the magic. To say the orchestral masterpiece that Mr. West laid forth on August 30, 2005 is one of the most important albums of the last decade, would be an understatement.
After all, how often do you have an artist flip the script entirely on their second album (What sophomore jinx?), enlist a Grammy-winning film composer (Jon Brion) to executive produce, spend a reported $2 million dollars to create the thing (“I’m $600,000 in the hole right now on that album,” said Ye to MTV in 2005), and ultimately sell more than 860,000 copies in its first week? Truth is, yes, Kanye pieced together a grand slam with Late Registration, but deeper than a critically-acclaimed status, this is also where he began growing into the KANYE WEST — the digital era’s first pop virtuoso.
Once liminal, Ye had reach integral. With today (August 30) marking the 10-year anniversary of the seminal album’s release, REVOLT asked a few of its masterminds to share some feelings about the album, its influence, and how its architect would go on to change the game forever. “Everybody feels a way about K, but at least y’all feel something…”
Lika Kumoi, Post Coordinator: Fatal car crash-surviving, wired-mouth-shut still rapping, Louis Vuitton-backpack carrying, self-loving Kanye West has successfully molded himself as one of the most influential artist with Late Registration.
This is proven by the obvious facts. The album was co-produced by Jon Brion, (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”). He worked with major leaguers like Nas and Jay Z (on the same album!). He took a political stance with “Diamonds From Sierra Leone.” Showed us his more vulnerable side with “Roses” and “Hey Mama,” oh, and he created the anthem of anthems for money hungry women.
But it is on “Heard ‘Em Say” that made me recognize that he was in fact, the genius he arrogantly claimed to be — and he was entitled to be so. No, not because of the fact that he made Adam Levine’s voice much more likable, but because of the song’s music video. As one of the two visuals created for the record, Ye worked with Oscar- nominated, ‘90s cult favorite animator/illustrator/filmmaker Bill Plympton.
During the ‘90s, and all it’s MTV glory, I used to watch Plympton’s work on Liquid Television (For those of you not familiar with his work, I highly recommend “Sex and Violence”). In an interview with the _Daily Beast earlier this year,_ Plympton recalled his experiences working with Kanye. “He said, ‘Is this Bill Plympton? This is Kanye West. Are you the animator guy? I want to hire you to do my next music video,’” the talented artist remembered. I forgot to mention, that at this point, Kanye had already shot the music video for “Heard ‘Em Say” with award-winning director Michel Gondry and spent over half a million dollars.
Despite its satisfaction amongst fans, Kanye, unsatisfied, called his childhood favorite animator to work on the video. “He flew over to my studio for a couple of days to look over my shoulder as I was drawing and criticized them. He said, ‘I look more handsome than that—make me more handsome!’ I said, ‘Sure, Kanye.’” The result was a much simpler and almost too honest depiction of his lyrics, but it was exactly how it was supposed to be.
Amber Mackie, Production Coordinator: New York City’s D train, my pink iPod mini, and listening to the raw, but carefully constructed sounds of Kanye West and Common’s “On My Way Home,” while traveling from John Dewey High School — all of which, I considered the best train ride ever.
My 15th birthday was finally here and after making a wish and blowing out my candles, my dad handed me a stack of CD’s wrapped with a pink bow. I am an R&B lover so you can understand my state of shock when I found Kanye’s Late Registration rap album amongst Mariah Carey’s The Emancipation of MiMi and Keyshia Coles’s The Way It Is, in my lap. However, I transferred all of these albums to my iPod and couldn’t wait for my train ride to school that following Monday. During this ride to school, I’d listen to all of my favorite Mariah and Keyshia tracks and even repeat some. But on my way home, I decided to give Kanye a try. After all “Gold Digger” was one of the hottest tracks out and I did appreciate Kanye for his first of many legendary disruptions, when he went on a Hurricane Katrina telethon and shocked the world with the words: “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people.”
When I pressed play, I giggled because “Wake Up Mr. West” was a little… weird, but its transition into “Heard Em Say” drew me all the way in. From the instrumentals to his honest lyrics, I fell in love quick! As a teenager, you tend to have a lot of emotions and feelings that you find hard to formally express. But, this album is one of the most relatable albums, EVER! From “Roses” to “Bring Me Down,” which is one of my favorite songs of all time, to “Addiction” and “Hey Mama,” I felt like this man understood me. It was one of the only albums I could play straight through without skipping one song (skits included). “Wake Up Mr. West,” along with the four other skits that I once found “weird,” now had me convinced of Kanye’s musical genius. Ten years later, having grown from a teenager to an adult I can still relate and completely lose my mind when “Crack Music” bangs through my headphones. For that reason alone, Late Registration will always remain timeless. “You know what this is, it’s a celebration bitches…”
Corey Colvin, Sr. Production Associate/Production Mgr.: I still listen to it like it just dropped last Tuesday, Late Registration was-and-is definitely a work of art.
I remember trying to peace it all together with leaked tracks that I was able to find on the Net — I was pretty successful at doing so too, my download skills and connects never let me down. LR was the soundtrack to my life, riding around the East Side of the Chi, at the time I was so proud of my city. I was so inspired knowing that a guy named Kanye West, that grew up not to far from where I was raised, had made it and was changing the music game. I played ’Ye’s sophomore CD in my car every time I cruised up and down Lake Shore Drive. I even recall driving slow on Stony Island with my system cranked, while on my way home.
The album is so Chicago and had major world appeal at the same time. With features from DeRay Davis, Lupe Fiasco, GLC, Common, Malik Yusef and Really Doe strategically placed on and around tracks with Adam Levine, Jamie Foxx, Paul Wall, Gil Scott Heron (via sample on “My Way Home”), The Game, Patti LaBelle (“Roses”), Brandy, Nas, Cam’ron and Consequence — an not to mention the music videos for all the singles that were so creative and artistic — you a saw glimpse of what was to come years later from Yeezy’s musical genius.
The quality of production, the beats, the lyrics were just some of the many things that helped motivate this kid coming from the South Side of Chicago, helping me dream and exposing me to the world beyond my very own Truman Show. It taught me to seek more in life and laid out the fact that anything is possible, and how to not just live and die without going for mine. Thanks Ye, for “taking these muthaf—kas back to school” and beyond.
Rahman Dukes, VP, Programming & News/Digital/Social Media: I remember first listening to Kanye’s Late Registration album. I was upstate N.Y. at my parents house listening to it on my friend’s car system outside of the crib. I have a close relationship with Kanye. I was around for a lot of the recording of his first album. We were friends before and throughout his success, he blew up so crazy that I was curious to see how he would top the first one. I remember him telling me that every album he would release would get better. And he was right.
One of the songs I first recognized that made it to the second album was “Hey Mama.” Kanye actually had that in the stash when he first played me a bunch of other records such as “Jesus Walks.” To me _Late_is probably Kanye’s best album. The school theme, “Jon Brion on the keys,” everything was well planned out. He took the mascot to a whole ‘nother level. We went to the listening session and Kanye had us sit second row at the event. It was a great time for all of us.
The true gem on Late was “We Major.” I thought Really Doe killed it, but when I first heard Nas on that record I was floored. It really showed how much of a genius Kanye was and I was beyond impressed yet again with Nas and LOVED the potential of their collaborations in the future. The collabo with Cam was nothing short of magic as well. Looking back now, the album is really special considering “Hey Mama” and everything that happened with Kanye’s mom. I know how much she meant to him, as all moms are. But Late was the first album where you could see Kanye really start to stretch his creative vision that you see apparent today from his music to his shows to his clothing. Loved this album, but more importantly glad to be a part of history with a cool cat, who happens to be a friend of mine. Props, Kanye!
Ralph Bristout, Senior Writer: He stretched the game out, etched out the big names, and altogether slapped a huge G.O.O.D. Music stamp over it for all to see. Nothing was the same after Kanye West’s Late Registration. Sounding better than hea…, ahem, heaven hymns on a Sunday afternoon, this album reimagined the musical landscape with its grandiosity (There was 20-piece orchestra enlisted for “Celebration”), its visionary brio (influenced by “that Coldplay, Portishead, Fiona Apple style”), and sheer greatness (incorporating recorded vocals from Bill Withers, Curtis Mayfield and Etta James).
Opening with the awakening, DeRay Davis-voiced “Wake Up Mr. West” intro and closing with a near MJ-like vanishing act via the closing seconds of “Gone,” Kanye had not only obliterated the glass bar set forth with College Dropout, but he transfigured the scattered shards into an unfettered (and ambitious pop) masterstroke that was just as much a testament to his genius as it was a time stamp for Generation Y, a group excited to take chances, but forever seeking a reason to believe that the sky isn’t the limit, but the view. Between the album’s beginning-and-end marks is an hour and 10 minutes of triumphal autobiography (“Heard Em Say,” “Touch the Sky”), bold experimentation (“Diamonds,” “Gold Digger”), heart-warming reflection (“Roses,” “Hey Mama”) and its auteur’s covetous attempt at landing his own chair near the King of Pop’s throne. Hell, the guy even had Jay Z and Nas featured on the same album in the aftermath of “Takeover” vs. “Ether.”
“I’ve always wanted to sound like I was rapping at the top of the mountain,” Ye would tell _Billboard in 2005. “I wanted to change the sound of music.” Like Hans Zimmer’s touch on 1994’s “The Lion King,” Michael Jordan during Game 5 of the 1991 NBA Finals, and Portishead’s epic introduction on Dummy, Ye staked his claim, made his lane and, all in all, changed the game.