Roc-A-Fella – 2005 –72 minutes
Kanye West is everywhere. His magnificent debut, 'The College Dropout', was one of the best hip-hop albums of the past five years; his production credits for Talib Kweli, John Legend and, most memorably, Common (the lion's share of his glowing 'Be' album) are top-notch; and he's even waded into the post-Katrina debate with a televised savaging of George W Bush.
His style is sample-based and classic, mostly referencing the golden age of 1970s soul (Curtis Mayfield on 'Touch the Sky') and occasionally dipping even further back, as on the Ray Charles stylings of 'Gold Digger'.
For his second album, he's enlisted the help of Jon Brion, renowned pianist, producer and the man behind Aimee Mann's soundtrack for the film 'Magnolia'. The marriage of Badly Drawn Boy's producer and the street sensibilities of Nas and The Game sounds impossible, but it definitely works.
'Drive Slow' enlists Houston sensation Paul Wall who chips in a cough syrup-paced coda to the main song's lively, jazzy loops, dragging the bright, uptempo vibes down into the blitzed messiness beloved of the South's chopped'n'screwed scene.
Occasionally the samples are a bit too obvious (that Mayfield loop, 'Diamonds Are Forever') but 'Late Registration' boasts all the confidence of its protagonist, a slick, polished celebration of decades of American black music, packaged to appeal to both street kids and apartment-dwelling yuppies. Irresistible.
Tracklisting: Wake Up Mr West - Heard 'Em Say - Touch the Sky - Gold Digger - Skit #1 - Drive Slow - My Way Home - Crack Music - Roses - Bring Me Down - Addiction - Skit #2 - Diamonds from Sierra Leone (Remix) - We Major - Skit #3 - Hey Mama - Celebration - Skit #4 - Gone - Diamonds from Sierra Leone - We Can Make It Better - I'll Be Late For That