Kanye West fulfilled the promise of his expansive ambition and touched the sky with the musical medicine of this shining sophomore spectacular. The blockbuster success of his debut album 'The College Dropout' had raised expectations for the followup. He decided to change things up by bringing in soundtrack composer Jon Brion. West would relate: "People tried to put pressure on me, but I wouldn't accept it. They try to overwhelm me with the comments, like 'sophomore slump' and all that, but all I did was work through it ... I actually wanted to work with [Jon Brion] so I could be like the rap version of [Fiona Apple]. That was one of my main goals. The albums that inspired me for Late Registration were [her] first one, Tidal and Portishead's Dummy, but especially [Fiona's] lyrics and how [she] sing[s]...One thing that I like to do is use words that have never actually been used in a rap song before. I also like to take words that have negative connotations and show their real meaning. Like the word "pop." This is a pop album, but pop has a negative connotation if you're a "real artist." The title of The College Dropout--that's what that was. What is so negative about dropping out of college? Why do we automatically shun people who drop out of school?"
Brion relates: “It was completely apparent that he was open to investigating new ideas. I was playing something on a track and he was completely psyched, and then he left after a few hours and said, ’I’ll see you tomorrow.’ ... When he hears something he likes, he knows it. He has vision, and when the guy makes quick, intuitive decisions, he just has it. I’d watch him take a rough track that I had worked on and completely stand it on its head in 10 minutes — and it’s just better. It was mind-boggling...On your sophomore record, that’s the ultimate time to not fuck with the formula, right? And he gets me — a guy who has never made a hip-hop record in his life — and gives me half the reins? That is not an egomaniac...There are colors and ideas that make [the album] different from average hip-hop, but Kanye is already different from the average hip-hop guy. He’s got this sense of pop record-making which is really solid, and he likes tracks with a lot of things going on in them — which is not necessarily common for hip-hop. He was already barking up that tree.”
Kanye West was the executive producer, primary artist, and producer of the project with Kyambo Joshua also listed as executive producer, Devo Springsteen also produced, handled strings, and vocals; producer Jon Brion did the brass arrangement and string arrangements; and Warryn Campbell and Just Blaze were producers as well. The project included several featured artists and vocalists: Paul Wall, Cam'ron, Brandy, Common, Consequence, Lupe Fiasco, The Game, GLC, Jay-Z, Adam Levine, Nas, Really Doe, Jamie Foxx, Tony Williams, Charlie Wilson, Keyshia Cole, DeRay Davis, and John Legend.
West says; "I didn't pick [the people I picked] because of their name or whether they're marketable; it was because their voices meant something to me. It did something to my soul when I heard them. I remember [Maroon 5's] Adam Levine voice, I remember being at the Grammys and right when the band opened up and they started singing, his voice sounded like a bird flying through the room. So, if anything, I would be anti-doing it -- I'm popular, he's popular, it only seems like something the label would put together. Brandy doesn't have an album out right now. It's not about 'Ok, let me get the hottest person out,' but her voice is classic, and when you hear it you know who it is. What she's singing was just so appropriate. Paul Wall, he hadn't even put an album out yet, but he's just a lyricist. Anybody on this album that was spittin' rhymes is a super lyricist, anybody that was singing was singing."
'Late Registration' matriculated to number fourteen in Australia and Germany; eleven in New Zealand; nine in Switzerland; four in Norway; three in Scotland; two in Ireland and the UK; and made its debut at number one in Canada and the US. It sold over a million copies in its first two weeks. The album was nominated for the Grammy for Album of the Year and won the Grammy for Best Rap Album. It also topped The Village Voice 's Pazz & Jop critics' poll. West would consider: "If I can go back and use this played-out word for a second, there's no bigger form of bling than this. There is nothing more stuntastic than rapping in front of an orchestra...I'll take opinions from anyone from Jay-Z to a janitor, and I might value the janitor's opinion more. I want it so no one can front on it. People say you can't please everyone all the time. I don't believe that. I think you can. I'm not like, 'Oh I'm Kanye West.' I'm like, 'Oh you don't like it? Oh wow!' To the point where I know you have to like it...Just having to speak to people and learn a different dialect. That's what I try with my music - this will affect more people if I word it like this...Maybe it is [because I want to be liked by everyone]. It's maybe the trademark of a show-off...Really good people like me are scared of falling off. I'm totally scared of falling off. Just imagine it. Just imagine if I woke up one day and I was wack. What would I do then?...I'm the closest that hip-hop is getting to God. In some situations I'm like a ghetto Pope...How ill is it to have someone that talks that much shit and then backs it up? And what if I didn't back it up? How exciting would that be, also? It's like I'm walking on this tightrope. It's like the reason why you go to a circus - it's more entertaining. It's like, damn, what if he falls? And if I do make it, it's like, damn, he made it! But either way you're saying 'damn'. Everybody else is just walking on the ground."
"Diamonds from Sierra Leone (Remix)" (featuring Jay-Z) was a top ten hit in the UK.
"Gold Digger" (featuring Jamie Foxx) became a number one smash hit in the Australia, New Zealand, and the US.
"Heard 'Em Say" (featuring Adam Levine)
"Touch the Sky" (featuring Lupe Fiasco)
"Drive Slow" (featuring Paul Wall & GLC)
All lyrics written by Kanye West.
1. "Wake Up Mr. West" Kanye West 0:41
2. "Heard 'Em Say" (featuring Adam Levine) Kanye West, Jon Brion* 3:23
3. "Touch the Sky" (featuring Lupe Fiasco) Just Blaze 3:57
4. "Gold Digger" (featuring Jamie Foxx) Kanye West, Jon Brion* 3:28
5. "Skit #1" 0:33
6. "Drive Slow" (featuring Paul Wall & GLC) Kanye West 4:32
7. "My Way Home" (featuring Common) Kanye West 1:43
8. "Crack Music" (featuring The Game) Kanye West, Jon Brion* 4:31
9. "Roses" Kanye West, Jon Brion* 4:05
10. "Bring Me Down" (featuring Brandy) Kanye West, Jon Brion* 3:18
11. "Addiction" Kanye West, Jon Brion* 4:27
12. "Skit #2" 0:31
13. "Diamonds from Sierra Leone (Remix)" (featuring Jay-Z) Kanye West, Jon Brion*, Devo Springsteen* 3:53
14. "We Major" (featuring Nas & Really Doe) Kanye West, Jon Brion*, Warryn Campbell* 7:28
15. "Skit #3" 0:24
16. "Hey Mama" Kanye West, Jon Brion* 5:05
17. "Celebration" Kanye West, Jon Brion* 3:18
18. "Skit #4" 1:18
19. "Gone" (featuring Cam'ron & Consequence) Kanye West 6:02
20. "Diamonds from Sierra Leone" (bonus track) Kanye West, Jon Brion*, Devo Springsteen* 3:58
21. "Late" (hidden track) Kanye West 3:50
"We Can Make It Better" (featuring Common, Q-Tip, Talib Kweli & Rhymefest) 3:52
"Back to Basics" (featuring Common) 1:39