Each Kanye West album seems to show listeners a new vision the artist. His 2004 debut album, The College Dropout, was him showing that he’s more than Jay Z’s producer and that he’s just as talented on the mic as he is behind the boards.
The Chicago rhymer’s 2007 sophomore album, Graduation, was his “stadium record” with him at the top the mountain as one music’s premier musicians. 808s and Heartbreak was an emotional ride into West’s loneliness after the death his mother and his breakup with Alexis Phifer. On My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, ‘Ye addressed his critics as well as himself as he returned to the public eye after his controversial appearance at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards.
West’s 2011 collaborative album with Jay Z, Watch the Throne, was a victory lap sorts for both men as they cemented themselves as the voices a generation. His 2013 album Yeezus showed us an experimental, angry West who wanted to shock listeners and the music industry by making his music sound almost nothing like anything he had done before.
But where does Late Registration fall into that legacy? The album doesn’t seem to have as much an overarching statement as West’s previous works. If anything, it feels like a transitionary period from College Dropout to Graduation.
Thematically, it resembles The College Dropout and sonically it is somewhere between the soul-heavy Dropout and the larger-than-life Graduation. Yet, even if it may not be as entirely unique as West’s other albums, it deserves to be put on the same pedestal as all the rest. Depending on who is asked, Late Registration might even be considered his best effort.
The album shows West as he climbs to the top rap’s food chain, expanding his sound and innovating wherever he can. It is also perhaps the album where West provides his best verses. Everything is immaculate from the beats to the guest features to the skits.
Late Registration celebrates its 12th anniversary today (Aug. 30), which is a perfect time to revisit the album. Check out 10 Things We Learned from Kanye West’s Late Registration above.