NEW YORK — Kanye West’s second album hasn’t even come out yet, but he’s already got a release date ready for his third LP and a title set for the fourth.
During Wednesday night’s listening session for Late Registration, Kanye revealed that album number three, entitled Graduation, will come out in October 2006. He explained that the title of his fourth full-length (no release date for that one yet) is named after what everyone seeks after they graduate: A Good Ass Job.
West himself hasn’t done too shabbily with his present professions, excelling as a producer, label CEO and hip-hop performer. Since his rapping came to the forefront, he’s emerged as one of genre’s most successful artists — and admits that he may have occasionally tooted his own horn louder than some people would have liked (see “Kanye Previews New LP, Modestly Exclaims: ‘This Is Killing Everything Out There!’ “ ).
“I talk so much sh–, of course [the media asks], ‘Oh man, can he do it again?” Kanye said, standing on a small stage at Sony studios for his Late Registration listening session.
If you remember the historic listening session of 2004 — not historic in the groundbreaking sense, like DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince winning rap its first Grammy, but more in a memorable sense, as those in attendance will never forget Kanye’s speech or his performance of “Get Em High” with Common — you know that he takes pride in sharing his art with listeners (see “Common, John Mayer Drop In To Preview Kanye West’s Dropout“ ). This time he did so on a larger scale, with people like Jay-Z, Talib Kweli and L.A. Reid in attendance. West played his album for over 300 people, told the story behind each track and even held a question-and-answer session afterwards.
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“We’re here for a special event,” Jay-Z said before introducing his friend. “This is Kanye’s sophomore album. I said on a lot of records that Kanye is a genius, and I wasn’t just freestyling. I really meant that.”
“There’s nothing that they would love more than me to come subpar so they could find something wrong,” Kanye, dressed in a blazer and jeans, said of the media. “I’m not putting nothing out unless I can talk my sh–. I want to give y’all something that y’all will remember.”
West certainly did it the first time with The College Dropout, creating a classic LP out of a collection of songs as diverse as the colors of Polo shirts in his Louis Vuitton suitcase. And you can’t accuse Kanye of coming with the same old thing on Late Registration, either. What other MC would talk about blood diamonds the way West does on the “Diamonds From Sierra Leone” remix (see ” ‘Diamonds’ Remix: Kanye Raps About Rocks, Jay Raps About Roc” )?
When he accuses the government of flooding the black community with drugs and calls AIDS a man-made disease, West isn’t saying anything we haven’t heard before, but he’s in a small group of current rappers who will touch political subject matter. Whether you agree with the lyrics Ye drops on “Crack Music” or not, he’s making it clear that he has something on his mind other than sleeping with a groupie, blasting another MC to smithereens or riding in a car with suicide doors.
“Crack Music” is an instant motivator. You feel like you have to move your head when West and the track’s guest star the Game start yelling, “That’s that crack music n—a!/ That real black music n—a!”
“Whatever happened to making that black music n—a?” Kanye asked the crowd. “It’s certain people that get certain accolades, and they forget. This song, ‘Crack Music,’ has a few layers because it says that this is the music that’s made from the crack generation.”
“You hear that?” he asks on the song. “What was Gil Scott hearin’?/ Why our heroes and heroines got hooked on heroin?”
“I started [thinking], if I was to make a song about [crack], I wanted to start where my parents told me it started,” West said, explaining the record’s origins. ” ‘How we stop the Black Panthers?/ Ronald Reagan cooked up the answer.’ You say, ‘Ronald wasn’t even the president at the time,’ but he was the governor of [California] when the CIA conspired to bring down the Black Panther Party. It goes back to artists being on the chitterling circuit and labels giving them drugs to lull them over and not be focused on their business. Crack was placed in the black community, used to separate the groups who were to protect us from police brutality and racism at the time.”
West does floss hard on Late Registration — he even has record called “Celebration” — but strikes a balance on the LP.
“Heard ‘Em Say,” which features Maroon 5′s Adam Levine, is another track that follows Kanye’s contemplative political path.
“So this is in the name of love like Robert say/ Before you ask me to go get a job today/ Can I at least get a raise from minimum wage?/ And I know the government administered AIDS/ So I guess we just pray like the government say.”
“I had to fight with myself ’cause he’s so good, yet he’s so popular,” the Chicago native said about working with Levine. “The popularity takes away from the illness of having him. Like I have Lupe Fiasco [on a Late Registration track] ’cause I feel he’s one of the best MCs coming out, but nobody knows about him yet. So if I put him on, that’s ill. That’s keeping it real.
“Then it’s like, ‘Kanye has a song with Adam Levine?” West continued. “It just seems so post-Grammy … but [Adam's] so ill! His voice sounds like a f—ing instrument. The only other dude that has a voice like that is Akon.”
West said he and Levine actually decided which song they would do while on a flight to Rome.
“I played him the song,” West explained. “He said, ‘I got a song just like that, but I don’t know if my fans will like that because it’s a little R&B. But I want to do a record like that.’ He already had the chorus. I used to play that song for people, but girls never liked the song. … Adam laid his vocals to that, girls start liking the record and it’s the [third] single.”
Each record that Kanye played, from “Drive Slow” with Paul Wall and GLC to “Bring Me Down” with Brandy, received such a positive reaction that he played a record he planned to debut on Funkmaster Flex’s New York radio show. The track — one of Jay-Z’s favorites — is called “We Major” and features Nas.
Nas raps, “I love to give my blood sweat and tears to the mic/ So y’all cop the LPs and fiends got helped/ I’m like Jesse Jackson on the balcony when King got killed/ I survived the livest n—as around …”
West actually shared the production duties on this album with Fiona Apple collaborator Jon Brion. West needed to find a richer sound and is thoroughly excited with what Brion was able to help him put forth.
Toward the end of the listening session, West reiterated that he stands 100 percent behind his latest work.
“I’m not finnin’ to put nothing out unless I can talk sh– afterwards.”
Late Registration is due in stores August 30. The next single from the LP is “Gold Digger,” featuring Jamie Foxx.
Check out “In The Lab With Kanye” for an inside look at the LP’s creation.