Music

Ahead of his time: Fifteen years later, Kanye West’s Late Registration is as relevant as ever

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Kanye West’s unmistakable tones pitter-patter off the auditory cortex like rain drops on a stormy night. This particular storm made waves on this day in 2005, but its themes continue to hold true in the test of time.

Late Registration was, still is and will forever be an instant classic, Ye as his full, unabashed, unapologetic, politically incorrect self. Fifteen years after his sophomore album’s release, his words are as thought-provoking and forward-thinking as ever — he even hints at his own presidential bid.

West heard ‘em say ‘nothing’s ever promised tomorrow or today,’ so he seized the moment, turning his project into a platform, a blank canvas for his revolutionary and jarring thoughts.

“I’m ahead of my time, sometimes years out,” he raps on the outro, ‘Late.’ “So the powers that be won’t let me get my ideas out.”

Ye is registering his audience for school, but the timeless piece is more than just a masterclass in storytelling and music production. West takes the gloves off. His lyrics are an outpouring of his soul, an emotional, spiritual, frustrating and, at times, comical account of his journey to touch a sky full of riches, roses and diamonds — including the pitfalls along the way.

Late Registration is your textbook rollercoaster, and West is a historian, comedian and certified stunter all in one. But his message remains consistent from start to finish.

Ye uses his platform, setting the tone for athletes 15 years later. He implores his audience to wake up to the harsh realities he and those around him endured. West tackled mental health before it became a public talking point and minced no words when attacking social issues, like access to health care, wage gaps and poverty.

A decade-and-a-half later to the day, those realities still exist. In fact, they are magnified under the lens of the Black Lives Matter movement. Ye makes it clear: It doesn’t matter how major you are, or if you drive slow on your way home: Being Black in America is an endless cycle, a cycle the country is striving to break free from 15 years later, when names and lives of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Jacob Blake have been reduced to hashtags.

“God how could you let this happen,” Ye raps on ‘Crack Music.’

Running Late Registration back 15 years later is a dreamy trip down memory lane. Jay-Z, Lupe Fiasco, Jamie Foxx, Common, The Game, Cam’Ron and even Patti LaBelle pop out for cameo appearances on one of West’s signature projects.

The project ultimately went certified triple platinum, selling nearly 900,000 copies in its first week and two million more over time. So much has changed since the album’s release — we don’t even digest our music the same way.

But listening to this project on its 15-year anniversary is a reminder: As far as we’ve come, we still have so much further to go. The issues West raps so eloquently yet forcefully on have been repackaged in 2020, folded under a movement led by those who’ve had enough.

This is the Kanye the world fell in love with. Even in 2020, Late Registration couldn’t have been more on time.

Kristian writes about basketball, food and entertainment on the Internet, and in print. Here is his Ground Rule No. 1: No pineapples allowed on pizza. He has spent entirely too much money on sneakers this calendar year and believes his hometown of Brooklyn, NY is the best borough in the best city on the planet. He also makes one hell of an empanada. You can follow Kristian on all socials @Krisplashed, — unless you’re a perpetual Ground Rule-breaker. Then you must stay far, far away.