Knowing Kanye West as the disruptive, misunderstood, unpredictable personality he is today is nothing new to those that have been glued to his career since day one. I’ve come to realize that what ‘Ye sets his sights on, he doesn’t let up from until he conquers it. His production skills, for instance, which he fought to be acknowledged for until he became the most in-demand producer in Hip Hop. “Take Kweli or Quale and put him on songs with Jay Z, I’m the gap like Banana Republic and Old Navy,” he once bragged. And that’s when he was starting to command the respect of rap peers, all the while lacing them with some of the most soulful production we’d heard intertwined with rap. Sure, today he wants to conquer the fashion world, but my favorite version of ‘Ye was the one focused on being a full-time rap heavyweight. While College Dropout exemplified his rough-around-the-edges appeal, it was a rough draft to the polished inception of Late Registration; my favorite Kanye West album.
West’s signature ear for music was paired with multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, composer, and record producer Jon Brion, who provided the eventful backdrop to ‘Ye’s presentation. Late focused on Kanye’s development as a producer and rapper, and was a fine example of how well he works with his counterparts. Giving Common the freedom of his own solo on the Gil Scott-Heron sampled “My Way Home,” was selfless, pairing Cam’ron with the production of “Gone” was visionary, and adding Jay Z and Nas features back-to-back despite their on-going rivalry was ballsy as ever. Late Registration is what it looked like to have deep pockets.
“I put my money [into Late Registration]. I’m $600,000 in the hole right now on that album.”
Kanye’s always been vocal about how costly the process of making an album can be, and his sophomore album was no different. Opting to use live instrumentation and orchestra set this project far apart from anything out there at the time, but it looked like the most fun Kanye ever had when he performed the material on stage. With the album turning 11 today, we take a look back at the best performances from the Late era. And you are welcome.
Kanye West “Crack Music” & “Drive Slow” feat. GLC
As you’d imagine, many of Kanye’s performances from this era revolved heavily around the featuring of live orchestration, since it’s the recurring theme of the album. Here for his slew of Late Orchestration performances, he visits “Crack Music” sans Game, and “Drive Slow” with G.O.O.D Music artist at the time, GLC. What ever happened to him?
Kanye West feat. Consequence “Gone”
‘Ye, accompanied by Consequence, performed one of the album’s standout tracks “Gone,” of course backed by a live orchestra. Unfortunately, Cam’ron wasn’t there but it’s still a memorable performance.
Maroon 5 feat. Kanye West “Nothing Even Matters/Heard Em’ Say”
For their 45th At Night show, Maroon 5 performed a slew of their hits, but surprised the crowd by bringing out Kanye West for their Late Registration collab “Heard Em Say.” ‘Ye even kicks at impromptu freestyle at the end.
Kanye West “Touch The Sky” (Live from The Joint)
One of Just Blaze’s standout production tracks has to be “Touch The Sky.” He effortlessly floated with that one. ‘Ye performed “Touch The Sky” at The Joint in 2006, and although Lupe wasn’t present for his verse, Jamie Foxx made a fun appearance to keep the party going.
Kanye West “Bring Me Down” (Late Orchestration)
For “Bring Me Down” Kanye gives his all. Although seated for half of the performance, the energy is still felt throughout.
Kanye West “Roses” (MTV Life & Rhymes”)
Once upon a time, MTV had an amazing show titled Life & Rhymes, where they’d focus on the artist and their songs and have them break down the meaning of their lyrics to an on-looking crowd. Amazing concept. Here, Kanye gets introspective on the meaning behind “Roses,” a song about his grandmother that pulled through sickness with the help of her family.
Kanye West The Making of “Diamonds”
Sure this isn’t a performance, technically, but this rare video shows ‘Ye crafting what would go on to be his “Diamonds” record, and working on other tracks that ended up on the album.
Kanye West “Late” (Late Orchestration)
One of my favorite Kanye tracks of all time has to be “Late.” The simplicity, the vibe, and even some of the cheesy lyrics, are all part of why I love early ‘Ye. He flubs the lyrics here on more than one occurrence, but keeps the ball rolling.
Kanye West feat. Jamie Foxx “Gold Digger” (2005 VMAs)
Every time Jamie Foxx and Kanye performed this song, it was a sight to see. Here at the VMAs, Kanye and Jamie effortlessly killed this performance of “Gold Digger.”
Kanye West “Hey Mama” (MTV Life & Rhymes)
This one’s a tear jerker, but Kanye has always shown his admiration for his mother. So it made it all the more sweeter when the late Mrs. Donda West joined him on stage for his song dedication to her. She even joins in on the lyrics.