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Kanye West – Late Registration

14 09 2010

Listened: Friday August 20

Every time I listen to a Kanye West album I’m surprised that I love it so much. He talks about things I don’t personally experience (dropping out of college, pot smoking, being a successful/unsuccessful black man in America), but he does it in such a way that I both shake my ass and nod my head at how spot on target his lyrics are.

The standouts for me on Late Registration are Gold Digger and Hey Mama.

Gold Digger is a crazy-catchy song that is both cynical and making fun of its cynicism. The cutting lyrics never seem bitter, just hysterically true. I also remember loving the video the first time I saw it. It turned rap videos on their heads – it’s a video full of hot women wiggling their goodies, just like every other rap video. The difference is the ultra stylized look of acknowledged fantasy situations (the girls are posing as soft focus, old-fashioned pin-up models in magazines) versus the hyper-realistic style, in-your-face, close-up booty shaking party of usual rap videos, which sell fantasy as reality.

Whenever I hear the beginning vocal sample of Hey Mama, I always feel myself get a little emotional. Hey Mama is one of the best love letters to a mom I have ever heard and the excellent production really helps hammer that home. It’s so heart-wrenching to hear a son plainly say how much he appreciates everything his mom did for him growing up and how much he loves and respects her and how much he wants her to be proud of him.

To know that she died unnecessarily after this song was released gives it a painful edge (his mother died during plastic surgery her primary doctor told her not to have because of the risks). The successful, smart, amazing woman described in this song still felt the need to get plastic surgery despite all her successes and was willing to risk her life for it? It makes me think about the pressure successful women must still feel about their appearance and how having enough money to make any wish reality can have serious repercussions, for anyone.

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