It might seem like we talk a whole lot about 'Ye on this blog. It's not just because we were the first magazine to put him on the cover (although we were, punks), but simply the fact that dude is attempting to do genuinely creative things within the hip hop idiom without taking it to some Kanye 3000 space shit. His oft-entertaining egomania is just icing on the cake (when does the Oprah special air? We BEEN waiting!)
Anyway, the FADER team and a gang of other journos (and, uh, Mad Linx from Rap City) just got to preview some tracks off KW's new record. It kicked off with a viewing of the extra-dramatic "Diamonds From Sierra Leone" video. Hype Williams got his Euro cinematography on ("Look at the credits in Czech", Kanye exclaimed, "that's called attention to detail!), there were Phantom Of The Opera allusions at the end, and you'd have to be a jerk to not be a little impressed.
Subverting the crisp, black-and-white DeBeers commercial aesthetic? We're with that! But we already heard that song! (And the remix, too - complete with Jigga's unprompted, somewhat awkward confession that Memph Bleek is in his will.) We came to hear some new shit!
Fortunately, there was new shit to be had. And with the exception of underwhelming second single "Golddigger" - come on dude, those are just the "Get Em High" drums without a good chorus! - almost all of it was incredible. The Jon Brion influence is apparent from jump, and while Kanye isn't shy about his love for Brion's work (he even sang a few bars of Fiona Apple's "Sleep To Dream"!) you can't give too much credit to the soundtracker extrodinaire - fact is, Kanye is growing as an artist.
It's not just the jacked-up production values and more developed sense of melody. There are moments where you sense the Dropout is getting better as a lyricist, too, like on the ride-out track "Drive Slow"; before Paul Wall (yay!) and GLC (yawn!) talk about teeth and rims, respectively, Kanye drops a verse about riding around Chi-town with a dude he idolized through his teenage years, reflecting on being a gassed-up young kid filled with dreams and schemes. West usually tries too hard to be clever in his verses, but his wistful few bars on "Drive Slow" are filled with a surprising flair for flow and storytelling - a subtle lyrical maturity we didn't go into the listening session expecting.
(Plus, it helps that the "Drive Slow" instrumental is real dope, especially when it screws down on the outro.)
There's a couple more joints we can't wait to hear again, but we don't want to ruin the surprise for the rest of y'all by going into detail (plus, we went there for music and Hen-rock, not to take notes). Just know we're definitely bummed Late Registration got pushed back to August.