If you were born between 2002 and 2005, your memories of Kanye West likely begin at his The Life of Pablo or Ye albums, the Kardashian clan, his ongoing quest to become a secular rapper and his current run for president. But long before he was Yeezus, the Chicago rapper was creating one of the most lauded album series in hip-hop. The College Dropout, his debut album in 2004, proved Kanye was more than a respected producer behind the boards; he was a hit-making rapper with lyrical substance that deserved his flowers. A year later came the LP’s follow-up, Late Registration, in 2005. The sophomore album served as the first No. 1-selling project of his career and set the tone for plenty more chart-topping results.
Kanye delivered this audio excellence in the form of introspective singles, hilarious skits, dope guest features (Jay-Z, Nas, Lupe Fiasco, Paul Wall, Adam Levine and Jamie Foxx, among others) and transcendent production that left the then-28-year-old MC $600,000 in debt. Late Registration certainly lived up to the hype, deading any sophomore slump murmurs. As the second work in ’Ye’s education-themed trilogy, Late Registration relied on his production savvy to craft some of the most stellar beats of his career. The celebratory, triumphant horns of “Touch the Sky” featuring Lupe Fiasco, the jazz-infused, slow groove of “Drive Slow” with Paul Wall and GLC and the stellar “Gold Digger,” full of handclaps, an interpolation of Ray Charles’ “I Got a Woman” and scratches courtesy of DJ Atrak.
And the lyrical skills matched the top-tier quality of the production, too. Whether he was keeping it real about money-grubbing women from a male’s point of view on “Gold Digger,” bringing attention to the horrors of conflict diamonds on “Diamonds From Sierra Leone (Remix)” or visions from a Black American facing a system designed to keep him down on “Heard ’Em Say,” Kanye was talking that talk.
In honor of the 15-year anniversary of Late Registration on Aug. 30, nearly two decades after the album’s release, XXL found a few college students entering their freshman year who had never heard the album before. Here, students from University of Missouri-Columbia, Howard University, University of Albany, Syracuse University and Lehigh University give their candid first impressions of Kanye West’s Late Registration after a first listen. This is their own late registration to Kanye’s class.
Hit the gallery below to see what these first-year college freshmen have to say about one of ’Ye’s best albums.
These College Students Listen to Kanye West’s Late Registration Album for the First Time