Today we’re taking it back to the days when I wasn’t allowed to listen to hip hop and would plug my headphones into my boombox, turn on Hot 96.3, and wait for “Gold Digger” to come on. That’s right: we’re going back to this week in 2005 when Kanye West released his sophomore album Late Registration. The same year we all began popping the collars on our polos was the same year that we were introduced to a girl who not only finessed a baby out of Busta, but also used to fuck with Usher, and now gets that steady flow of cash from ‘Ye himself. To celebrate this magical time when somehow Adam Levine got a Kanye feature, I’m taking it upon myself to pick what I believe to be the best line from each track on this album (skits excluded because that will make me far too nostalgic for this era of hip hop, and also because all of the skits on this album are incredibly important and would just have to be included in full).
1. Let’s kick it off with “Heard ‘Em Say” which oddly features Adam Levine who at the time they had to specify on the single cover was a member of Maroon 5.
And I know the government administer AIDS, so I guess we just pray like the minister say.”
It’s been discussed previously in an interview with Rolling Stone that Kanye’s family taught him that AIDS was a disease that was created and controlled by the government and therefore they had the ability to use it to infect those that they found “undesirable”, which to Kanye meant those of those of the black community and homosexual community were targets for this modern day eugenics. The second line serves as a call back to the first line and the idea of being helpless due to the color of your skin, but it is also a play on words because not only does Kanye think that people need to pray, he also believes that the government sees him as prey solely because of the color of his skin and impoverished upbringing.
2. Of course, “Touch the Sky” comes next, and while it is an undisputed classic, there aren’t many great stand alone lines. However, there’s still one that stands out to me every time.
Baby, I’m going on an airplane and I don’t know if I’ll be back again”
There’s nothing that stands out about this lyrically, BUT the way the change of flow breaks up the beat in the middle of the second verse is so refreshing and one of my favorite parts of this album.
3. Even my mom knows this song. That’s right, we’ve made it to “Gold Digger”. Arguably the biggest commercial success of Kanye’s career, the song isn’t even that great, but every man I know can relate.
I know there’s dudes ballin’, and yeah that’s nice. And they gonna keep callin’ and tryin’, but you stay right girl and when you get on he’ll leave your ass for a white girl.”
This line comes in the final verse where the gold digger is out with a guy who forgets his wallet and has to go in the back and start working in order to pay for their dinner. The point here isn’t so much to do with race, but rather the fact that the baller’s desire to have a trophy wife is the same as the gold digger’s desire to marry a rich man. Ye is encouraging her here to stay right with the man that is a hard worker, and forget about the man with the Maybach because he’s just going to leave you for a video vixen anyway.
4. “Drive Slow” comes to signal the end of the first 1/4 of the album with some sage advice.
When see them hoes, lil homie, drive slow.”
The entire song here is all about Kanye’s childhood friend Mali who was quite the player and even ended up with an unplanned child. Kanye admits in the earlier verse that he was a virgin at the time he was rolling with Mali, and this line is just Mali telling him to slow his roll, enjoy life, enjoy the view of fine honeys, and not rush in order to keep ‘Ye from ending up in the same situation as him. This is a simple line that we can all look back at on to be reminded that some things are worth the work and the wait.
5. Kanye simply produced this song and doesn’t actually even have any verse on it, but I love that Common makes a reference to my favorite rap opera to reference a bad relationship when “Trapped in the Closet” hadn’t even been released yet, so I’m just going to go ahead and include that, even in this very problematic time for R. Kelly.
Got me trapped like R. Kell”
6. Moving on to a song that Kanye is actually on, we now arrive at “Crack Music”.
How the Mexicans say, we just tryin’ party holmes”
So this is a song that, as a white woman, I don’t feel comfortable commentating on any of the crack commentary or conspiracies because it is not a part of my experience. However, the line quoted above is actually so genius. As a stand alone line, it makes no sense, no one is getting this tattooed on their bicep, but in the context of the song, it’s so smart. Kanye absolutely butchers using Spanish in the verse before, so this is a call-back to his fuck up and a play on the word “homie”: SMART RAP.
7. In 2017, we’re well aware that there’s not much more on this earth that Kanye loves more than his family, but we get our first glimpse in to how deep that love runs, and how much he wishes to protect their privacy, on Late Registration. “Roses” tells the story of when Kanye’s grandmother was ill in the hospital and his emotions at that time.
You know the best medicine go to the people that paid. If Magic Johnson got a cure for AIDS and all the broke motherfuckers passed away, You telling me if my grandma’s in the NBA, right now she’d be okay? But since she was just a secretary, worked for the church for 35 years… Things ‘sposed to stop right here?”
I’m going to go ahead and assume that you’re aware of Magic Johnson, his AIDS diagnosis, and his ability to live comfortably for over 26 years with the disease due to the resources that his wealth allows. In the line highlighted above, Kanye begins to wonder if his wealth will allow for his grandmother to be able to be saved. He finds it ironic that a professional athlete is able to receive better medical treatment than a woman who dedicated her life to the church, something that ‘Ye and his family find very important.
8. “Bring Me Down” is really just Kanye stroking his own ego and looking down on all the wack wannabes surrounding him… Surprise. Surprise.
Your girl don’t like me? How long has she been gay?”
This line isn’t exceptional lyrically, but it’s so stereotypical Kanye that it absolutely had to be included in my list of the top lines. Kanye is just assuming here that any girl who is not attracted to him, regardless of her relationship status, must just not be attracted to men. This is the confidence I aspire to have in regards to my looks.
9. Honestly “Addiction” has one of my favorite Kanye hooks of this album, if not of his entire discography. However, that’s not where I believe that the best line lies.
She’s coming over so I guess that means I’m her drugs. Just let me peek now. I mean damn, I’m so curious”
Here’s where we get to see my favorite version of Kanye: the double entendre Ye. The entire song, if you couldn’t tell by the title, is about Kanye’s addictions which he considers to be money, girls, and weed. Here Kanye plays on the world “peek/peak” to refer to wanting to peek under the girl that he’s addicted to’s pants and wanting to hit the peak of his high. Not his best work, but still an example of what I love the most about him.
10. OK FUCK. YEAH. “Diamonds from Sierra Leone” is the collaboration between Jay Z and Kanye that I looked back on during the hype leading up to “Watch the Throne” and said “this is going to be revolutionary”. This is literally a song about how it’s so wrong that they spend the money they make off of drugs, the thing that kills their people, on blood diamonds, the thing that kills many people from Sierra Leone. It’s one of the many political stances Kanye takes on this album, which came out around the same time Kanye took the biggest political stance of his career.
People asking me is I gonn’ give my chain back? That’ll be the same day I give the game back.”
First and foremost, on the very surface of this lyric, Kanye is saying that he does care about the blood diamond issue, but doesn’t care about it enough to actually do anything about it beyond make a track. Knowing where his diamonds came from doesn’t mean that he’s going to throw his chain, a symbolic piece of ice, into the garbage. He’s saying that he owns his chain like he owns the rap game and isn’t letting go of any of them any time soon. This line also serves to say that Kanye, at the time, wasn’t going to be leaving Roc-a-Fella any time soon. There is an iconic chain that all artists who sign with Roc get and Kanye is telling everyone that he won’t be giving his back until he gives the game back.
11. This is the song I always listen to when I get on the bus 10 minutes before I’m supposed to be in class… That’s right: we’ve made it to “Late”.
I ain’t thought of no line that could rhyme with that.”
ICONIC. That’s pretty much all I have to say.
12. Don’t worry… Common is back for “Back to Basics”.
I’m Chi as buck fifty’s and Pelle Pelle leathers…”
This track isn’t even very good, it’s simplistic lyrically, but I love anyone who is proud to be from the city that they’re from and there’s no doubt that Kanye is proud to be from Chicago. Here he refers to two trends in the Midwest at the time: those corny ass buck-fifty hats and the ever bougie Pelle Pelle jackets with the furs around the neck. These styles are notoriously from Chicago, just like the man himself.