[Art via Instagram]
Say what you will about the man, but Kanye West has been one of the most important artists of the millennium. 10 years ago, Kanye helped solidify this status by releasing his second classic album in as many tries, Late Registration. Though the project didn’t reach the same groundbreaking heights as his debut, The College Dropout, and it's considered by some as Ye’s least classic, classic album, Late Registration showed that he had a lot more to offer, that he could grow, and that this generation would be the Kanye generation.
The album’s undeniable hit single, “Gold Digger,” will always be burned into my memory as the soundtrack for awkward adolescent grinding during middle school dances, as well as a song that even non-rap fans could recite at least half the words to. But Late Registration was about far more than warning the about-to-be-married-world that a pre-nup was something that you should have. At its core, like all Kanye albums, it was a highly introspective work, one that seamlessly blended addictive hits with personal revelations and social commentary.
To commemorate the ten-year anniversary, here’s a look at six of the most memorable lyrics from the album.
"I’m trying to right my wrongs / but it’s funny them same wrongs helped me write this song."
It shouldn’t surprise anyone to hear that Kanye West has his flaws. But unlike what his critics would have us believe, he is both very conscious of his own shortcomings and of the fact that they allow him to create music that nobody else can. Set to the horns of “Touch the Sky,” Kanye is mainly focused on his cheating ways here, but his lyrics strike deep and help explain why he is such a paradoxical and polarizing figure on a larger level.
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"When our heroes and heroines got hooked on heroin / crack raised the murder rate in D.C. and Maryland. / We invested in that, I guess we got Merrill Lynched / and we been hanging from the same tree ever since."
While the entirety of “Crack Music” is unforgettable, these lyrics set the tone. In addition to the spectacular flow with which he glides over the words - especially the first line - Kanye encapsulates the effects of the drug epidemic on the black community in a four-line Shakespearian tragedy, driving the point home with wordplay that is both clever and visceral. Every time I hear these lyrics, it’s a kick to the stomach.
"You know the best medicine go to people that's 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?"
In “Roses,” Kanye links his very personal anguish at the near loss of his grandmother to a far broader rage at a broken, unfair system. While it may seem a little over the top, it is this bluntness and willingness to speak his mind that has kept Kanye in our heads and our headphones.
"There’ll always be haters, that’s the way it is. / Hater n*ggas marry hater bitches and have hater kids."
This is one of the most Kanye lines ever (and, also, it’s just good science). He may be trying to right his wrongs on "Bring Me Down," but no matter how hard he tries, he knows he’ll always have haters. So Kanye, who has always been true to himself and has spoken his mind, says fuck ‘em.
"Over here it’s the drug trade, we die from drugs / Over there they die from what we buy from drugs."
Sometimes simplicity is a virtue. And in these two lines from “Diamonds From Sierra Leone (Remix),” Kanye deftly turns complex to simple. He shrinks the world and shows us how all the pieces fit together, effortlessly connecting the drug trade and consumer culture of the United States with the atrocities surrounding conflict diamonds in Africa. In short, it’s the work of a master.
Bonus: "I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man."
Alright. So we all know that this is JAY Z line from "Diamonds From Sierra Leone (Remix)." But come on, the dude just accurately summed up his career and the Roc-A-Fella philosophy in a few words. And it’s no coincidence that one of Hov’s most famous, jaw-dropping lines came on a Kanye track. I mean, really, what more can I say?
These are just six classic lines from an album filled with memorable lyrics. Which line has stuck with you the most over the last 10 years?
[By Spencer Schmider. This is his Twitter.]