Album: Late Registration

Late Registration's lead single, Kanye West's first big statement as a solo artist following the stunning success of The College Dropout, is bursting with brilliance. You can almost feel a young star letting loose with everything he'd been waiting to say about the state of his life and career. And somehow the 40 bar verse that closes the track feels so urgent, and yet carefully constructed, that breaking it up with a chorus for the sake of radio play would've done everybody a disservice.

Goring accustomed his burgeoning reputation as pop music's l'enfant terrible, he speaks frankly about his obsession with awards, his tantrums, and his loyalty to the faltering dynasty that birthed his career. You just know that when Jay heard that line about "a man with the power to make a diamond with his bare hands," he was made he'd never thought it up himself. Al Shipley