Let me add my voice to the early praises of Kanye West's new album “Late Registration.” Pitchfork and RollingStone have already given the album a 9.5 or 5 stars respectively, and while both publications have their faults, they got this album right.
I haven't listened the album that much yet, it hasn't even come out yet. But wow. At first listen it is more compelling than “The College Dropout.” There is an intensity and urgency to this album that wasn't present on his last album, and is rare on second albums.
Second albums tend to be comprised of songs that didn't make the first album. I ideally like to wait until the third album to really judge a band. It is the third album that cemented Radiohead's and The Clash's legacy for example, and probably killed Counting Crows' and Pearl Jam's. Though admittedly, the current state of the music industry doesn't really allow for this yardstick to be used.
I tend to think of the rap genre as more of a single based art form. There are not many rap albums that I think work as a complete album, and they are the predictable ones: “It Takes a Nation of Millions”, “The Low End Theory”, and “Illmatic” come to mind. This album has to be added to that list. This album has the guy from Maroon 5 on it, and I still like it, that is how good Kanye is.
I hope to get a real review in soon after a few more listens, but you really need to get on BitTorrent right now.