Hip-hop stars aren't generally known for their modesty, but even so the arrogance of Kanye West borders on the breathtaking. It would be nice to report that his eagerly-awaited second album sees the egotistical rapper-producer fall flat on his face - the only problem is, it's actually rather brilliant. Backed up by a succession of irresistible hooks, clever samples and widescreen arrangements, he tackles big political and social issues with a verbal dexterity that makes most of his rivals look like loudmouth know-nothings. You've also got to admire the man's contacts book and diplomacy - getting sworn enemies Jay-Z and Nas to guest on the same record can't have been easy, and there's further contributions from such A-listers as Common and the Game. OK, so Late Registration isn't quite as good as West himself thinks it is - that would be impossible. But it's easily the best hip-hop album of the year so far.