The College Dropout – Kanye West (2004)

Verdict – 8.9


The debut album by the American hip hop artist and producer Kanye West underwent constant scrutiny and judgment due to record labels being unconvinced on West’s lyrical and rapping ability. As explained on the narrative closer, the process was incredibly frustrating and difficult for the confident young star, and after a long haul, The College Dropout was released, and this paved the way for one of music’s new legends. The production (handled by West, who reached fame through his contributions on The Blueprint) is soulful, melodic and almost always flawless, showcasing his now-signature sample work. Choosing to discuss family, religion, personal struggles over the generally-accepted gangster persona, he distanced himself from others from the off.

On true opener, We Don’t Care, the brash audacity of West is clear, using a choir of children to sing about, “drug dealing just to get by.” The production is amongst the best off the album on this track. The album’s best track, Jesus Walks, is arguably his best ever song, declining all accepted-accessibility, whilst endorsing Christianity, the song is brave, bold and brilliant. A defining moment for hip hop in general, and will go down as one of the best songs of its time. The crowd anthem, Get Em High, is a song where West, Talib Kweli and Common show their skills as they spit tight verses over a thumping beat. The New Workout Plan is simply ridiculous (in a good way though), featuring a crazy southern beat whilst having West advising girls to eat less and to have sex more (with him preferably).

Album highlight Slow Jamz, has Jamie Foxx crooning over the mic and West steadying the tempo, before Twista demonstrates his abilities as a rapper. Breathe in Breathe Out features the now popular lyric, “Even though I went to college and dropped out of school quick, I always had a Ph.D; a Pretty Huge Dick.” The track that effectively launched his career and one of the standouts, Through the Wire, using a stellar sample and production with West speaking about his life-threatening car crash and the effects it had on him. Literally rapping ‘through the wire’, admiration followed with critical and commercial success not far behind.

Maybe the record is a bit overlong, with the skits and closer maybe losing its undeniable charm after repeated listens. Yes, some of the over collaborated and larger songs are not as strong as others on the album. However, there is so much to admire on the album that some things can be overlooked slightly. For downright hip hop fans, this will be their favourite Kanye album, one displaying such youthful rawness and honesty that made West so likeable and interesting. One of, if not the, hip hop album of the decade.

Top Songs – Jesus Walks, Slow Jamz, Through the Wire


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