THE COLLEGE DROPOUT
The College Dropout is my favourite album of all time. Alongside The Gorillaz Demon Dayz (2005), Dizzee Rascal Boy in da corner (2003), MF Doom & Madlib Madvillainy (2004) and N.E.R.D In search of (2001), The college dropout is my first recollection of hearing music. I still remember the way the physical DC looked. The iconic bear mascot on top of the burgundy background. I missed the golden era of Hip-Hop, albums such as The low-end theory, Ready to Die, ill matic and Reasonable doubt were all classic albums I didn't experience until 2010 onwards on the brink of becoming a teenager. However, I was born just in time to remember the emergence of early 2000's US Hip-Hop. The Era when Lil Wayne, 50 cent, Eminem and The Game were some of the hottest rappers, Pharell was the greatest producer and Kanye West was on the verge of becoming one of the most influential rappers of his generation.
Around a year ago, The Needle Drop uploaded a video ranking Kanye West albums from worst to best and by no surprise, The College Dropout was ranked the best album followed by my beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, two albums which are widely regarded as Kanye's best bodies of work with MBDTF being the closest to perfection the artists has reached thus far. In his video, Anthony describes the college dropout as "one of Kanye's best artistic statements in his entire discography" an argument which I agree with considering how lacklustre and underwhelming his two previous albums were (Yeezus) (TLOP). This got me thinking why is the College Dropout Kanye's best album for me and a lot of other fans. After re-listening to all seven solo albums, I began to break down the three key elements which make Kanye West albums so iconic. Substance, production and the impacts its had on Hip-Hop.
Substance - One of the most significant factors that made the College Dropout so iconic was the amount of substance the album had. By substance, I mean every track had a clear message behind the lyrics which caused the listeners to genuinely think about what Kanye was saying. From the story of a young black attempting to hide her insecurities through materialism on the track, 'All Falls Down'. The story of a young ambitious producer working a dead end retail job on ‘spaceship’. The story of a dysfunctional family attempting to get by on the little they have on ‘Family Business’ to the confused student whose too scared to tell his mother his dropped out of college on ‘Gradaction day’ each track has a relatable story. I believe the more fame he achieves the more he becomes disconnected with the
struggles of black people face in America.On the college dropout, Kanye has a clear message that his not afraid to express. His lyrics have meaning and speak for the underprivileged in society. He's not whining about feeling unaccepted by the fashion industry or complaining about the struggles of being a celebrity his simply discussing real-world issues that we all face. Kanye is at his most humble on the college dropout which is why for me his lyrics have substance.
Production - Over the years we've come a custom to expecting amazing production on every Kanye album, after all, he was originally a producer. His well-known for re-inventing himself with the release of each album. 2008 marked the release of 808 and heartbreaks, his fifth solo album which traded the glitzy, overly produced sound of graduation one year prior for a minimalistic, stripped back aesthetic. Kanye would later go on to develop this sound on 2013’s yeezus his most challenging, experimental album to date. However, none of the instrumentals on these albums compare to the production featured on the College Dropout. Maybe it's because Kanye was literally saving all the good beats for himself, but the production on the college dropout was incredible. His use of speed up soul/R&B samples , hard-hitting kick drums, catchy percussions and chipmunk styled vocal stabs solidified his place as one of hip-hop most innovative producers. From the slow, dreamy bells featured on ‘we don't care’ to the iconic Lauryn Hill sample on ‘All Falls down,’ Kanye knew how to chop up soulful samples and turn them into hard-hitting bangers. This is a style of production we haven't seen from Kanye since the release of graduation in 2007 as he began leaning towards a more darker, electronic sound after the release of 808 & heartbreaks. I believe Kanye was at his artistic peak as a producer during the college dropout era. This ultimately resulted in a debut album with some of the hip-hop most immaculate production which arguably hasn’t been achieved or recreated by Kanye since.
Impact - Certain artist’s make entrances into the game which go down in music history as landmark events. A moment in time where the landscape of their genre changes. When the college dropout was released, it was a well-needed breath of fresh air into hip-hop. The tough, gangsta persona of 50 cent and Ja rule was dominating the landscape of hip-hop to point where it was becoming repetitive. The college drop-out offered an alternative to this Gansta lifestyle. An alternative which would later influence artists such as Kid Cudi, Big Sean, Tyler the creator, Travis Scott, Chance the rapper, logic and many more. Not only did the album receive critical acclaim, change the landscape of hip-hop and certify Kanye as the hottest rapper out, The College Dropout was awarded three grammy’s one for best rap song of the year with the record Jesus walks. A record which Kanye attempted to get signed with prior to the release of The College Dropout. No other Kanye West album has had such a huge impact on the music industry since. This is why to me the college drop currently stands as his best album.