Throwback Thursday: Revisiting The College Dropout
Kanye was just what the Roc needed
I can only imagine what type of pressure an artist falls under when they are releasing their debut album. That wasn’t the case for Kanye West when he released The College Dropout. Kanye went through many things just to get people to rock with him as a rapper and not just a producer. Ye put in a ton of hard work to get this debut album out. In the most Kanye way ever he spoke most of this into existence during a interview in 2002.
Some say Kanye is too cocky and arrogant now, I think they have him misunderstood though. Many times people on the outside That interview shows that he has been like this for years, very passionate and believes in himself. In 2004 The College Dropout released and it shifted the paradigm of Roc-A-Fella records. People could no longer refer to the Roc as just a record label filled with “thugs” or “gangsters.” Kanye was neither of the two, just a talented artist from Chicago that was trying to find his own way.
The Kanye buzz picked up when he was involved in a near fatal car accident in 2002. For a regular person, this would set them back, but not Ye. He went on to record his lead single “Through The Wire.” The title of the song is a direct reference to the wires that were used to hold his jaw together after it was broken in the accident. He showed his dedication to music by recording this song 2 weeks after the accident while his jaw was still wired shut. For the single, he sampled Chaka Khan’s song “Through The Fire,” which was a very soulful sample and it solidified his sound.
“But I’m a champion, so I turned tragedy to triumph..”
Throughout the album Kanye displays his conscious raps and soulful beat-making abilities. On Roc-A-Fella, there wasn’t anyone doing what he was doing or rapping about the subject matter he was speaking on. One of my favorite songs on the album is “Never Let Me Down.” He called on his “big brother” Jay-Z for assistance on this track, they both went in, but it was Kanye’s bars that resonated with me. He touched on a few social issues that constantly troubles the world. In one line he speaks on how his my mom was arrested during the sit-ins at the age of 6. Ye also touches on his fellow peers, how they pass off on the important things to pursue things that don’t matter. As you can see Ye is spitting with a purpose on this song.
“Niggas can’t make it to ballot to choose leadership/ but they can make it to Jacob or to the dealership..”
The single that really had people buzzing was “Jesus Walks.” This was probably the most controversial song out at the time. This joint was basically “christian” rap with a few curse words. Ye was like a pastor on here, he gave several testimonies in efforts to maybe one day turn atheists into believers. This is also another showing of what angle Kanye was taking as he entered the rap game. If the song wasn’t controversial enough, Ye had another slick one up his sleeve with the video. There were 3 different versions of this video . All in all if you really listen and pick apart the lyrics in the song the message is pretty clear. Check the video out below:
This album is filled with a ton of gems. Some gems I could feel on a personal level and also on a comedic level. In another single Kanye released, “All Falls Down,” he speaks on how sometimes what your parents want for you isn’t always best for you. He raps about a young girl going to college and Ye broke it down like: “She has no idea what she’s doing in college/ That major that she majors in don’t make no money but she won’t dropout her parents will look at her funny.” The College Dropout dropped 13 years ago and as you can see from that line, a lot of it still resonates with some of the same challenges people go through today. Ye also talks about his battle with his conscious, which I can personally relate to. He dives in talking about buying designer clothes, diamonds, and rollies. Ye also alludes to how he can’t even hit the market without getting fresh, keep it real we all got that one homeboy who can’t go anywhere without getting fly.
“The people highest up got the lowest self-esteem.”
One thing I noticed about Kanye over the years is that he tends to get the best features out of artists. On The College Dropout, there were plenty of features from Talib Kweli to Jamie Foxx. The feature that stood out to me the most was on the song “Two Words” which featured Mos Def and Freeway. Looking at the tracklist, you”d think; “What is Freeway doing on here?” After listening to this album roughly over 50 times, he has the best verse on this song. Granted, Free could definitely spit long before he hopped on a Kanye song, but something was different about this verse. If the rap game had 2K badges, Kanye would definitely have the “Dimer” badge.
There were so many songs on this album that resonated on a personal level with people around the world. The main two that come to mind are “Spaceship” and “Family Business.” On “Spaceship,” he talks about the struggle of working a regular 9-5 job. Ye also dives into how hard he had to grind to get where he is now as a producer-rapper. This joint felt like a negro spiritual, especially when he said; “If my manager insults me again/ I will be assaulting him..” I feel like everybody has had that one boss who just deserved to be faded.
“Lock yo self in ya room doing 5 beats a day for 3 summers/ that’s a different world like Cree Summers, I deserve to do these numbers..”
Now, in “Family Business” Kanye tackles some things that only a few can relate to. It starts out with him talking to his cousin who is now incarcerated and he carries this theme throughout the first verse. Throughout the song he goes on to say many things we can relate to when it comes to family. One of the main lines he said that I could connect to was a line he said about his aunt; “You know that one auntie you don’t mean to be rude but every holiday nobody eating her food.” Now I know y’all done folded many of plates or looked at the food like “Who cooked this?,” before grabbing a plate, I’ve been there plenty of times.
One of my favorite songs ever by Kanye is “Last Call.” This is the outro on the album and he couldn’t have formulated this any better. On this song he raps for about two verses and then he just starts to explain how he got signed and became a superstar. Ye refers to himself as the “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer of the Roc” which is 100% accurate. Ye stood out from everybody in the Roc, a lot of it came from how he dressed. He wore pink Polos and backpacks while the majority of the Roc was wearing over-sized throwback jerseys. Kanye also dives into how difficult it was to get signed and once he finally got a deal on the table they backed out on him at the last minute. In this song he also drops one of my favorite, Kanye bars of all time. “Killin’ y’all niggas on some lyrical shit/ Mayonnaise-colored Benz, I push miracle whips.” When listening to this final track, I kind of envisioned it being like a documentary on Kanye’s rise to stardom. He goes into detail about how he sold his beats to Roc-A-Fella, like “H to the Izzo” and “Heart of the City.” Producing beats was what got Kanye’s foot in the door, but what he really wanted was a shot at rapping. Further on throughout the song he gets into how he would spit raps for Jay and Dame, surprisingly it was Dame who was actually feeling his raps. Dame said “Even if his raps is wack, we can just put Cam on every track.” That was a legendary exchange. Ye finally gets signed, drops The College Dropout and it was an instant hit. The College Dropout touched conscious hip-hop fans and also touched a nice amount of pop fans. In a sense, Kanye was the balance the Roc needed. This album had made a huge impact on the culture, so many quotable bars and unforgettable music videos. Kanye West changed the game because of his creativity as he took a lot of styles and combined them into one. This album is in my top five debut albums.