10 Years Young: Kanye’s The College Dropout Turns 10

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Today marks the 10th anniversary of Kanye West’s debut album, The College Dropout.

Does anyone remember the Artist To Watch segment from MTV? I know that it still exists, but there was once a simpler time where it would air right between Room Raiders and TRL. It was a quick 5 minute snapshot of a new artist, giving you just enough information to make you interested. I don’t remember a lot of the artists featured, but I explicitly remember Kanye.

The segment talked about his producing for Jay-Z, and the car accident that almost killed him. It was also the first time I heard ‘Through the Wire’, the song recorded during his recovery when his mouth was wired shut.

Multiple artists talked about how much they loved him. Different pictures would flash on the screen of him in a holding a bear mascots head. There was no leather pants, no grill, no stripped glasses. Just a guy wanting to step into the spotlight.

I’ll never forget when Alicia Keys, who was at the height of her career, said, “I think we can expect big things from Kanye.”

The College Dropout not only solidified her statement, but became one of the best debut albums in Rap history.

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In many ways Kanye has become a caricature of himself over the past few years. He’s this obnoxiously talented guy, who’s personality overshadows his musical abilities. This is the one of the days we should look past that. The College Dropout was the time where Kanye knew he would make it, but hadn’t yet.

There’s a difference in his level of confidence between now and then. This wasn’t him calling himself a god, or convincing us that he’s not different for being with a Kardashian. This was Kanye proving himself to the demons of his past, not proving that he’s better than everyone else.

We ain’t retards like the teachers thought
Hold up, hold fast. we make more cash
Now tell my momma I belong in that slow class

– ‘We Don’t Care’

This was growing up in South Side Chicago. The hero’s were the drug dealers. Lottery tickets were a way out. The odds were against you. His struggle was real. His brush with death was real, and so was his ambition to beat his past.

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The College Dropout was proving every teacher, every person who doubted him, and even death itself wrong.

The skits only added to the message. They revealed Kanye’s American dream; going against the notion that school brings success. Kanye made his own success. This is why the album also focused on his first love – the music; the very thing that brought him his first big check.

I would argue that ‘Ye is a better producer than rapper.

No one can sample a song like him. While paying homage to the music that influenced his upbringing, he made each beat to sound reverent and fresh. He added art to rap. He made sure the background vocals were prominent, making the singers memorable with the songs.

You can thank him for Keyshia Coles career.

For a 13 year old who thought Lil Jon was “sick”  and crunk music was “cool”, this was mind blowing. Each time I listened to The College Dropout I found something new. I still found new aspects of his beats today. The complexity of the album isn’t overpowering like his later albums. I’m not saying that Kanye was the first, but I am saying that for the early 2000’s he brought art back into music.

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But, nothing touches ‘Jesus Walks’.

It had nothing to do with the fact that it was the most popular from the album, but everything to do with it’s content.

Listen, this was pre-sacrilegious Kanye. This was Kanye struggling with his spirituality on a mainstream level. Who else was actually singing or rapping about Jesus in the 2000’s? The song questioned the very morals of the radio. It made people think. It made me think.

The College Dropout was a game changer. It’s right up there with Reasonable Doubt and Illmatic. Even in its goofier moments (‘The Kanye Workout Plan’), it was still unlike anything being played or heard at the time.

My 7 train rides were never the same once this entered my red sony Walkman.

This is the Kanye that I will chose to remember. Not the Bush bashing, Taylor hating, rant loving character he is now. All of that is useless. This is what it’s all about.

This is the Kanye you should remember.

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