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Let’s Have a Toast: Kanye West’s ‘The College Dropout’ Turns 10


It’s hard to believe that it has been so long, but Kanye West‘s debut album, The College Dropout, celebrates its 10-year anniversary today. In 2004, the album presented an established producer who was trying to break into the rap game, and set the stage for the superstar that Kanye has become today. As reported by stereo

“When The College Dropout arrived in 2004, we had an already-respected producer thwarting expectations and creating what would go on to be regarded as one of those all-time great debuts (in rap, or in anything else). Alongside his early success in the producer’s chair, he had also had the near-death experience of his 2002 car crash. Before the pop culture ascendency to the Kanye we now know, he was already a man who had lived a lot and could craft a solo debut that held all that in there, that showed just how fully formed an artist he already was.

The College Dropout started West’s career off with a hit. It actually remains his highest-selling album. He has won plenty of Grammys, but The College Dropout was his first; after 10 nominations, the record won Best Rap Album and “Jesus Walks” won Best Rap Song. Building on the production style he’d already popularized with, among other things, the tracks he’d contributed to Jay Z’s The BlueprintThe College Dropout also had a sharp artistic focus. It has all the soul samples, orchestral flourishes, and super high pitch-altered vocal cues that everyone associates with that original Kanye sound. Kanye had already been influential, helping usher back in the idea of rap music built around soul samples, and with The College Dropout he offered up his own perfectly crystallized take on it, now as rapper instead of just producer.”

Although many people view Kanye today as this egotistical and controversial artist that has changed so much over the last 10 years, The College Dropout shows that Kanye has really just expounded on his initial ideas. As also reported by stereo

” It’s a major oversight to assume that [The College Dropout]  didn’t have its own set of big, thorny ideas to tackle, or that Kanye wasn’t already in possession of the fractured, complex ego that would go on to dominate his aura as an artist. This is a record where the first song, “We Don’t Care,” is built around a hook that goes “Drug dealin’ just to get by.” Throughout, Kanye was in touch with the sort of issues that conscious rap had mulled over in the underground in the late ’90s, but was enough in touch with mainstream rap to quote its style, too. The mix allowed him to take on these issues in a very mainstream language. In the context of Kanye, that meant that he didn’t shy away from his middle class background or from couching his social insights in middle class language and signifiers.”

Kanye West is as he puts it “the No. 1 rock star on the planet.” And The College Dropout was definitely the introduction to the man that would give us countless musical hits and entertaining moments.


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