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Kanye West: The College Dropout 15 Years Later

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Written by: Brandon L. Washington (@_b.wash)
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February 10, 2004. Triple platinum, Grammy Award-winning, and one of hip-hop’s most potent albums ever created were released by this super-producer from the South Side of Chicago. Standing outside the lines of the main corridors of rap, Kanye was knocking at its proverbial door for years and believed he could have a seat at Hip-Hops most prestigious table…with hopes of one day influencing the seating chart. As a producer for some of music’s biggest names during the early 2000s, West was the mastermind behind hit records from Alicia Keys, Mos Def, Common, and Talib Kweli, to name a few. Yet no name was bigger than the face of Roc-A-Fella Records, Jay-Z, who has contributed Ye’ for helping “The BluePrint” become the classic album we revere today…as well as Dame Dash who was Kanye’s biggest #COSIGN at the time.

“The College Dropout” was conceived in 1999 taking nearly four years to make. During this time, Kanye went on to produce mega-hits as well as build a resume that is comparable to some of the greatest producers to ever grace the music industry. From “Through The Wire” to “Jesus Walks” Kanye provided the people, the culture an album of hope and self-empowerment. Using vocal samples from Chaka Khan’s hit record “Through The Fire”, Kanye released “Through The Wire” sending radio waves into a frenzy as the song gave a lyrical depiction of his near-death car crash. Many didn’t know this young cat who was single-handedly redefining the aesthetic fibers of hip-hop, transitioning the art away from gangsta rap to a more pseudo-conscious, hip-hop, and soulful-pop infused persona. Lauryn Hill’s sole classic studio album “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” was the rhythmic inspiration to much of the album in which Kanye credited as vital during the creation of “The College Dropout”. The album address many themes varying from success, despair, corporate greed, religion, poverty, gangs, and most noticeably the assertion of a new sound in hip-hop.

Since winning his first Grammy Award, West’s career has been marred with many headlines and controversies varying from his widely publicized interactions with Trump to his infamous “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” statement during Hurricane Katrina.

“I hate the way they portray us in the media. If you see a black family, it says, ‘They’re looting.’ You see a white family, it says, ‘They’re looking for food.’ And you know that it’s been five days because most of the people are black. And even for me to complain about it, I would be a hypocrite — because I’ve tried to turn away from the TV because it’s too hard to watch. I’ve even been shopping before, even giving a donation. So now I’m calling my business manager right now to see what’s, what is the biggest amount I can give, and, and just to imagine if I was down there, and those are my people down there. So anybody out there that wants to do anything that we can help with the set-up, the way America is set up to help the, the poor, the black people, the less well-off, as slow as possible. I mean, this is — Red Cross is doing everything they can. We already realize a lot of people that could help are at war right now, fighting another way — and they’ve given them permission to go down and shoot us… George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”

Fearless in nature yet sometimes questionable in execution, Kanye has never shied away from speaking his truths to the world, most noticeably in his music. There’s a community of folk who religiously pray for the “Old Kanye” to come back but if you followed his politic and creative expression you would know he hasn’t gone anywhere. Be that it may, for nostalgic purposes and intent we are tossing some classic bars from Kanye’s first album in honor, appreciation, and thanks to one of Hip-Hop’s greatest pieces of work…”The College Dropout”. Enjoy!

Then I spent 400 bucks on this
Just to be like nigga you ain’t up on this!
And I can’t even go to the grocery store
Without some ones thats clean and a shirt with a team
It seems we living the american dream
But the people highest up got the lowest self esteem
The prettiest people do the ugliest things
For the road to riches and diamond rings

-All Falls Down

You know what the Midwest is?
Young and Restless
Where restless niggas might snatch ya necklace
And next these niggas might jack ya Lexus
Somebody tell these niggas who Kanye West is

-Jesus Walks

What if somebody from the Chi that was ill got a deal on the hottest rap label around
But he wasn’t talking bout coke and birds it was more like spoken word
Except he’s really putting it down
And he explained the story about how blacks came from glory
And what we need to do in the game
Good dude, bad night, right place, wrong timeIn the blink of an eye his whole life changed
If you could feel how my face felt you would know how Mase felt
Thank God I ain’t too cool for the safe belt

-Through The Wire

Hey yo, two words, Chi town, South side, world wide
Cause I, rep that, till I, fucking die
One neck, two chains, one waist, two gats
One wall, twenty plaques, dudes say, “Gimme that”
I am limelight, Blueprint, 5 Mics
Go get his rhyme like, should of been signed twice
Most imitated, Grammy nominated
Hotel accommodated, cheerleader, prom dated
Barbershop, player hated, mom and pop, bootlegged it
Felt like it rained till the roof caved in
Two words, Chi town, raised me, crazy
So I live by two words, “Fuck you, pay me”
Screaming, Jesus save me
You know how the game be
I can’t let em change me
Cause on Judgment Day, you gon’ blame me
Look God, it’s the same me
I (Throw) basically know now (Your) we could (Up) racially profile (High)
Cuffed up and hosed down, pimped up and hoe down (oh)
Plus I got a whole city to hold down (oh)
From the bottom to the top
So only place to go down

-Two Words

Last year shoppin’ my demo, I was tryin’ to shine
Every motherfucker told me that I couldn’t rhyme
Now I could let these dream killers kill my self-esteem
Or use my arrogance as the steam to power my dreams
I use it as my gas, so they say that I’m gassed
But without it I’d be last, so I ought to laugh
So I don’t listen to the suits behind the desk no more
You niggas wear suits cause you can’t dress no more
You can’t say shit to Kanye West no more
I rocked 20,000 people, I was just on tour, nigga
I’m Kon, the Louis Vuitton Don
Bought my mom a purse, now she Louis Vuitton Mom
I ain’t play the hand I was dealt, I changed my cards
I prayed to the skies and I changed my stars
I went to the malls and I balled too hard
“Oh my god, is that a black card?”
I turned around and replied, “Why yes
But I prefer the term African American Express”
Brains, power, and muscle, like Dame, Puffy, and Russell
Your boy back on his hustle, you know what I’ve been up to
Killin y’all niggas on that lyrical shit
Mayonnaise-colored Benz, I push Miracle Whips

Last Call

“The College Dropout” is a true MasterPiece indeed and we must continually recognize the art, influence this album had on the culture. West has become quite the acquired taste but always remember this,  “Flowers are better served alive to those who are living.” -Wash

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