Kanye West The College Dropout

[Roc-A-Fella; 2004]

Rating: 4.5/5

Styles:  hip-hop
Others:  Frankenstein

You've probably heard more than you know from Kanye West. If there's been a big hip-hop single in the past few years that wasn't produced by Timbaland or The Neptunes, it was more than likely Kanye West. He's been making a name for himself for years, producing tracks for the likes of Jay-Z, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, and Alicia Keys. And now, after many delays (including, but not limited to, one death defying car crash), Kanye West finally dropped his own album, The College Dropout.

I suppose the best place to start is with the production, and as of right now, I am dubbing Mr. West "super producer extraordinaire." The thing that blew my mind was that West produced every track on the album. All of them. When was the last time you heard of a mainstream hip-hop record being produced by only one person? Yeah, I can't remember either. West does falter every now and then, but I'm willing to cut him some slack. After all, you can't expect everything to be top-notch when he produces 21 tracks for an album.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that there a few tracks somewhere in here that don't hold up as well as the others, but the thing is, they don't hold up as well as other Kanye West songs. You could put even the weaker tracks on The College Dropout up against any hip-hop single from the past few years, and they could easily hold their own.

As an MC, West shines as well. His flow can be a bit sloppy at times, but his lyrics more than make up for it. The College Dropout contains some of the most intelligent and clever lyrics hip-hop has produced in a while, be it mainstream or underground. West takes constant jabs at the idea of getting a college degree, or even going in the first place, and pulls them off quite convincingly. That's not to say that I felt the need to drop out of school after I listened to this album, but I could easily relate to some of the absurdities that West was pointing out and how futile the whole process can be in some cases.

Ultimately, The College Dropout falters where almost all hip-hop records do: it's lengthy running time. Just because a CD can hold 80 minutes worth of music, doesn't mean you need to fill every second of it. But West does succeed in one crucial part of this album: the skits. The skits and/or interludes on The College Dropout are thankfully kept to a minimum, and those that appear are actually half way decent and don't interrupt the flow of the album too much.

Despite all of his recent troubles, Kanye West has succeeded in not only making one of the best hip-hop records in a long while (yes, even better than The Black Album), but one of the best records in a long while--period. Despite what your friends may think.

1. Intro
2. We Don't Dare
3. Graduation Day
4. All Falls Down
5. I'll Fly Away
6. Spaceship
7. Jesus Walks
8. Never Let Me Down
9. Get Em High
10. Workout Plan
11. The New Workout Plan
12. Slow Jamz
13. Breathe in Breathe Out
14. School Spirit
15. School Spirit Skit 2
16. Lil Jimmy Skit
17. Two Words
18. Through the Wire
19. Family Business
20. Last Call
21. Untitled

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