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The College Dropout - Kanye West

On More from a 3 Minute Record

The idea of writing about the College Dropout has been floating in my mind for a few weeks now. Today, I read, is the 10 year anniversary of this landmark album. Aside from making me feel old, I'll use this moment to throw my two cents in on reflecting on this important album. I really hope I don't come off sounding like a "I-liked-him-before-he-got-big" hipster.

There is certainly an argument to be made that (with an exception for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy) Kanye's albums got worse and worse. This isn’t so much a dig at all of the albums that follow. Late Registration and Graduation are both excellent. 808s is frustrating. Yeezus is unlistenable, but I’ll get to that later. The distance between my love for Kanye’s best albums and his worst albums is probably the furthest than on any other artist. Mr. West likely would not have it any other way. His M.O. seems, looking back, is just to make people talk—whether that means letting Taylor Swift finish, deciding to try his hand at architecture on a whim, or wearing a leather man-skirt, Kanye from the very start, made people talk.

What was refreshing about The College Dropout is that it just felt different. Hip-Hop, especially late in the 90s and into the early part of the new century, was dominated by bravado. This isn’t an indictment of the culture, but a fact. Rappers were focused on wealth, material goods, and generally appearing more macho. Here was this middle-class guy, the son of a Black Panther and a college English professor. His pants weren’t sagging, he was wearing polos, and he named his debut album after his inability to finish college. He was vulnerable.

The first single supporting the album (not including promotional single “Through the Wire” or collaboration “Slow Jamz”) was “All Falls Down.” I remember listening to this song, ten years ago, riding to school in the bitch seat of an SUV between some of my best friends. The major declaration in this song comes in the last verse.

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