It is sometimes difficult for me to realise that the Kanye West marauding about about our earth in 2015 is the same one that released “The College Dropout” in 2004. When listening to this album I could never envisage how hated he would become – not so much for his music, but more for his personality and the manner in which he carries himself.
But whilst Kanye West disappears into his own fairy land and detach from reality I take a look back at his finest work – The College Dropout.
Produced entirely by West this album encompasses everything I like in a hip hop album. As a lover of soul music West manages to merge the genres effortlessly.
The single “Through the wire” had been leased in 2003 which tells the tale of his car accident which nearly killed him. It caused him to need a metal plate in his jaw and have his mouth wired shut for a period in which he records some spoken words through this song. The sped up soul sample used is from Chaka Kahn and her own track “Through the wire”.
The first track on the album is “We Don’t Care” which pop fun at the request made to Kanye to sing a song for the kids. What he gets a choir of kids to sing is:
“Drug dealing just to get by
Stack your money till it gets sky high”
There are a number of skits on the album which act as bridges between tracks but I will stick to commenting on the actual full length songs.
“All falls down” featuring Syleena Johnson is one of the most recognizable songs from the album. This song keeps with the concept the albums title and tells the story of a girl searching for fame and wealth. It’s a superbly crafted track and one of the albums best.
“I’ll Fly Away” only goes on for 1:09 and is a rendition of the track from Albert E Brumley in 1929.
“Spaceship” features GLC and Consequence and talks about the plight of the black man in the slums and also talks about Kanye’s struggle to be taken seriously as a rapper as well as a producer.
“Jesus Walks” is for me what gives West credibility as a rapper and probably what ensured he was give the chance to do his own album. This song comes away from the usual rap themes of money, sex and drugs and instead talks about Christianity in a positive way.
“Never let me down” is a track where Kanye really introduces the gospel element to his production. His lyrics are thanking his mother and grandmother for his upbringing. Jay Z also features on this song but he tends to spend his time self congratulating himself for …well… being Jay Z.
The album had largely taken soul music samples as it’s basis which gives it softening that you certainly wouldn’t find in so called ‘gangster’ rap from the likes of 50 Cent or The Game.
“Get em’ High” is pretty much the closest we get to competing with that type of song. This features New York rapper Talib Kweli. It is a song essentially about little other than a call to smoke weed.
“The New Workout Plan” is just a bit of fun and is probably the funniest track on the album. West seemed to be under the impression that women would be working out to his CD on this he takes the piss.
Without a doubt my favourite track from “The College Dropout” is “Slow Jamz” which features Twista and Jamie Foxx. It heavily samples “A House Is Not a Home” which was in this sample was performed by the late (and great) Luther Vandross.
The song is a tribute to many of those R&B/Soul legends of years gone by. And as Jamie Foxx croons away a female voice asks him to go fast in which he states he cannot but he knows someone who can and this is where Twista comes in with a fantastically quick and smart verse. Well worth listening to if you haven’t heard it.
Ludacris joins West on the track “Breathe in Breathe Out” which is more filler than killer.
“School Spirit” features a sample from Aretha Franklin’s “Spirit in the dark”. West only got permission for this sample if no profanity was used and even on the explicit version of the album any swearing is cut.
“Two Words” features Mos Def, Freeway and Yasiin Bey. In staying true to the title of the song the verses are done with two words (or two stressed syllables) for every quarter bar.
After “Through the Wire” we get “Family Business”. It a tale of events unfolding as a family and the importance of sticking together as a family no matter what happens.
If you have any interest in how Kanye West came to be then the final track “Last Call” is what you need to listen to. Whilst the track begins as a normal song it eventually turns into Kanye explaining how he got to the point he is currently at by simply talking and explaining it all. It’s not rapping, its simply talking to his audience.
The College Dropout is a fantastic album. It is not up it’s own arse. It is accessible hip hop music for someone like me who loves Soul music. It was once Soul music that told stories and explained the life of an artist (‘What’s going on’ for instance).
Trying to tell someone to listen to Kanye West in 2015 is never going to be easy. I’ll be met with strange looks and the comment “Kayne is ****”. But all I can say is sit down one day, put your headphones on and play “The College Dropout”.