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Remember the time when people used to like Kanye West’s music AND him as a person? Remember the time you didn’t have to get defensive when proclaiming that you listen to Yeezy? If you do, well how’s the mortgage rates been treating you, because we’re sure you’re old seeing how Kanye’s first studio album The College Dropout came out 13 years ago! The debut album was recorded over a course of four years, 1999-2003, and saw the light of the day in February of 2004.
While Kanye’s fourth album 808s and Heartbreak is more relevant and perhaps even more revered, The College Dropout was still a huge success, selling 441,000 copies in its first week alone. Kanye was known as a talented producer for Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, and others prior to his solo career, which certainly boosted his success when he signed with Roc-A-Fella Records and Def Jam Recordings.
Straying from the then-dominant style of gangsta rap with more family, materialism, racism, religion-based topics, Kanye offered the audience a breath of fresh air and got highly praised for it, by them and the critics. Eventually, The College Dropout won a Grammy for the best rap album of the year and sold 3.4 million copies domestically.
Back in the day when rap albums had far more than 12 tracks, Kanye dropped 18 songs (+3 skits) in his debut album, a solid foundation for reaching the heights he eventually claimed.
Five Best The College Dropout Songs
The most recognizable out of West tracks from his first album, Jesus Walks announced what kind of instrumentals will Kanye base his career on, as it features his signature repetitive choir singing and the usage of classical instruments like violins and basic drums. Also, having a strong military vibe. Jesus Walks was the fourth single from the album, and it contains a sample of Walk with Me as performed by the ARC Choir. A highly complex song, it perfectly displays both lyrical and the musical genius of the man who is now almost reduced to a meme and a gif source.
Due to his work as a producer, Kanye West was able to utilize some amazing features for an up and coming rap name, like Jay-Z, Mos Def, Common and in this track Jamie Foxx and Twista. Again with the repetitive singing as a part of the instrumental, Slow Jamz remained relevant and fresh throughout the years, combining smoothness with humor in a brilliant way. The contrasting verses and the seductive chorus work brilliantly to offer something original. Twista also has a version of the song on his album and it slightly differs from The College Dropout version.
A classic Kanye West track, back when he effortlessly combined funny relatable storytelling onto the instrumental enhanced by beautiful raspy, vulnerable singing of Syleena Johnson. The song earned a Grammy nomination for the best collaboration as it is so contrasting yet, perfectly fitted. The social commentary that doesn’t sound preachy and arrogant seems impossible for the contemporary Kanye but was seemingly easy for the old college dropout. Another important aspect of this third album single was the memorable music video featuring Stacy Dash.
Breathe In Breathe Out ft. Ludacris
Back in the day, Kanye West was fun and funny, songs like The New Workout Plan and Slow Jamz were filled with comedic moments, and Breathe In Breathe Out with Ludacris offered that classical entertaining, chill rap vibe. Not taking himself too seriously all the time really worked great for Kanye, and while his newer stuff has greater artistic value, we still miss the wacky, clever lines about more everyday situations. The beat is really distinctive and catchy, and Ludacris is technically on point as per usual providing for an underappreciated cheerful song.
One of the best Kanye West songs ever, not just from the first out of his eight solo albums. A song so upliftingly powerful, that if you said to someone that Kanye West will be one of the most hated modern public personas in 2004 you would be deemed as insane. West recorded the song with his jaw wired shut after a car accident in 2002 and despite his vocal ability being limited he managed to put out one of the most invigorating rap tracks ever. And Yeezy does it on a minimalistic beat that features the unusual back vocals only occasionally. Turning tragedy into triumph. True art, truly inspirational.
What are your favorite tracks from The College Dropout?