Hip Hop's answer to the White Album. 3 or 4 poor tracks, but the the rest....just brilliant! Also try Late Registration...almost as good and forget the average reviews of Graduation, that is also brilliant.
I understand the audio CD is suffering commercially, but to receive two scratched discs resealed as 'new' in a matter of days is still almost case for trading standards. I won't name sellers, just to say beware of those low prices. This is the basis of my review score.
The music is of course great - having already listened to it on Spotify! A mainstream benchmark in emotive, story based rap - 'Spaceship' being the standout, with a message any creative type can identify with. Fantastic sleeve art and notes too. Needless to say, some albums are still holistic bodies of work, which are deserving of physical copies. With Kendrick and Frank Ocean putting together albums in a similar vein, there seems to be another wave of thinking about the album as a 'thing'. Vinyl is back in vogue and hopefully, with a bit of quality control, the CD will be soon enough.
For those of you who need a little background information, let me introduce you to Kanye West. Kanye West is best known as a hip-hop producer. One of his biggest hits was Jay-Z's "Izzo." Kanye continued to produce hits for the Roc-A-Fella camp and in 2002 it was announced that Kanye had signed a deal with the Roc as an artist--which was surprising to some because most didn't even know that Kanye could flow. Shortly after his deal was announced, Kanye was involved in a near fatal car accident in California. On the album, Kanye even acknowledges that the accident raised his buzz factor and interest in his project. Fast forward to fall of 2003. Kanye had four hits on the radio. He produced the hit "Stand Up" for Ludacris, Alicia Keys hit, "You Don't Know My Name," and Twista's "Slow Jamz." Not to mention, Kanye's own single, the autobiographical "Through The Wire," was blazing airwaves from coast to coast. The album is hot. Track to track, cover to cover, this album is quite possibly the best hip-hop debut album of the decade and it is already being considered a classic like, Nas' Illmatic. Dropping out of college is the theme of the album and most of the albums skits. Kanye is one college drop out who definitely made good. The album is so fire, it almost makes you wonder why they decided to drop "Through The Wire," as the first single. Although this is a good song, the subject matter was confusing to those who didn't know about the accident and there are several much better songs on the album. Kanye's MC'ing skills are not as dynamic as his production, but are strong nonetheless. His flow proves that he can ride a beat with words, and his lyrics show how introspective the man can be. This is shown in some of the the tracks, namely; "Jesus Walks", "Two Words" and the mind blowing "Never Let Me Down" -featuring Jay-Z and J. Ivy. I can listen to this album all the way through without feeling the urge to skip a track, it's a masterpiece at best, and a great album at it's worst. You can't go wrong.
Overall, if you're looking for an album that's original, innovative, catchy, and explosive, this is the album you've been looking for. Thanks for reading.
It wasn't with much anticipation that I awaited Kanye West's debut 'College dropout'. Producer's turned rappers are generally better of sticking to the studio work, and I expected West to be the same. I was already a fan of his production work though, after first coming into contact with it on Jay-Z's last great album, 'The Blueprint'. I delayed buying this album for as long as I could, but the catchiness of the lead single 'Through the wire' caught me off gaurd and I invested in the LP, finding that it was pleasantly suprising. Kanye manages to stand up as a good rapper, despite some clumsy delivery and cheesiness. He has a good level of microphone presence and good will and charisma ooze from his lyrics, a u-turn from the thugged-out gangsta posing of 50 cent and his contemparies. Kanye flips these topics, bringing social issues such as religion and poverty to the forefront without the contradictory elements that 2pac embodied, or the gun endorsement which most other rappers swear by. Kanye West is not the first hip-hop artist to make political statements within his music, and is not the best at doing so, but it's credible that he will be the man to do so with the most effect upon the mainstream market. The guest spots on the album are meticulously placed. Talib Kweli, Common and Twista all shine, but the real guest stars are Jay-Z and Mos Def who demolish the tracks they are featured on. It can only be positive that Kanye West is showcasing artists not familar with the mainstream such as Mos Def, Kweli and Common with histories of high-level social insight in their recordings. The production is top notch throughout, as expected by Rocafella's premier beatmaker. Other reviewers have criticized the skits on the album, and normally I'm not in favour of the skits which litter rap albums but they seem comfortable on 'College dropout', and are actually quite funny, with messages behind them. Lyrically, Kanye brings some cringeworthy but hilarious lines to the table 'got a light skinned friend looks like Michael Jackson, got a dark skinned friend looks like Michael Jackson,' and packs a level of wordplay which should keep the less mainstream heads happy -'couldn't afford a car so she named her daughter Alexis'. Single 'Through the wire' is innovative for the fact that Kanye recorded it with his jaw covered in metal wire after his car accident. The sincerity of Kanye is touching, on 'Never let me down' he raps 'I can't complain what the accident did to my left eye, 'cause look what an accident did to Left eye, first Aaliyah and now Romeo must die? I know I got angels watching me from the other side.' I've seen people idolising this album as the new 'Illmatic'. It's not. Kanye isn't as lyrically talented as Nas, his insights aren't as sharp or vivid, and the album is not diverse enough in production. To often Kanye falls back on his trademark sped-up vocal and old soul samples for choruses of tracks. What it does represent however, is a possible turning point in the mainstream from violent and gangster based rap to more socially acute hip-hop. Kanye West has produced an album which breaks moulds and puts most college graduated rappers to shame.
He may be a new name to those of us sitting on rap’s periphery but Kanye West has been an influential player in the rap game since co-producing on Mase’s “Harlem World” project in 1997. Prior to his latest release “College Dropout”, Kanye West has had his feet placed firmly behind the production board, working with artist such as Beanie Siegal, Scarface, Talib Kweli and Jay-Z producing the hits “Izzo (H.O.V.A), “Girls Girls Girls”, “The Takeover” and “03 Bonnie & Clyde”. Most recently he worked his magic on Alicia Keys’ hit single “You Don’t Know My Name”. Kayne West not only produces, writes and performs his own music and lyrics, but presents himself as a thoroughly well rounded artist with a purpose and musical vision all his own. “College Dropout” is not a statement against the merits of education but more testimony to free-thinking and living life according to your own values and principals. The album is a literal manifestation of this dogma, challenging the typical rap album formula. The album is lyrically and musically diverse, guest appearances span from Talib Kweli to Ludacris. What stands out the most is Kanye’s integrity, this is an honest offering but don’t think it’s content is heavy and cryptic, it is exactly the opposite: amusingly witty and direct, cementing his status as a modern day poet. “School Spirit” which is likely to become every college drop out’s new anthem begins with “Told ‘em I finished school and I started my own business/ They said ‘oh you graduated?’ Naw I decided I was finished/ Chasing y’all dreams and what you got planned/ Now I spit so hot you got tanned”. Beware the associated skits are hilarious, well all the skits are amusing, my personal favourite being the “Workout Plan” skit. “When It All Falls Down”, a track cleverly based around an enduring Lauryn Hill “Unplugged” vocal loop, addresses materialism with self-deprecating humour and candour. “Jesus Walks”, has an authoritative military theme, which is infectious in its ability to move one’s head from side to side. In this track Kanye recounts his mother’s words “Only Jesus can save us”, concluding with “They said you can rap about anything except for Jesus/ That means guns, sex, lies and videotape/ But if I talk about God my record won’t get played/ Well if this takes away from my spins/ Which will probably take away from my ends/ Then I hope it takes away form my sins/ And bring the day that I’m dreamin’ about/ Next time I’m in the club everybody screamin’ out/ Jesus Walks”. Elsewhere “Slow Jams”, featuring actor/comedian/singer Jamie Foxx and Twista, hilariously parodies quiet storm conventions without compromising its originality. Where else are you going to find lyrics like “She got a light skinned friend look like Michael Jackson/ Got a dark skinned friend look like Michael Jackson”. “Two Words” features Mos Def, Freeway and the grand choral backing of the Harlem Boys Choir. The latter provides a majestic platform for a nearly entirely monosyllabic wordplay showcase. The guitar-driven “Breathe In Breathe Out” featuring the seventh wonder of the South, Ludacris, is a playful track containing no shortage of lyrical wit on Kanye's part: “Golly, more of that bullsh*t ice rap/ I gotta apologize to Mos and Kweli? But is it cool to rap about gold if I tell the world I copped it from Ghana and Mali?/ First n*gga with a Benz and a backpack/ Ice chain Cardy lens and a knapsack/ I always said if I rapped I’d say something significant/ But now I’m rapping bout money, hoes and rims again.” “Through The Wire” narrates Kanye’s near fatal car accident in Oct 2002, which left him with his life but a fractured his jaw. Inconceivably some weeks later, he literally spit through the wire when he recorded the track whilst his jaw was wired shut. This track is an evocative and personal account of the events that resonates with uncanny wit and raw emotion. West rhymes: “I must got a angel/ Cuz look like death missed his ass/ Unbreakable/ What you thought they call me Mr. Glass/ I look back on my life like the ghost of Christmas past/ Toys R Us where I used to spend that Christmas cash/ And I still won’t grow up/ I’m a grown ass kid/ So I should be like other stupid shit that I did/ But I’m a champion/ So I turned tragedy to triumph/ Make music that’s fire/ Spit my soul through the wires.” Very simply, the song marks the emergence of hip-hop’s most important new voice. Many agree that this is the most anticipated hip-hop album of 2004, “College Dropout” is a creative, witty and innovative gem.
At first, I was a little unsure of Kanye West as a solo artist, although the tune 'Slow Jams' with Twista and Jamie Foxx was certainly quite impressive. But when I heard 'Through the Wire' and the story behind the song, my opinion changed completely. In fact this track is one of my favourites of 2004 so far, without doubt. And the rest of the album is fantastic too! Personal favourites include 'All Falls Down' with Syleena Johnson, 'Never Let me Down' with Jay-Z, 'We Don't Care', and the briliant 'The New Workout Plan'. All great, great tunes! Kanye is definitely one of the best new lyricists out there, especially true in the song 'Jesus Walks'. I always like to judge an album by the number of poor tracks that are on it, and Kanye West much like 50 was last year, is a breath of fresh air, with not a single bad track on this album. Rap fans...get your copy now!
Today, in hip-hop, its almost impossible to put out a classic album to go down in time like 'The Chronic', 'Illmatic' etc but in my opinion Kanye West has done just that. If it doesn't, it certainly should go down as one of the best of all time. Basically, there isn't a bad track on here. Some are stronger than others but all are worthy of a listen. How Twista manages to take credit for 'Slow Jamz' is ridiculous, but that is, for me, the best track on the album. The overriding response from most people I talk to is that Kanye West is a great producer (probably the best out right now) but his rap skills are poor. I don't see this. I reckon he, lyrically, has a lot more to offer than a lot of rappers nowadays. He has a lot worthwhile to say, tracks like 'Never Let Me Down' and 'Jesus Walks' showcase this, but West knows the rap game very very well and doesn't depend on his socially conscious nature rule to over the album. Importantly, the album doesn't sound like anything you've ever heard before. 'Spaceship' is incredible, as is 'Family Business' and 'Through the Wire'. The skits are funny and are West talking about how dropping out of college to concentrate on music was probably the best thing he's ever done. While being funny, he does come off quite cocky. Not everyone has the talent to be the number 1 producer in the world and college, perhaps shouldn't be frowned upon in this manner. But, hey, thats just me being cynical. The album is brilliant. Get it!