Kanye West - The College Dropout

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On his debut album The College Dropout, Kanye West singlehandedly set hip-hop on a new path, introducing himself as one of the 21st Century’s most innovative artists. Multi-faceted, idiosyncratic and packed with enough pop nous to conquer the charts, it brought him both critical acclaim and huge commercial success.

As a producer Kanye West's highlight reels were stacking up exponentially when his solo debut for Roc-a-Fella was released, after numerous delays and a handful of suspense-building underground mixes. The week The College Dropout came out, three singles that featured his handiwork were in the Top 20, including his own "Through the Wire." A daring way to introduce himself to the masses as an MC, the enterprising West recorded the song during his recovery from a car wreck that nearly took his life, while his jaw was wired shut.

Success certainly didn’t happen overnight, though. Snapped up by Jay-Z as an up-and-coming producer, West’s groundbreaking work on the rapper’s classic 2001 album, The Blueprint, was followed by a frustrating few years as he sought to gain acceptance as an artist in his own right. In the early 00s, hip-hop was still in thrall to gansta rap, and, despite West’s burgeoning reputation as one of hip-hop’s hottest producers, few label bosses were ready to take a chance on a middle-class art-school dropout. In the end it was Damon Dash, co-owner (alongside Jay Z) of Roc-A-Fella Records, who signed West, in part to avoid having their star producer defect to another label.

Armed with a cavalcade of beats that he’d been saving for his big chance, West set to work on The College Dropout, splitting production between a studio in Los Angeles and his own apartment in Newark, New Jersey: a two-bedroom affair with one of the rooms converted into a makeshift studio.

Driven by a need to express himself further after nearly losing his life, an inspired West used The College Dropout as both a conduit for his newfound energy and a welcome distraction from the pain of his recovery. The result was a work brimming with creativity, its positivist message intoning the listener to “Make Your own decisions. Don’t let society tell you, This is what you have to do’".

The album features the singles "Through the Wire", "Slow Jamz", "All Falls Down" and "Jesus Walks"

Heavyweight double vinyl produced by ROC-A-FELLA Records in 2004.

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