Yesterday, hip-hop fans everywhere celebrated the 10th anniversary of quite possibly the most influential hip hop album of the millennium, The College Dropout. Many fans took the day to reflect on where they were at the time or how hard it was to prove to their friends how dope Kanye‘s first major release was. The sample-heavy effort reminded many fans of the soul they fell in love with on Jay Z‘s lauded album, The Blueprint, while offering this era’s most potent dose of middle-class rap. West‘s content was equally as jarring as his apparel, as he re-introduced the hip-hop community to other elements of the black experience such as parental expectations, materialism, college frustration, and family composition.
Looking back at the musical period and environment from which this album came and re-listening to the lengthy poetry verse by J.Ivy on “Never Let Me Down,” one is reminded of just how far outside the box Kanye‘s aeshetic was. G-Unit, DMX, DipSet, and Roc-A-Fella colleagues State Property were all mainstays on the Billboard charts, and there was Kanye in his pink Polo.
That contrast is strong, isn’t it? Kanye forced the world to conform to him. Every outstanding young voice in hip-hop today has incorporated the honesty and self-reflection that he shared on his introductory LP. From Cole to Kendrick, from Wale to Drake, the list goes on and on. Nothing looked more ridiculous to most hip-hop fans in 2004 than a rapper in Polos and Ralph Lauren blazers, but the music and the man stood out and spoke to people, especially the Grammy committee that acknowledged the album with 10 Grammy nominations.
In 2009, Drake told MTV, “Kanye West shaped a lot of what I do, as far as music goes. We always, always, always took the time to listen to Kanye‘s music and appreciate it beyond. We search the samples and we find out where his inspiration came from, because he has one of the best ears in music, period.” No arguments there, Aubrey.
Looking back at this track list and the “Through The Wire” video, it’s hard to believe Dame Dash had to fight to release the album. Dash was one of West‘s earliest and most fervent supporters and that’s clearly what made it difficult for West to side with his “big brother” Jay, after the latter split from Dash.
Thank you, Yeezus.
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