Kanye West - College Dropout (Roc-A-Fella) - Review

In 1994, Nasir Jones gave the world Illmatic, a debut album which will forever go down as a hip hop classic. Why? Because the then-relatively unknown rapper put pen to pad and poetically described life as he knew it. Fast forward 10 years later and Chicago-native Kanye West attempts to follow suit by crafting an album which people can relate to. People who may have never pushed rocks, may work at The GAP, and who may go to a club one day and their place of worship the next. Everyday people.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a person who wouldn't call Kanye West a gifted producer. But a gifted lyricist? Good luck. He thinks he's great. Many people hate. So who's right and who's delusional? Maybe both, probably neither. But if the most common gripe with Kanye's lyrical ability is that his cadence is slightly off and he sounds like he's trying too hard, then -- in this era of MA$E 2004 flows, where many rappers sound half-hearted at best -- I say give Kanye a chance. After all, isn't that what the hater players used to say about Talib Kweli? And now how many people would tell Kweli to put the mic down -- especially since Jay-Z recently gave him a verbal thumb-up on The Black Album?

First of all, who said producers shouldn't rap? Probably a music critic who can't rap. And even though we're only in February, College Dropout is definitely 'Album of the Year' material. Damn, Kanye almost makes me wish I dropped out of college! Okay, not really. But Kanye presents quite a humourous case for re-thinking post-secondary education, especially when he says stuff like "there ain't no tuition for having no ambition." And with presumably no end to tuition hikes and more and more over-qualified cab drivers and general labourers, Kanye is definitely preaching to the choir. But don't get it twisted. He's "not here to convert atheists into believers." Though it definitely makes for an eerie scene when you walk into a House of Sin a.k.a. a club and everyone's screaming out "Je-sus Walks!"

If you haven't heard College Dropout yet, expect the unexpected. Expect the first track on album to be a feel-good track for the kids, only to have it start off with a heartfelt homage to "all my people drug-dealin' just to get by". Expect a track pairing Mos Def and Freeway - I don't know what's more surprising, Mos and Free together or Mos actually rapping again! Either way, it works. Expect a track with Common and Kweli NOT about knowledge of self but instead, Kweli playing Wing Commander as Kanye tries to court a young lady. Expect Consequence - yes Consequence, remember him? -- to spit one of the most memorable verses on the album as he painfully recalls falling out of the rap game and one of his co-workers telling him "you look just like this kid I seen in the Busta Rhymes video the other night." Ouch. You can't help but feel his pain. And that right there is the beauty of this album. It's easy to relate to.

"Spaceship" is always on loop in the ride on the way home from work. This track has to be the Peoples Army's anthem for 2004. "I've been working this graveshift and I ain't made shit / I wish I could buy me a spaceship and flyyy...past the sky!"

"Never Let Me Down" is the truth. Where else could you hear a mainstream rapper claim, "We can't make it to ballots to choose leadership / But we can make it to Jacob's and to the dealership / Swear I hear new music and I just don't be feelin' it / Racism's still alive, they just be concealin' it / But I know they don't want me in the damn club / They even make me show I.D. to get inside of Sam's Club"

Kanye jokes that he saved his best beats for himself. I don't think so. In fact, the beats surprisingly are not even the most endearing part of this album. It's the heart, spirit and passion you can't help but feel listening to Kanye spit. Yes, his flow needs work. But he'll tell you that. Actually, he probably won't...he'll probably tell you he's his own favourite rapper! And that's why we love Kanye!

I honestly can't remember the last time I listened to an album from end to end without skipping a beat. The >> button is only used for "Thru The Wire". And that's only because radio killed it! So go ahead. Have a listen to Kanye the College Dropout. Laugh a little, cry a little, learn a lot. Learn about backpack bling, systemic racism and loving yourself. Now, if only school was this much fun!

Beats: ****

Lyrics: **** (1/2)

Originality: **** (1/2)

Written By: Aadel Haleem