‘College Dropout’: best hip hop album of the millennium

Home Archived Opinion ‘College Dropout’: best hip hop album of the millennium

Jim Ellis

Published: March 3 2004

“College Dropout” is Kanye West’s attempt to cross over from producing top performers like Jay-Z, Britney Spears, Alicia Keys and Ludacris to becoming a performer himself.

While many rappers, like Dr. Dre, have turned from rapping to producing and become hugely successful, the list is long of successful producers that have attempted the leap from producer-turned-rapper and found only marginal success.

With “College Dropout” being released on Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella records, one of the hottest hip-hop labels in the business, anticipation from hip-hop fans and industry insiders has been mounting.

Couple this with “College Dropout” being released only after its first single,”Through the Wire,” had won over fans and reached the top ten, and there was a hip-hop fervor that probably had Roc-A-Fella record executives doing a touchdown dance.

While the album couldn’t have been in a better position when it was released on Feb. 10, at some point West would be called on to deliver the goods. When “College Dropout” debuted its first week at the No. one slot on hip-hop charts, West proved that he could manage just fine on the other side of the mixing board.

The album’s biographical title references West’s dropping out of art school in Chicago after one year. The track “Spaceship” pays homage to the dead-end jobs that West worked while locking himself “in a room doing five beats a day for three summers.”  While “Spaceship” is rhythmically tight, the listener may find it hard to believe his “struggle” was really a struggle at all. 

For some one who was co-producing Mase in his early 20s, it may seem that he is a little too dramatic, but musically “Spaceship” is one of the stronger tracks on the album.

“Never Let Me Down” will almost certainly be a single. It is an inspiring track in which West gets in touch with his spirituality by cleverly referencing the civil rights movement in the ’60s, racism and the value of life. Jay-Z makes an appearance, rapping the first and last verse.

“Slow Jamz,” which features West, first appeared on Twista’s album “Kamikaze” earlier this year, but West adds two minutes to the song, making it an instant classic and one of the many highlights on “College Dropout.”

In “Through the Wire,” West gives us a graphic look into his rehabilitation after a near-fatal car accident in 2002.

The noticeable lisp in West’s poetic flow is due to his recording the song while his mouth was wired shut.

The only negative to the album is West’s use of skits between tracks.

These skits have become an all-too-common staple of hip-hop albums and in this case, they are a plain nuisance. One skit in particular is more than a minute long and is supposed to be an addendum to “We Don’t Dare,” but adds nothing whatsoever to the track or the album. 

“College Dropout” easily is the most important release since 50 Cent’s “Get Rich Or Die Trying.”

It may be the most influential since Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic.” In short, this mic-grabbing producer’s debut is a must-have for even the barely enthusiastic hip-hop fan.

Remember, just fast-forward through the skits.