Author: Joycelynn Okezie
HE PAVED HIS WAVE WITHOUT AN UNANIMOUS DECISION
The College Dropout by Kanye West was the first hip-hop album I ever owned. My dad bought me a clean version from Wal-Mart. Funny story, I attended the Boys & Girls Club in middle school. I was 12 years old and I vividly remember telling Daniel, the basketball coach, that Kanye West couldn’t rap, LOL. I was young and naïve. I told him this because, I was trying to get a reaction out of him – little did I know about hip-hop nor Kanye. Daniel simply retorted “you’re crazy.” Soon after, when my dad gave me the chance to pick out anything in the store that I wanted, I picked out “The College Dropout” off the shelf. Mainly because I dissed Kanye’s rap abilities prior to taking a fair listen. I also gravitated towards the artwork of the teddy bear sitting on the bleachers and decided to give it a chance.
This soon became my favorite CD – I memorized every song lyrics, chorus, verse and skit. Kanye remained my favorite artist until J. Cole took reign in 2009 with The Warm Up mixtape. The College Dropout is an album that is so important to pop-culture and creatives. This album stresses going against societal norms and conforming while staying true to your personal goals. Although I did not drop out of college and I am pursuing my master’s degree, at times I feel tired of playing societal games. Sometimes it makes you wonder if the late nights and insurmountable piles of debt is truly worth it. On his debut album, Kanye promotes “thinking outside of the box” and “being yourself” which I believe is so important in this day and age.
PINK POLO’S & LOUIS VUITTON KNAPSACKS
Initially what drew me to Kanye was the relatability in his lyrics. Kanye and I are Gemini’s so when he told his story through his lyrics, I could instantly relate. The College Dropout was Ye’s coming of age. This album proved that the underdog that everyone doubted can be successful. Kanye brought an eclectic rock star fashion, production and rhyme scheme to the hip-hop game with The College Dropout. What inspired me about this album is Kanye spoke on how different he was, how hard it was for him to break through to the industry and how people played him. The College Dropout influenced, inspired and gave confidence to many emerging artists across the board. Kanye changed the culture forcefully.
At first many weren’t feeling his unique style but soon adapted to the Pink Polos and Louis V backpacks. Kanye West is from Chicago and from there got his start in producing soul sample beats for artists. Whenever he would introduce his raps to artists he would produce for, they would tell him to stick to producing. They couldn’t see his vision or understand. This motivated Kanye to keep polishing his flow. Through his production, Kanye was able to garner a network of collaborators in the music industry who would eventually work with him on his debut release The College Dropout. This classic Grammy award-winning album (Best Rap Album 2005) features the likes of Jay-Z, Talib Kweli, Common, Ludacris, Mos Def, Freeway, Jamie Foxx, Twista, GLC, Consequence, and Syleena Johnson. Kanye put together a rockstar roster and dope selection of features for his debut mainstream album.
Apart from dressing different from rappers who wore tall tees and baggy pants, Kanye West pushed the envelope in hip-hop by touching on religion in his music. In 2004, this was not celebrated in hip-hop. It felt like it wasn’t something you were supposed to be talking about. The reason we all love “the old Kanye” was that he crafted the amazing record “Jesus Walks”. Even if you weren’t religious or believed in Jesus, you agreed this song was a rebellious move for hip-hop culture. No one really believed something like this could be done and still be labelled as cool and not “forcefully religious” or “gospel rap” which still gets a bad rep. Ye said, “If I talk about God my record won’t get played.” He was bold enough to expose the ethics and minds of the radio promoters, A&R’s and DJ’s.
For this being the first album I owned as a 12-year-old, I can accredit The College Dropout for getting me into hip-hop. This album is the reason, I write music. I listened to this album so many times, and read the lyrics in the album booklet. When I was in middle school, we didn’t have cable, so all I did was listen to music in my CD player and memorize music. Kanye’s lyrics amazed me from his charisma to his wordplay. “Never Let Me Down” was a crucial track on this album. The chorus and all the fellas on this track crushed their verses, especially Jay-Z and J.Ivy. As a young person, I never heard anything like it. The relatability, the hunger, the lyrics touched my soul. Everything about “Never Let Me Down” is utterly amazing. This song reminds me of a “Pro-Black” track before the movement really started in 2012.
HISTORY IN THE MAKING, MAN!
Kanye was so dedicated to his craft that it almost cost him his life. In 2003, Kanye West was involved in a near fatal car accident after leaving the studio late one night and falling asleep on the wheel. “Through The Wire” was recorded with Kanye’s mouth wired shut from the accident. The record samples Chaka Khan’s “Through The Fire”. This track explained the aftermath of the accident and how he felt God gave him a second chance. I believe this track shows Kanye’s determination and it made me truly fall in love with his sound and story. Kanye ended his debut album with a super dope outro track “Last Call” – Jay-Z started the track with an ode to Kanye. Then Ye began to spit “The all-around the world digital underground Pac, the Rudolph the red nose reindeer of the Roc”. Establishing his presence and alluding to his stance in the hip-hop game. I really felt this track along with others on the album, earned him the Best Rap Album Grammy in 2005. “Last Call” was a record where Ye really expressed himself, his story and how he achieved superstar status in hip-hop when all odds were against him.