To me, Kanye has always been an easy topic to discuss; whether it’s his consistency during the trilogy or his equally as dull execution with 808’s and Heartbreak (I’m just not a fan) and Yeezus. But as I have kept listening to Kanye’s albums in succession the past few weeks, I’ve come up with a few arguments in regards to how I designate each album. As a little intro, I’ll lay down my arguments: College Dropout revolutionized conscious hip-hop, while Late Registration feels like his instrumentally stout album, and Graduation, his lyrically stout album; and as a side note, Graduation is becoming my favorite Kanye album.
College Dropout interlopes and mixes samples that wouldn’t seem very topical for its release. Kanye’s ambition has always been rapping and considering his stylistic approach toward his first album, he wouldn’t really mesh with current hardcore rappers at the time. The world was falling in love with The Blueprint, Eminem Show, Get Rich or Die Trying, and Tha Carter 2, albums that got gritty and talked about some serious shit, in a not so happy-go-lucky way. Kanye tackles similar issues on the album, but the instrumentations are what make each track pop. Some themes that recur on The College Dropout are drugs, religion, sexualizing materialism, and poverty.
The album opens with “We Don’t Care,” a comically satirical track about selling drugs on the corner and the life it presents to the seller. The instrumental is smooth and transparent. You can hear the claps, and the high-pitched wind instruments in the background. I would like to say clarinet, but don’t quote me on that. It also carries a very catchy hook that goes like, “Drug dealing just to get by, stack ya’ money til’ it get sky high…” And in the second half of the hook follows, “we wasn’t s’posed to make it past 25, joke’s on you we still alive.” Something about it works, despite its simplicity and repetitiveness at times.
It really wasn’t until the last part of the Graduation Day skit that I got hooked over John Legend’s verse that he harmonizes over. Oddly, I was reminded of Kid Cudi.
I should say that this album stood out in progression with each of the singles Kanye released; But only a few stood out to me, “All Falls Down, “Jesus Walks,” and “Through the Wire.” I wanted to say that “Slow Jamz” was one to mention but considering how Twista needed filler, it bothered me seeing it on the track list. Granted I love the song, I wasn’t 100% with its inclusion though. In a way, it felt too much like a single (also I’m not a fan of Twista, outside of Overnight Celebrity). “Spaceship” is my second favorite track of the album, and it’s well deserving to be considered the best track with features on it. GLC and Consequence kill it after Kanye’s verse. The song contains a consistent motif that is overdone, but not through a gangster/hustler’s perspective; it is just another guy making it through overnight jobs. The rappers play off the “tryna get this guap with the hustle.” I like the soulful sample and the hook continues this melodic consistency. I will proudly say Kanye knows how to pitch.
“Jesus Walks” is a stand out track, where Kanye’s slick wordplay carries enough depth to understand his intentions. The Gospel sample underlays the clips, and the low bass kicks. “Never let me down” is that track where Jay-Z shows his boring mid-2000’s talent, due to an obligatory feature. Kanye raps about religion and racial relations in regards to the hustle and life in Chicago, while Jay-Z just brags in a negative notion, and it doesn’t fit well.
Right as soon as it ends my favorite track, the album plays “Get Em High,” which features Talib Kweli and Common. Talib comes in short, but his verse delivers and oddly so does Common’s. I mean I’m used to Common being so conscious that whenever he talks about bitches in a different connotation, I’m like I understand what he means (I barely hear him rap this way, well “Ghetto Dreams” is another good example).
The following couple tracks past my ears like quick ollie’s over gaps. “School Spirit” is pretty boring in comparison. Now don’t take that as bad; I think Kanye has a dope instrumental, but with “School Spirit,” the hook kills it. The repetitiveness of it drags it down. I just wish it went differently. “Two Words” is where it picks up again. Kanye brings in Freeway, Mos Def, and the boys choir of Harlem. Though not the greatest of features for the album, it still delivers with vigorous metaphors and killer attitudes.
“Through the Wire” is a classic, and it is such that I don’t want to describe it myself. “Family Business” is undeniably the best closer for the album. I was never a fan of “Last Call,” due to his arrogance being so abundantly blunt. So I stop here and I stay content saying this album is very solid, with some flaws that don’t stop me from going back and listening again.