When The College Dropout dropped, I was 13 years old and in 8th grade. Living in the suburbs at the time, there wasn’t a lot for a young hip-hop head to really connect with. Ja Rule was rapping about the “thug life” with Ashanti and Irv Gotti, Ludacris was shouting for folks to “Get Back”, T.I. had just hit the scene rapping about twenty-four inch rims and selling copious amount of drugs to make the dream work. Outside of Eminem, who at this point had entered the goofy days of Encore, there was little for me to relate to, and hip-hop began to feel out of touch. Rap had always been from the streets, but often had poetic sensibilities, easily interpreted by a cross-section of communities. We were in the midst of ringtone rap, until Kanye came along. Rap albums weren’t considered among works of art in a larger spectrum, T.I.’s breakthrough album, Urban Legend was given a two out of five stars by Rolling Stone. Hip-hop had hit critical mass, it had jumped the shark, the Ying Yang Twins were serious players. I personally hadn’t heard anything like “Slow Jamz” or “Through The Wire” in a long time. It was a hark back to the music my parents played growing up: a mix of soul and funk, all rolled together in Ye’s signature sample chops. I remember watching MTV for hours in the days before YouTube to catch that collage video that was so Chicago, yet so different. I remember explaining Kanye to my Mom (‘well he’s a rapper, but he wears a backpack and talks about Chicago’) I bought a hard copy of The College Dropout. There is a whole generation brewing right now that will never do that. I subsequently bought every Kanye album in hard copy until My Dark Twisted Fantasy. Kanye brought me back to hip-hop with The College Dropout, and likely shaped much of what I did after hearing it. It was the culmination of a sound that had been crafted by the likes of No I.D. and J Dilla, but which West was able to succinctly package together in one seminal piece of art. Chance The Rapper points a heavy finger Ye’s way when influences come up, and he perhaps describes the feeling The College Dropout still evokes today with a line from his song “Tweakin” with Vic Mensa: “Bumpin’ Kanye like it just came out”. 10 year later, it’s still good to that last clink of glass on “Last Call”.
Statement from Kanye West on The College Dropout turning 10:
“Ten years ago today we finally released what had been my life’s work up to that point: The College Dropout.
I say “finally” because it was a long road, a constant struggle, and a true labor of love to not only convince my peers and the public that I could be an artist, but to actually get that art out for the world to hear.
I am extremely grateful to each and every person along that road who helped, lent an ear, lent their voice, gave of their heart to that project, and to all the projects that followed, and are to come.
I am honored and humbled by my fans, for the unwavering support and love over the past ten years. I wake up every day trying to give something back to you that you can rock to and be proud of.
Ten years later I am still the same kid from Chicago, still dreaming out loud, still banging on the door. The doors may be heavier, but I promise you WE WILL BREAK THEM.”