Reviewing the Decade in Music: Entry #1

With there being only two lone months left in the 2000's I have decided to trek back and pay tribute to some of the best releases we've seen since the infamous Y2K scare.

This decade has been a transitional period for music. Fueled by the advancement of technology and social networking, the inner workings of the music industry have been fundamentally shifted. New inventions like the 808 drum machine, auto tune vocal processing and computer-controlled synthesizers have musicians struggling to find a balance between the ease and financial advantage of composing their music electronically while juggling with the authenticity needed to keep artists' work justifiable in regards to artistic integrity. In the 70's Bob Dylan was ripped for moving from acoustic to electronic guitar. This decade saw similar controversies arise in countless scenarios such as hip hop artist experimenting with "techno" beats, automated drum machines in recording studios, and exponentially active producers injecting layer upon layer of samplings into tracks.

Please note that the albums that I will be featuring in this series are NOT ranked in any way, shape or form. They all deserve equal respect in their own fashion due to their intrinsic quality and the impact they left on the music scene. These albums will NOT be graded on a scale.

Kanye West- The College Dropout

The first album, and perhaps the only debut release, is Kanye West's The College Dropout. Released on February 10, 2004, Dropout signaled a shift away from gang banging themes and profanity-laden lyrics in hip hop. While his counterparts were occupied with lines about pushing crack and peddling dope, West rapped about religion, self resilience, the nature of art and even the horrors of the inner-city education system.

Both a commercial and critical success, Dropout made Kanye West a house hold name, standing right alongside the heavy weights of the rap game such as Jay-Z, Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur. Most notably, Dropout solidified West's position as the most creative producer in hip hop, a consensus that began to form after his work on Jay-Z's The Blueprint album.

Dropout spawned many hits, including "Jesus Walks" (11 on U.S. Billboard) "All Falls Down" feat. Syleena Johnson (7 on U.S. Billboard) "Through the Wire" (15 on U.S. Billboard) and "Slow Jamz" feat. Twista, Jamie Foxx (1 on U.S. Billboard.)

West's lyrical prowress is evident on Dropout. The paradoxical contrasts Kanye draws between his underground rapper and star producer dual identities is aptly portrayed in the track "Breath in, Breathe out," where West rambles the lines "First nigga with a Benz and a backpack/ Ice chain, Cardi lens and a knapsack." Some of West's best lyrics come to fruitation on "Never Let Me Down" when he addresses the social image of African Americans that worship rap stars and put forth nothing more than political apathy while living immersed in an Anglo-Saxon dominated culture.

College Dropout is a hip hop classic not because of the hit singles it contains, but rather the pure quality of the album. Well produced, well written, and well marketed, Kanye West single handedly took on the hip hop industry with his first release and consequently altered the previously accepted notions of a genre that was slipping into stagnation.


  1. College Dropout is Kanye at his best. Kanye being Kanye, not the cocky, self-absorbed Kanye he is today.

    College Dropout is untouchable. I can't think of another rap CD that gets more play in my car than College Dropout.

  2. Well, since my first comment got the axe from my faulty internet, I'll just say this, because you deserve a comment!

    One of my favorite hip-hop albums of all time, looking back on the track list I never realized how many classics are truly contained here. Plenty of songs that will be perpetually played in my car. It did set the bar abnormally high for his future releases, however, and I think that affected his later albums. Also, I would argue that Kanye the Ego is still very visibly apparent on this album, but we do see more of the frail, questioning, introspective Kanye in the "We Were Once a Fairy Tale" vein then usual.

    Thanks for the nostalgia trip, I'm going to listen to this album today!

  3. Ya man no doubt one of my favorite rap albums of all time, because of his lyrics and creativity giving people a different way to view rap for sure. All this is definitely the spark to his gynormous size ego, but the best in my opinion that he produced definitely songs that are still on my ipod

  4. yo it's dalton. and I completely agree College Dropout was Kanye's best album and definantly goes on my top albums list in any genre. Never let me down was filled with lyrical genius. It's Kanye's and Saul Willams verses that truly give me goosebumps every time haha.