The College Dropout: The reflective debut album of Ye – By Adekanbi Olasubomi.
by Rapjoint Lagos
The College Dropout is the debut studio album by American rapper and producer Kanye West. It was released on February 10, 2004, by Roc-A-Fella Records and Def Jam Recordings.
Already introduced to music from a young age, Ye’s musical talent was already discovered in the usual place where most musical superstars start from, the church. With him being his church’s piano player, his upbringing is very important and it shows throughout the album’s 76 minutes length.
Ye’s career initially started behind the boards as he produced for musicians from Janet Jackson to Jay Z. Till, he was encouraged to rap in the studio by friend and longtime collaborator, Jay Z.
Most labels weren’t too keen to sign Ye, even got rejected by Capitol records, till, just to keep him with them, Rock-A-Fella, reluctantly gave Ye a recording contract and he began work in 1999, and Ye, always the perfectionist, scheduled release for August, 2003 and then 3 more date postponements till he finally dropped it on February 10, 2004.
I’ll be taking you on the journey of one of the greatest Artistes of all time’s debut album.
Backdrop, Ye, is a college dropout in this album, and it’s a couple of years later and he’s famous, and he’s asked by Teachers from his old school to make a jam for the “kids on graduation to sing'.
We Don’t Care
Kanye, uses this as a reply to the teacher in the first track, he talks about how he lived in the ghetto, he’s accompanied by a childlike choir as they sing “We wasn’t supposed to make it past 25, jokes on you we still alive” . He further delves on how he grew up where dealing drugs was the only way to survive, he talks about the black community during his childhood, where there’s no support for the average black child, they have to work extra hard to just live above means and the song gloats about how he and the graduation kids have beat the systemic oppression.
A continuation of the dialogue from the first two tracks, Ye is replied by the teacher and he’s angry with the song that Kanye and the kids sing in front of a Caucasian crowd, he’s angry that Kanye wasted the opportunity to help him and he takes away Kanye’s graduation tickets. He then sings about how he’s dropping out but “don’t tell anybody/my mama’s gonna kill me”.
All Falls Down.
His first verse talks about a girl in a University who isn’t interested in school again, she’s had her doubts but she can’t drop out because she has a lot counting on her and then she decides to do a vocation instead just to pay the bills and also to take care of her child, since, stereotypically, the male parent is absent in the mother and child’s life.
In the second verse, he talks about his self consciousness and how he uses luxury items to cover up his insecurities, he further talks about systemic racism “Even if you’re in a Benz, you’re still a nigga”.
The third verse, talks about how the judiciary is harder on people of colour and how the media has had an adverse effect on black self love, he still talks about how he spends money on needless things to feed his ego.
I’ll Fly Away
His Christian roots show in this song, as it’s a piano rendition of the 1929 track by Albert Brumly “I’ll fly away”.
He talks about how hard he works and he hasn’t made any profit and he rages about how he hates his job and he quits to do music where he says his hard-work helped be successful and how he’s pressured by society and how he wishes he could just fly away from his problems (don’t we all?).
The gospel infused track talks about his upbringing where crime is the order of the day, how black men are always harassed by security forces and how he asks God to save him, though, he’s afraid he might not be heard due to his distance from Him.
Never Let Me Down
Jay Z kicks off with his wordplay and lyrical bravado, he raps on the soul sampled track about his commercial prowess in the rap game as he sees no competition. Kanye then raps about his grandfather and mother’s involvement in the civil rights movement of the 60s and “… with that in my blood, I know I’m different”. He says “racism is still alive, they’re just concealing it”. He shows a bit of vulnerability as he engages in a dialogue with his then girlfriend’s father and then talks a bit about his near-fatal accident, then the track continues with a “preacher like” third verse with a choir in the background supplementing the verse and with Jay Z closing out the track.
Get Em High
The beat is a contemporary one, where moves from topic to topic, from dropping out to women, this is a club jam for the early 2000s. The track aided with Talib and Common’s vocals, all infuse their rap bravado on the tune.
It starts with some stereotypical black American women talking about how one of their friends is doing well for herself and she talks about a “Workout plan” that’ll help them get “ballers”.
New Workout Plan
The song is workout theme, Kanye raps like a gym instructor who’s instructing his class with his sexual involvement with some of his fitness subscribers. His work is acclaimed by some of the women who talk about how his “Workout plan has got them some ballers”.
The Jamie Foxx , Twista and Luther Vandross sampled tune gives off RnB vibes, shows Kanye’s diversity as Jamie Foxx says earlier that “lets make something for the ladies”. Kanye raps about how he meets a girl in the club as they have fun together and then make love to some old RnB tunes, the Vandross sample is everything with Foxx’s soft voice making it such a jam, literally.
Breathe In Breathe Out
Ludacris comes on this track with his distinctive voice on the chorus with Kanye rapping about how his priorities for making music have changed and he wallows in his hypocrisy by being the very thing he despised in the verse that encompasses it “Always said if I rapped I'd say something significant/But now I'm rapping , 'bout money, hoes, and rims again”.
School Spirit Skit 1
In a satirical tone, Kanye talks about how he was an overachiever from high school up to University, he doesn’t have a social life and after graduating, he ends up in a low paying job to people he’s more educated than but hey “ I bet I can add up all the change in your purse really fast”
Kanye further pokes fun at his dropping out in a playful manner while flowing on an Aretha Franklin sample beat.
School Spirit Skit 2
As a sequel to the first skit, Jimmy’s dad dies an unremarkable life as he neglects his family but hey” he still has his degree” and his son, Jimmy, decides to also follow in his path.
A hard Collab with Mosdef and the boys choir in the background and chorus, lending their vocals on a chorus, Kanye and Mosdef rap with pomp, gallantry and flow about their upbringing and how they handle fame.
Through The Wire
The backdrop to this track follows Kanye who recorded the song with his jaw wired shut after a car accident in October 2002. The song samples Chaka Khan’s 1985 single “Through the Fire” and was released in September 2003 as the lead single to the album. This was what burst Kanye unto the scene as a rapper.
The tender song is delivering in the spirit of attending a reunion, warmed by feelings of affection by the familiar faces, mourning those who are dead or behind bars, united by the recollection of all the memories that they have shared over the years.
With Jay Z memorably saying “Yo, Fuck you Kanye… for making me do this”. This 9 minute autobiographical talks about how he went from being a producer to being told to rap in the studio by Jay Z. It’s the culmination of his rags to riches story and a beautiful outro to an album that has defined an era.