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What I’m listening to this week: Kanye West

June 11, 2009

The College Dropout – 2004

Once again, I’m starting off at the beginning for another artist I really like, Kanye West.  Sure he has a massive ego, but when someone is that talented and driven, I think it’s completely forgivable.  Isn’t having an ego part of being an musician, at least on some level?  There’s also something to be said for an artist who won’t be satisfied with his work until he’s as big as Elvis, even if that attempt might be misguided.  On his first solo album, Kanye goes a long way toward setting up the groundwork for greatness.  The College Dropout shows off not only his skills as a producer, that had by this time made him sought after in the rap/hip-hop community, but also his impressively witty, catchy, and smart talent as a lyricist.

The album starts out with a great, big middle finger in “We Don’t Care”.  Choice moment: a children’s chorus singing, “Drug dealing just to get by/Stack your money ’til it gets sky high”.  In fact, the whole album has a running theme of a sort of a condemnation of pressures to make an honest living, working for low wages and wasting time in college, but Kanye cleverly balances that with a self-conscious acknowledgment of wrong-doing.  “We Don’t Care” is countered by the second track, “All Falls Down”, and “Spaceship” is both sides of the coin itself, starting with the lines, “If my manager insults me again, I will be assaulting him”, and then finds Kanye’s angry lyrics paired with the mournful chorus of “I’ve been working this graveshift/And I ain’t made shit/I wish I could/Buy me a spaceship and fly/Past the sky”.

Was that enough over-analyzation?  Good, because this album is also just a whole lot of fun and chock full of creatively produced, interesting tracks with unique beats and sounds.  “Jesus Walks”, the Jay-Z collaboration “Never Let Me Down”, and “Get Em High” featuring Talib Kweli and Common fall in the fantastic category, and “The New Workout Plan” and “Breathe In Breathe Out” with Ludacris (including my husband’s favorite implore ever: “Pull your Ds out”) are hilarious.

The skit tracks on hip-hop albums put people off; do yourself a favor and burn a copy without those on it, because the music found here is more than good enough on its own.  Plus, the album still flows together perfectly.  The College Dropout is a soon-to-be classic album, if not already a classic by many people’s standards.  It’s an album that makes you smile, as well as awes you, and that’s an all-too-underutilized combination of qualities in music.

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