A decade later, DX looks back at the debut album from one of Hip Hop's biggest stars.
Ten years ago tomorrow (February 10), Kanye West released his studio debut The College Dropout. The album, which debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200, sold nearly a half a million copies its first week on shelves and featured then-fellow Roc-A-Fella artists Jay Z and Freeway. Other rappers, including Ludacris, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, and Twista also featured prominently on the release.
In April of 2004, two months after the album was released, the RIAA awarded The College Dropout a platinum plaque for sales of more than one million copies. Some months later, in June, the album had doubled that feat and earned a second platinum plaque. Nine years after that announcement, Yahoo Music reported that, besides selling nearly ten million albums throughout his career up to that point, West’s debut had remained his best seller with more than three million albums sold domestically alone. The album, which features the rapper's personal stories of trying to break into the Hip Hop industry as an emcee as much a producer, features the artist’s early signature of sped-up Soul samples.
HipHopDX Reviews “College Dropout”
Reviewed days after the album’s release, DX granted the album 4.5 out of 5 stars with a note that the project ushered in the Chicago producer as a bonafide emcee of his own. “Obviously it is nice to hear his poignant production on Hot97, MTV or whatever, but this is about his rhymes,” DX wrote. “With already being a well established producer, people seemed to be quite shocked that he was also an emcee (why is that surprising these days anyway?). Yes, I know Kanye won't dazzle you with intricate wordplay and mind-warping cadence, but he more than makes up for it in ways that are more vital in today's landscape.”
Later in the write up, the reviewer congratulates the artist on injecting a bit of range into a stale mainstream. “This is the kind of variety the mainstream scene has needed for too long and hopefully this opens the floodgates,” HipHopDX wrote. “Damn Kanye, I'm glad you dropped out of college.”
“The College Dropout” Singles And Awards
While the album quickly garnered favorable reviews from critics, The College Dropout was a vehicle for successful singles as much as it was an impressively cohesive commercial debut. With West’s name familiar to the production credit reading crowd years prior, the album’s first single, “Through The Wire,” formally introduced the Chicago emcee to the general public all at once. Written while his jaw was wired shut following a severe car accident, “Through The Wire” would eventually be nominated at the 47th Annual Grammy Awards for Best Rap Solo Performance. While Jay Z’s “99 Problems” beat out his own Roc protege for that award, West tallied up the most Grammy nominations of the year in 2005 with ten (for reference, Jay Z received nine earlier this year). Despite losing out to Jay for that particular nod, West did pick up the coveted Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song for “Jesus Walks.” Though separate from his own solo work, the producer also won a Grammy for his production and writing credits on Alicia Keys’ “You Don’t Know My Name” the same year
The album’s second single, “Slow Jamz,” which features both Jamie Foxx and fellow Chicago spitter Twista, earned all three artists their first #1 hit. Singles like “All Falls Down,” “Jesus Walks,” and “The New Workout Plan” spawned considerable commercial success of their own as well. Ultimately, The College Dropout earned West a total of three singles in the Top 15 and a nod as the Best New Artist at the Grammys (Maroon 5 ended up winning out in that category). The video for "Slow Jamz" can be viewed below.
West also earned three Source Awards thanks to the album including recognition as the year’s Breakthrough Artist and awards for Album and Video of the Year. The video for Kanye West’s “Through The Wire” is below.
Kanye West's video for "All Falls Down," which features Sylenna Johnson in the song and actress Stacey Dash in the video can be streamed below.
Kanye West Since “The College Dropout”
Carrying out his university-themed titles for his sophomore and junior albums as well, West’s commercial success and popularity continued to skyrocket with his Late Registration and Graduation albums. Released the year after his debut, Late Registration helped solidify the rapper’s track record and was named Album of the Year by The Rolling Stone. At the 48th Annual Grammy Awards, West won Best Rap Solo Performance and Best Rap Song for “Gold Digger” and “Diamonds From Sierra Leone” respectively. Late Registration also earned West his second Grammy for Best Rap Album. In 2005, HipHopDX awarded Late Registration 4 out of 5 stars, calling it “stronger than his debut” but suffering from a lack of feeling. “The downfall of this album is that it is just too polished. It may sound crazy to some people that I could consider that a bad thing, but we're talking Kanye here.”
Two years later, in 2007, DX gave West’s third album a 4.5 out of 5 rating, earning him the same honors as his debut. “Kanye's biggest opponent is himself,” HipHopDX wrote, “and while he [has made] another great album, it doesn't surpass his debut.” Most recently, in 2013, HipHopDX’s much-talked about 4.5 out of 5 rating of West’s sixth album, Yeezus, nodded to the artist’s newfound minimalism. “Where does an artist move creatively after nine years of trailblazing trendsetting?” HipHopDX Editor-in-Chief Justin Hunte wrote. “Yeezus, like Yeezy, is jarring, uncomfortable, uncompromising and courageous—all the things that initially made Hip Hop great.”
Since 2005, and after releasing his sixth studio album in 2013, West has become one of the highest-selling musicians of all time. At 36, West is also the most awarded musician of his age ever at the Grammys and one of the most winningest with 21 awards under his belt. In 2007, following complications stemming from plastic surgery, Donda West, the rapper’s mother, passed away at age 58. Following her death and returning to the stage, the rapper dedicated his first public performance of “Hey Mama” to his mother.
In April of 2012, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian began dating and the couple’s first child, daughter North West, was born in June of last year. The couple’s elaborate engagement went public in October of 2013.