Kanye West - The College Dropout, 2004
Signed up the 07/06/2017
Initially, I was only planning on writing a review on Kanye West’s “Graduation” album but amid writing my review, something felt incomplete. It felt like I was writing the body of an essay that had no introduction, nor a conclusion and I wasn’t certain I knew what the topic was to be quite honest. So, to do justice to Kanye’s trilogy, I found myself here, literally describing where my love for hip hop music began.
In 2004, a seven-year-old girl found herself in front of the tv watching MTV base and the video that was playing at the time was called “All Falls Down.” For the most part, I had no idea what Kanye was saying at the time (English was a foreign language to me back then) but I do recall how I felt when I heard the song. The soul sampling accompanied by Syleena Johnson’s vocals had won me over and to a certain extent helped me understand the concept of the song. Years later, when I started understanding the lyrics, I found myself enjoying the song even more.
The College Dropout was Kanye’s introduction to an industry that was determined to remind him that he doesn’t have what it takes to make it as a rapper. The mans beat selection is impressive no doubt but Kanye doesn’t have that “I grew up on the streets” and I can say ‘bubbles’ in an angry voice because thats how thug I am” background. He was just a guy from Chicago who wanted to expand the musical and emotional language of the hip hop industry and by George, he did exactly that with this album.
The College Dropout consists of 21 tracks. It can be said that the album is an oral storybook that follows Dan Harmon’s story circle (that is an adaptation of Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth/” Hero’s Journey”) according to Harmon’s story circle, the main character goes through eight defining moments in a good storyline. Namely:
1. A character is in a zone of comfort
2. But they want something.
3. They enter an unfamiliar situation
4. Adapt to it
5. Get what they wanted
6. Pay a heavy price for it
7. Then they return to their familiar situation
8. Having changed
In this album, we see all eight traits being displayed throughout the album. The album opens with DeRay Davis impersonating Bernie Mac as a teacher asking Kanye to do something for the kids on their graduation day. This skit sets up the concept of the album, which is Kanye speaking to the students from the standpoint of a drop out who made good on his life without a college degree.
The skit follows up with “We Don’t Care” a celebratory track that proudly tells the student at the graduation ceremony not to care what anyone thinks of them. We can see that Kanye is in a zone of comfort right now because in this song he believes he is the voice of millennials and he is comfortable enough to express his worldly views to other people. This is clear from a verse from the song that says, “We weren’t supposed to make it past twenty-five/Jokes on you, we still alive” it’s the idea that people are just trying to get by, and with the odds stacked against them, they’d never planned to do much with their lives. Survival was the only priority.
It is followed by another skit that forces Kanye to have a moment of introspection by entering an unfamiliar situation and we can tell this by the change in musical tone of the album. The first of this almost sombre tone of this album happens to be All Falls Down. The song is a confessional from Kanye acknowledging that his addiction isn’t wealth, rather, it’s consumerism and he among a lot of people fall victim to this mindset.
I’ll Fly Away is a skit that introduces the concept of escapism. Escaping the life of consumerism. This is demonstrated in “I’ve been working this grave shift, and I made shit, I wish I could, buy me a spaceship and fly away, past the sky.” In Jesus Walks, we see Kanye adapting to his situation. He is aware that he needs guidance from somewhere and he turns to religion for that guidance. In a way, he hopes this song will absolve him of his sins.
In Never Let Them Down and Get ‘Em High, not only are we indulged with an inspirational spoken word from J. Ivy in the former track, we also get to see Talib Kweli and Common drop bars on a playful track on the latter track. Both tracks finally show Kanye getting what he always wanted: finally getting to a platform to be heard and giving gratitude to that.
Through the Wire, we finally figured out how much Kanye had to go through to get this album off the ground. he recorded the song with his mouth wired after a car accident that would have been fatal had he not have his seatbelt on. He recalls the event of the car accident that he goes on to tell us how the car accident gave him a new outlook on life. It made him more grateful for life. this is seen in the song Family Business when he returns to his familiar situation. The people who were there for him when he was still coming up like his mother and his grandparents. Last Call serves as the final stage of his story. This is when we see a new and improved Kanye who is giving his new-found perspective on life through a very soul melodic beat.
I think part of the reason why this album is so successful is because it followed this formula and it worked out OR this album is simply a jam and there is no hidden symbolism behind it. It doesn’t really matter, what does matter is: Kanye set his place in the hip hop industry with this album and I would recommend everyone to listen to it. It is truly an experience and a half.
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