People’s List #96. Ain’t no tuition for having no ambition.

96. Kanye West – The College Dropout

Released: 2004

When I got it: 2004, but not near the release date. Probably 8 months after. Got a lend of the CD.

What I originally thought: I didn’t really know how to listen to rap, first. On a basic level, you have to go from a verse being build-up to a chorus to seeing it as the main point. Once I got past that, I was drawn by the general friendly nature of Kanye as opposed to, say, Dr Dre or Eminem. It’s the kind of thing you smile along to rather than scowling. My friends, who were into varying shades of Canadian/American indie rock and post-Strokes English stuff, liked it too. Rap writers I read tend to refer to what we were in a derogatory way when they’re writing about Wiz Khalifa or whatever, but there’s no point lying about it. I liked the singles.

The interim: In order, I listened to more Kanye albums as it came out, got really into Jay-Z, listened to more Kanye, got really really into Jay-Z, there was some confusion, and then I started to listen to rap music four hours a day. This blog has three separate reviews of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy on it.

What I think now: When I thought about it, before listening, it seemed cartoonish and soft to me, which is a symptom of what original drew me to it (the major key soul loops and non-threatening raps). It’s definitely a certain lane of rap music, pitched unabashedly to a mass audience, but then Kanye’s never going to win anyone over with pure rapping. And it’s not like there wasn’t a message packaged up in everything, the same message that still makes Kanye both annoying and a serious problem. It’s amazingly coherent and complete for a debut album, especially as you can still trace a lot of his style to stuff that’s already present. He’s mad at sublimated racism. He just ignores the fact that he’s not particularly credible and gets away with it by consistently turning in good songs. He’s painfully sincere whether he’s actually being sincere or just bragging. He’s Kanye. The whole thing has a sheen of classic about it in retrospect, though I wouldn’t give it that much because of cringey songs like Family Business. Still though, listening through was enjoyable. I’ll probably do it again in a month or so.

Bonus rap album mondegreen: Through The Wire – “I drink a Boost for breakfast, Ensure for dessert, somebody order pancakes, I just sip the sizzurp” as “I drink a Goose for breakfast, indo for dessert, somebody order pancakes, I just sip the sizzurp”.

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