Personnel: Kanye West, CLC, Consequence, Jay-Z, J. Ivy, Talib Kweli, Twista, Ludacris, Mos Def, Freeway (rap vocals); Jamie Foxx (spoken vocals); The Harlem Boys Choir, Syleena Johnson (background vocals).
Producers: Kanye West, Brian Miller, Miri Ben-Ari.
For most artists who are discovered behind the mixing boards, making the transfer from producer to MC proves a daunting task. Fortunately for Kanye West, his verbal skills more than rise to the challenge of his consistently superior beats. A sprawling concept record that tackles issues of everyday life with wisecracking humor and unexpected honesty, THE COLLEGE DROPOUT confirms West's status as one of hip-hop's most refreshing voices.
The leadoff single, "Through the Wire," perfectly exemplifies West's distinct vision. Recorded while his jaws were still wired shut after a near-fatal car accident, West hilariously reflects upon his predicament over a sped-up Chaka Khan sample. Other songs address potentially somber topics--ghetto life ("We Don't Care"), religion ("Jesus Walks"), and family turmoil ("Family Business")--yet somehow retain a truly hopeful spirit. Although THE COLLEGE DROPOUT features top-notch cameos from Talib Kweli, Common, Mos Def, Freeway, Jay-Z, Ludacris, and Twista, it's clearly West's show.
Rolling Stone (3/4/04, p.63) - 3.5 stars out of 5 - "West has something to prove on DROPOUT....His ace in the hole is his cozy sound - dusty soul samples, gospel hymns, drums that pop as if hit for the very first time."
Rolling Stone (p.153) - Included in Rolling Stone's Top 50 Records Of 2004 - "[T]he red-hot producer delivered a solo debut that partied all over its contradictions..."
Spin (p.68) - Ranked #1 in Spin's "40 Best Albums of the Year" - "He is witty, provocative, and intensely devoted..."
Entertainment Weekly (2/13/04, p.71) - "[H]is surprising debut disc is the most impressive hip-hop CD of the young year....[T]he Chicago native shuns hip-hop's tired SCARFACE iconography for a broad topicality..." - Rating: A-
Uncut (5/04, p.106) - 4 stars out of 5 - "West's rhymes are wry, witty, warm and unswervingly self-aware."
Uncut (p.75) - Ranked #12 in Uncut's "Best New Albums of 2004" - "[H]e leavens the swagger and bling of hip hop with lyrics that are wry, witty and aware."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.102) - 4 stars out of 5 - "The numerous guests never out-shine their host's vocals, meaning this is one drop-out graduating near the top of his class."