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Kanye West
The College Dropout

Just as the same-named board game soon gets boring, people get sick of monopolies, and the ownership of charts/jobs/cred/bucks by The Neptunes and Timbaland has left the pop-cultural consciousness kicking in subconscious response against those whom they once crowned kings, as the search for a new prince tosses a crown on the brow of Jay-Z-endorsed Renaissance man Kanye West. Way back when West authored most of those classic Blueprint tracks, he already went through a coronation as the hip-hop nation's king of chipmunk-soul-samples, and back then, even, talk was already surfacing that he was gonna make his own album. But when The College Dropout was due for an August release last year, it got bump'd, and bump'd again. These delays — and the invariable Internet leaks that followed — ended up just creating more buzz. Zzzz. On the back of such, the short 2004 thus far has found Kanye suddenly going from known name to owning the game, his pr'duction work punctuating early-morning pop-promo video shows as his debut disc raises discerning eyebrows and serious sales numbers both. The sales job will tell you that The College Dropout is hip-hop with heart, or something, saying such whilst pointing to Kanye's re-casting of a hook from Lauryn Hill's ungodly-good unplugged set, his pride to be on Jesus' side even though that don't get no radio play, his Harlem-boy's-choir collaboration, his kiddie choruses, his songs about families sticking together, and, mostly, to his autobiographical hit "Through the Wire," which essentially serves as introduction to his real-life tales of car accidents and rebuilt jaws. In such, West's desperately desiring to be down-to-earth, hoping to be able to go without the meaningless brags and hollow materialism of hip-pop. Given his history with Talib Kweli and Mos Def, it's easy to believe that this word is truth-speaking, but given his history with Jay-Z, it's no surprise that Kanye can't fully follow through on such proud promises and his promising promise, dropping such belief, and self-consciously so, on moments like this disc's Ludacris-hookup "Breathe In Breathe Out," where he's "rapping 'bout money, hoes, and rims again." If you're willing to be forgiving, you could say that West's exploring the dissolving distinctions b'tween underground and overground, materialist and conscious, doing so by casting Common and Kweli against type, hyped up on this disc's most crass cut, "Get 'Em High." That's one of numerous moments on The College Dropout where you plum forget Kanye's claims on hip-hop-soulfulism, this just seeming like another hip-pop disc: 76 minutes long, patchy as all hell, riddled with interminable interludes. Kanye claims he's learnt countless lyrical lessons from his Roc-A-Fella don, but even Hova — best shown on Jay's own final finale — knows skit-free sets are more likely to entice repeat play.

by Anthony Carew

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