By Jose Castillo, campus cowboy
Hi, could I take a minute of your time and talk to you about my Lord and Savior Yeezus?
Followers are preparing for yet another return of Ye, as the album formally known as “Swish” (now “Waves”) drops next week, becoming Kanye West’s seventh studio album. Much hype surrounds “Waves,” as it has been preceded by an arsenal of groundbreaking albums, each of which comprise distinctive sounds and intriguing social commentary. However, this album’s release date isn’t the only important day Ye fans should be aware of.
Feb. 10 marks the 12th anniversary of Kanye West’s debut album “The College Dropout”, not only establishing West as one of the greatest rappers of the 2000s (if not of all time), but propelling him and his supposedly “egotistical” behavior into the pop culture spotlight (“genius,” as many Ye fans would try to convince you).
At the age of 20, West decided to drop out of Chicago State University, upsetting his mother, a professor there. However, with music on his mind and an 808 tucked under his arm, West was determined to clear his own path to success.
Initially, West was met with much resistance from the music establishment. Kanye became known as an unorthodox producer, building his sound on top of sped-up R&B records. Kanye produced many Chicago-area pieces and eventually gained substantial recognition after working on Jay-Z’s 2001 superb album “The Blueprint.”
However, Kanye’s greatest desire was to rap, not only produce. His “pink polo-wearing, small backpack-yielding” style was not in line with the gangsta rap image that had dominated the mainstream during that time; many labels were hesitant to sign Kanye. Capitol Records came close to signing West, yet pulled when the label questioned West’s strength as a rapper (Curse of the Ye-bino).
Finally, Jay-Z’s record label Roc-A-Fella Records signed him, fearing that had West signed to any other label, it would lose out on its greatest producer (a story that can be heard from West himself in The College Dropout’s last track, “Last Call”).
In 2004, Kanye released “The College Dropout”, immediately receiving acclaim from critics everywhere. The album sold over half a million records during the first two weeks after its release and went double platinum by June. The album gained West 10 Grammy nominations that year, winning two for Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song for “Jesus Walks.”
Yet, as any music enthusiast knows, record sales and Grammy wins do not essentially denote the effect an album will have on its genre. Kanye’s production on the album is impeccable; soulful sounds, heavy beats and godly gospel choruses mixed underneath West’s distinctive voice, have listeners entranced even today. What makes this album great is Kanye’s commentary on social issues in regard to race, religion, personal image and, most importantly, pathways to success. Right off the bat with the song “We Don’t Care,” Kanye’s boastful personality can be heard, delivering a swift uppercut to not only those who doubted him as a rapper, but those who doubt the gumption of African-Americans facing struggles.
Today, Kanye West holds a net worth of $100 million, is married to celebrity Kim Kardashian (who Ye says is today’s Marilyn Monroe) and is regarded as a prominent member of the hip-hop community. West’s story is much more than success; it’s a statement of holding true to passion. As his actions outrage many today, so did his belief that he could rap and hold his ground against other MCs.
College had no place in Kanye’s life, and he decided that the stigma of being a dropout was worth getting a chance to achieve his dream. Whether or not you see Ye for the genius he is or the a-hole he can be, or both, there is no denying that his message is admirable. It is applicable to anyone with a passion who puts in work every day to make sure that dreams don’t just stay dreams (however, if you do drop out of school, please don’t reference this column as the underlying reason).