Y’all don’t know my struggle, Y’all can’t match my hustle. Y’all can’t catch my hustle, you can’t fathom my love dude. Lock yourself in a room doing five beats a day for three summers.” One can argue that Kanye’s success has clearly gone to his head, with his personality being a direct result of that. No one can argue his impact and legacy on the genre of hip-hop. Yet, in 2003 the then 26-year-old was ignored by various record labels being viewed as nothing more than an exceptional in-house producer for Roc-A-Fella. What can’t be argued is the blood, sweat, and tears that went into his masterpiece of a debut album The College Dropout. It illustrates the progression of a young adults mindset over the years, from his views on the education system to working remedial jobs, to religion, to family, and to hardships. All issues that resonate with young adults, regardless of race. A college dropout himself, Kanye framed his masterpiece as a commentary on the educational system through his choice of cover art and skits used throughout the album. It also illustrates a criticism of what is expected to be gained from school and of the tennis connection which that often has to what is taught and learned. It is this idea that the album concept is centered around, an extended look at people and the choices they make in life and the reasons behind them. On “All Falls Down” the song criticizes consumerism as an expression of self-hatred rooted in history, implicating himself as well in the process. The song depicts the image of people only being in college to impress their parents, to materialism as an oppression of the upper class. “Spaceship” is effectively able to link the legacy of slavery to modern-day corporate enslavement. The level of “realness”, the way in which he is able to make the songs ring true whether it is through his bragging or self-criticism is what makes The College Dropout the defining album of the millennial generation. It changed the rap game forever. It is his Mona Lisa and like all great artists he knew it. Like Kanye said “We’re all self conscious I’m just the first to admit it.”
The College Dropout.