.
http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/8d5622a347cc21dbc829ba6bfee000e39ae4bb15.jpg College Dropout

Kanye West

College Dropout

Mercury
Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
5 3.5 0
March 4, 2004

Kanye West has made his name by letting his production — not his voice — do the talking for him. As the man behind Jay-Z's "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)" and Scarface's "Guess Who's Back," he has perfected a warm, almost sentimental brand of hip-hop, using bright, soulful beats and melodic choruses to humanize otherwise chilly gangsters.

His debut as a rapper on College Dropout might do the same thing for Jigga's Roc-A-Fella label. "Wasn't talking 'bout coke and birds," he fesses on his plaintive debut single, "Through the Wire." "It's more like spoken word." West revels in odd juxtapositions — "Get Em High" could be the only song ever to reference both Beck and Pastor Troy. West has got something to prove on Dropout: The half-serious twelve-minute monologue "Last Call" details the hard knocks he suffered to make the album a reality, and there are several skits — part comedy, part pure bitterness — about the uselessness of higher learning.

West isn't quite MC enough to hold down the entire disc; carefully sprinkled A-list guests such as Jay-Z and Mos Def help. His ace in the hole is his signature cozy sound — dusty soul samples, gospel hymns, drums that pop as if hit for the very first time. He has also succeeded in showing some vulnerability behind a glossy mainstream hip-hop sheen. On "All Falls Down," he says, "We all self-conscious/I'm just the first to admit it." Let's hope he's not the last.

prev
Album Review Main Next

ADD A COMMENT

Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...

COMMENTS

Sort by:
    Read More
    Around the Web
    Powered By ZergNet
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.

    X

    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “American Girl”

    Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

    It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

    More Song Stories entries »
    www.expandtheroom.com