Kanye West was the hottest thing in rap when Dave Chappelle booked him to perform at his Block Party in September 2004. By then, the rap community had known about his genius for years and he’d produced everyone from Jay-Z to Nas to Mos Def, but he didn’t drop his debut LP, The College Dropout, until February 2004. He’d been itching to go on his own for a little while, but the industry pigeonholed him as a behind-the-scenes guy and a near-fatal car accident in 2002 slowed him down.
Nobody had any doubts about his talents as a rapper after they heard The College Dropout. It was the culmination of his life’s work, and the single “Jesus Walks” became a huge radio hit. He performed the track with a marching band, the Roots and John Legend at Dave Chappelle’s Block Party. The show featured Common, Erykah Badu and a reunion of the Fugees, but West managed to steal the show. The Fugees imploded (again) about a year later, but Kanye was just getting started.