Kanye West is alleged to be the next big thing in the realm of mainstream hip hop, and on this, his debut album, he’s chomping at the bit to convince the world of his importance. A sprawling, skit-filled manifesto, The College Dropout covers countless aspects of West’s life, including his dislike of minimum-wage employment, devotion to Jesus, survival of a car wreck and, as the title would suggest, disillusionment with higher education. It’s more Kanye West 101 than anything and, having heard the entire album, I’d be surprised if there’s anything left to learn about the man.
Having spent the last few years producing for other artists, West has seen to it that The College Dropout is as slick as it can possibly be. Since he possesses more talent behind the drum machine than the microphone, most of the album’s songs are grafted together from widely varying samples and shifting, intricate beats. West’s production experience has obviously given him a great deal of skill when it comes to laying down background soundscapes, and it shows throughout this album.
Unfortunately, the lyrics rarely attain the same level of quality as the sound. Complaints about dead-end jobs and the disappointment that is college are entertaining for the first few minutes – at one point, West wishes he could buy a space ship to escape his shift at the Gap – but by the time you reach the 12-minute track wherein Kanye describes his life in all the unnecessary detail that that length of time allows for, you may still be wondering where he’s going with all this.
[Colin Marshall wishes he had a space ship back when he worked at the Gap.]