“College Dropout” makes grade

As one of the most anticipated rap albums of 2004, Kanye West’s “College Dropout” embraces a combination of old school, Rhythm and Blues and pop music to create a unique sound that crosses generational barriers.

West seems to have the formula for success after having made hit beats for artists such as Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, Mariah Carey, Talib Kweli, Mos Def and Common. He also seems to be the igniting force of the Roc-A-Fella recording label, producing platinum success for Jay-Z, Cam’ Ron and Freeway.

The mega producer introduces himself as a rapper to the world with his first single, “Through the Wire.” On it, the rapper reflects on the early morning of Oct. 23, 2002, when he barely escaped death in a car accident. The experience seems to be a strong source of inspiration to West due to the recurring introspective tones throughout the work.

The second single to drop from the disc, entitled “Slow Jamz,” not only spotlights the emerging artist’s talent on a mainstream scale, but it reflects his limitless versatility. Featuring comedian Jamie Foxx and Twista, the song takes a sample from a Luther Vandross classic and transcends the generation gap thanks to a smooth beat that plays peacefully throughout the track.

Jay-Z, Freeway, Talib Kweli and Mos Def also make guest appearances on the album. Each artist brings his own unique style to the table, resulting in a spectrum of moods. Themes range from folk music to dance, inspirational and neo soul.

“College Dropout” stays close to West’s revolutionary rap roots, and by packaging his messages with mainstream friendly beats, the album is sure to be well-received by a wide audience.

The album also distinguishes itself from other competitors with its positive lyrical content. West does not rap the same tired lyrics that focus on drug solicitation, sex and violence. Instead, the album proves that positivity in rap can sound good and will sell.

Overall, West exhibits limitless potential and displays the makings of a new style of rapping. As the first album to come from Roc-A-Fella Records since Jay-Z’s Black Album – on which West produced two tracks- “College Dropout” is a worthy contender to be the new king of the Roc. It shows the growth that Hip-Hop has experienced through the years and raises the standard of what will be known in 2004 as quality rap music.

Contact Reggie Harris Jr. at bigreg1876@aol.com