Growing up, I didn’t listen to a lot of rap music. While my brother and sister were into songs like “Make ‘Em Say Uhh” and “Rapper’s Delight,” I was obsessed with No Doubt. Growing up in predominantly white neighborhoods, I listened to what my peers were listening to; which never included rap. My parents were into Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Michael Bolton, and Rod Stewart. My dad bought me and my sister our very first C.D. in 1997, which was the Spice Girls album. My mother actually banned me from watching MTV after she heard me singing the Salt-N-Pepa song “Let’s Talk About Sex.” After that incident I never really dibbled and dabbled in the rap music [with an exception being Eminem in the early 2000s.]
The commercial rap music I heard on the radio was too misogynistic for my liking but there was something about the Louis Vuitton Don that struck a cord with me. Kanye wasn’t afraid to show his vulnerability; he begged for answers to questions I have long since been wondering. This was a large part of the reason why I identified with him and his music. Most of the rap music that was out at the time was either about gangstas living lavishly in million dollar homes with droves of women at their beck and call OR about humble beginnings marred with violence, drugs, and debauchery. I couldn’t identify with that. A large part of what makes an artist successful is their relate-ability; Ye’s music spoke to me. His rawness intrigued me and his candor was refreshing. In a genre that glorifies the bad guy, Kanye wasn’t afraid to open himself up and let the world see his flaws, his fears, and his near-fatality. Kanye’s music was met with some harsh criticisms from people that felt that as a rapper he had to personify a specific image. He wasn’t the norm. I couldn’t identify with most rappers…but Kanye rapped about everything I was familiar with…his pain pierced through each record and his drive was so evident. I identified with this man who was so hungry…so close yet so far from getting his piece of the proverbial pie. “Spaceship” is undoubtedly my favorite song on College Dropout album. The struggle of retail work is all too real for so many of us and Kanye spoke to me in that song and every other song on the album. “All Falls Down” was another classic…it mirrored my life when I got to college…”she’s so self-conscious; she has no idea what she’s doing in college…that major that she majored in don’t make no money. But she can’t drop out, her parent’ll look at her funny.” HOW DID KANYE KNOW MY STRUGGLE?!
Ye wasn’t like his rap peers; he was a preppy, art school dropout who rapped about social inequities, racism, and his own brooding insecurities sans the mentions of money, cars, hoes, and clothes. He made me fall in love with the art and story-telling of hip hop. He shared with us his dreams of better days, making his mother proud, and overcoming his fears…it’s rare to hear music so raw and real like that these days when everyone is putting on a facade. People are more content with looking like they have money, than actually having money. In an era where everyone was frontin’ I loved Kanye for his honesty. When he said “I can’t even go to the grocery store without some ones that’s clean and a shirt with a team, it seems we living the American dream, the people highest up got the lowest self-esteem, the prettiest people do the ugliest things for the road to riches and diamonds rings,” I got chills. Some of the realest sh*t Kanye ever said. I miss that Kanye…but I understand that his music at that time reflected who he was. He has evolved. Nothing wrong with that. I just want to revel in the greatness that was College Dropout. I’m playing it as I write…
Kanye took us to places we didn’t think we could go and forced us to feel things we didn’t know we wanted to feel. There’s no denying that he’s a musical genius of our era. I just hope we can see more artists as frank and real as him. Whether you love him or hate him, there’s no denying his talent.
What’s your favorite song on the College Dropout?