Kanye West has been keeping a relatively low profile in the wake of his interruption of Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, but he took to his blog on Wednesday (December 9) for a familiar all-caps post, responding to his 2004 debut LP, The College Dropout, being honored as Best Album of the Decade by Entertainment Weekly.
“Wow … This is really flattering…” he wrote. “I’ve had some ups and downs this year, well actually this decade. Just seeing this cover takes me back to that time of my life. I remember how much pain and love went into this album. No one saw it coming. This project wasn’t about me, it was about a time in people’s lives where people force opinions on you and you have to make choices for yourself. We loved 50 Cent but we wanted to be the yang. We wanted to wear pink polos and rap about being hurt instead [of] being invincible. There was a core group of people who worked on this album everyday…. Plain Pat, John Monopoly, Don Crawley, Anthony Kilhoffer, Manny Marroquin, John Legend, Devon Harris, Rhymefest, Gee Roberson, Hip Hop, Al Branch, Damon Dash, Gabe Tesoriero, Craig Bauer, GLC, Ol’ School Ice Gree, Consequence, B Nice and my mom. I was most inspired by The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and I listened to that album every day while working on my debut.
“Thank you for this acknowledgment and also for putting [Jay-Z’s] The Blueprint on the list also. I loved [Andre 3000’s disc of Outkast’s] The Love Below and [50 Cent’s] Get Rich or Die Trying also. They both equally deserved the number one spot in my eyes but there can only be one number one!!!”
Released in early 2004, The College Dropout has lived up to West’s longstanding promises that he would create a hip-hop album that would change the game. The record was co-signed by guest appearances from some of the best lyricists in the game, including Jay-Z, Talib Kweli, Common, Mos Def and Freeway. West had made his name has one of hip-hop’s hottest producers, having done extensive work on Jay-Z’s first Blueprint LP as well as tracks for the likes of Ludacris, Kweli and Beanie Sigel.
The album features some of the best production of West’s acclaimed career, bringing old school soulful loops and vocal samples that laid on top of his cracking bass and drums. But it was Kanye’s work on the mic that really powered the album, and made the world recognize him as much more than a hot producer. 50 Cent was dominating the scene at the time with his hardcore gangsta music that spoke on his harsh realities; Kanye came in with an alternate rap reality, creating the blueprint that the Drakes, Kid Cudis and Wales are currently following — and of course, his work on the mic has only imprived in the years since.
Ye was B-boy braggadocious, conscious, humorous, a little raunchy at times, truthful and resonating. He told stories of his mother being locked up for being involved in sit-ins during the civil rights movement, being fired from the Gap, and spending exorbitant amounts of money to over compensate for being insecure. Of course, West also broached the subject of religion and faith, and made it a pop smash and street banger with the song that turned out to be his biggest hit from the album, “Jesus Walks.”
West told MTV News in 2003 , while he was still recording College Dropout, “Jay-Z can’t be any more backpack than he is already, and Talib Kweli can’t be any more commercial than he is already. Somehow, I fit in the center of them both. I’m not too much either way, so I fall between everything. I’m like the 2003 of A Tribe Called Quest — I’m A Guy Called West!”
West stole the show at the 2005 Grammy Awards with a memorable performance that even included his mom Dr. Donda West (who passed away in 2007), in a brief acting role. Kanye took home his first Grammy that night, for Best Rap Album for The College Dropout.
[This story was originally published at 6:43 pm E.T. on 12.09.2009]