Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Looking Back At College Dropout

I first paid attention to Kanye West as the producer who made the soulful sound of Jay-Z's The Blueprint.  I remembered copping a DJ Clue mixtape on Jamaica Ave my senior year of high school and towards the end of it I heard him rapping overt the "Girls Girls Girls" remix because it was his track.  I wasn't too crazy about it.  I did like his verse on the Roc-A-Fella posse cut "Champions" off of the Pain in Full Soundtrack.  He was a decent rapper but no one I knew was really checking for him.  But I paid attention.  I could see glimpses of his personality when I'd read articles in The Source where he said as a producer who raps to "Save all the heat for yourself."  That's how I knew the album was coming.

My freshman year at Morehouse College in Atlanta was interesting.  Atlanta's crunk scene was starting to pick up nationally right before I got there August of 2003.  It was something to look forward to.  The fall semester of 2003 was all about the Lil Jon sound where everyone would get into these circles and start pushing each other around.  I thought it was dumb.  I would much rather make my way to the girls who the guys weren't dancing with.

One night at a club during that first semester at the end of a party a DJ dropped "Slow Jams" and everything changed.  I remember thinking to myself "Who the hell made that?!"  It was the first single off Kanye's "The College Dropout." (Note: I'm not counting "Through The Wire" since that was off of his mixtape.  

After "Slow Jams" took over the Atlanta University Center I noticed that so many people were actually looking forward to this album.  It was mostly the kinda nerdy guys who were Stanning over it.  Considering myself a hip hop connoisseur I felt I needed to start paying attention. 

I listened to the album a week or two before it actually dropped (I had a friend who's college hustle was having albums before the release date).  While I wasn't the guy wearing polo and rugby shirts with collars popped up or listened to "backpack" rappers I felt what he was talking about.  My favorite song was "We Don't Care" where he flipped Gino Vinelli "I Don't Wanna Stop" sample into a song about hustling.  I felt that because everyone had a hustle in college and I knew a few people whose venture to make money was selling drugs.

The whole album summed up my freshman year in college.  Over the summer I'd listen to the album every once in a while and it made me look forward to getting back to Atlanta in a few weeks in the fall.  By the time I'd got back like half of the people from the floor on my dorm had dropped out.  I thought about how in orientation we were told "Look to your left.  Look to the right.  One of these people won't make it."  I didn't know how true it was until that moment.

Just about all of Kanye West's albums after that had summed up my experiences at the time they came out.  Late Registration in 2005 was the beginning of my junior year at Morehouse and that just about summed it up.  Graduation was released September of 2007 in which that fall was my last semester in college.  I graduated that December thinking "Wait 'till I get my money right." While I wasn't a big fan of it at the time, 808's and Heartbreak came out right when my girlfriend and I had broken up and she moved from Atlanta to Virginia.  We got back together a few months later and in the Fall of 2010 her pregnancy wound up being the beginning of "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" because shortly after our daughter was born she was diagnosed with cancer and passed away in 2011.  I'm not sure how Yeezus quite fits this archetype just yet.  Maybe the frustration behind it sums up the transition that my life has been (reaches--maybe that's the end of Kanye summing up my life musically).  Oh well, I did go to the concert for my 28th birthday when he came to New York.

Many people say they miss the old Kanye.  His music is different but deep down he's still the same person.  At this point I'm still out here hustling, freelance writing, taking care of my little girl...and waiting for that Good Ass Job.

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