About six ago, I questioned, “who is my favorite Kanye?” To me, this question can seem convoluted on the surface, but all Ye stans know exactly how to answer this question. And the answer all depends on ones personal taste. For me, the answer will always remain, College Dropout Era Kanye will reign supreme.
I miss the old Kanye, straight from the ‘Go Kanye…
In 2004, when the clothes were baggier and compact disc still mattered, Kanye was thrust into my life through a near death experience. A friend of mine, Silva, was driving through downtown Washington, DC. She was upset because she got two speeding or parking tickets in a row and wanted to drive around to let off some steam. (Smart choice, right?) While driving, she throws on an album from some random guy I have no real clue about. The only part of the album that I recognize is, “I got a light-skinned friend look like Michael Jackson. Got a dark-skinned friend look like Michael Jackson.” Other than that, the entire album was foreign to me but still enjoyable. However, while Silva is driving, she is not vibing out the same way I was. She was so upset that she obliviously drives through an intersection just as our light turned red. She was so late to the light that you could see cars being released from their brakes and seconds away from accelerating. Unlike ‘Ye, I didn’t have to survive the crash.
Later that Fall, I started college at West Virginia University and Kanye West performed the evening of the first day of classes. This is right around the time that “Jesus Walks” was gaining notoriety and air play but just before Kanye became a household name. After that near death (or too close to call) experience, I had not listened to Dropout even though it impressed me. But, after seeing Ye live, I was 100% on board. The music and showmanship were all on point and I had one of the best times ever at a concert. On the keyboard, unknown John Stevens serenaded the crowd, especially singing the hook to “Through The Wire”. About four months later, John Stevens (better known as John Legend) released his classic debut album, Get Lifted. The night was so great that the moment I went to my dorm room (shoutout to Lyon Tower) I immediately downloaded The College Dropout and have been a fan ever since.
It has always fascinated me that an album titled The College Dropout helped motivated me through freshman year at WVU. I was away from home for the first time, struggling in school and lost my brother. But music was my escape and Mr. West was the catalyst for a lot of great music that I would discover in my late teens/early twenties: the above mentioned Get Lifted, the career resurrection of Common when he executive produced the classic BE, and Talib Kweli’s affiliation made me listen to his older albums and to new releases.
I miss the sweet Kanye, “chop up the beats” Kanye…
Thirteen years is a long time for someone to not grow. I know that we will never get a song from Ye as funny and clever as “New Workout Plan” or as painful and moving as “Spaceship” from the guy that’s jumped over the Jumpman. Kanye’s career transition should be admired because no other American
rap artist of his generation has had the cultural impact that he’s had and that’s not earned through stagnation. I would rather have My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy than The College Dropout 2. Hell, we needed Ye to make Yeezus just to push himself to a different level, even if he did not fully execute or accomplish what he set out to achieve.
At times, do I miss the old Kanye? Absolutely. The version that we have now of Kanye does socially and politically questionable things and his rapping skills have diminished to bleached buttholes and Nike diss records. But we should and I will hold on to The College Dropout version of Mr. West. With the fake-Bernie Mac intros and 12 minute outro. Doing five beats a day for three summers. That’s all it was, Kanye. We still love, Kanye. And The College Dropout was the catalyst of a bright career. The brightest career. Happy 13th anniversary.