Kanye West - College Dropout [LP]
Personnel: Kanye West, CLC, Consequence, Jay-Z, J. Ivy, Talib Kweli, Twista, Ludacris, Mos Def, Freeway (rap vocals); Jamie Foxx (spoken vocals); The Harlem Boys Choir, Syleena Johnson (background vocals). Producers: Kanye West, Brian Miller, Miri Ben-Ari. For most artists who are discovered behind the mixing boards, making the transfer from producer to MC proves a daunting task. Fortunately for Kanye West, his verbal skills more than rise to the challenge of his consistently superior beats. A sprawling concept record that tackles issues of everyday life with wisecracking humor and unexpected honesty, THE COLLEGE DROPOUT confirms West's status as one of hip-hop's most refreshing voices. The leadoff single, "Through the Wire," perfectly exemplifies West's distinct vision. Recorded while his jaws were still wired shut after a near-fatal car accident, West hilariously reflects upon his predicament over a sped-up Chaka Khan sample. Other songs address potentially somber topics--ghetto life ("We Don't Care"), religion ("Jesus Walks"), and family turmoil ("Family Business")--yet somehow retain a truly hopeful spirit. Although THE COLLEGE DROPOUT features top-notch cameos from Talib Kweli, Common, Mos Def, Freeway, Jay-Z, Ludacris, and Twista, it's clearly West's show.