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KANYE WEST, The College Dropout, Roc-A-Fella
After teasing us with singles and pushing back the release date, Kanye West finally blesses us with his debut. And it doesn't disappoint. In fact, it exceeds expectations. Everyone knows how talented West is behind the boards, but he more than holds his own on the mic. And what he occasionally lacks in delivery he makes up for with lyrics that are deeper and more thought-provoking than your average MC's. The first indication that The College Dropout is not just another album is inside the high school yearbook-style cover, where all the lyrics appear as well as class pictures of all the MCs, singers and entertainers that contribute to the album. Throughout the liner notes, West checks his ego for some self-deprecation, citing how he "never played" for the basketball team, "never walked" to the stage for graduation and "never won" a poetry contest. That last one is hard to believe based on the content of dropout. Consider "Through the Wire," in which he describes the accident that broke his jaw while rhyming through a mouth that's wired shut. Or "Jesus Walks," where Kanye dares to talk about his faith even if it ultimately costs him in the wallet. In his own words: "So here goes my single, dog, radio needs this. They say you can rap about anything except for Jesus. That means guns, sex, lies videotape, but if I talk about God, my record won't get played. Huh?! Well if this takes away from spins, which will probably take away from my ends, then I hope it takes away from my sins, and bring the day that I dream about -- next time I'm in the club everybody screaming out 'Jesus Walks.'" That day will come sooner than later as already radio stations have put this unreleased track in heavy rotation. The guests are plentiful, but aren't necessary to carry the album. Jay-Z appears on "Never Let Me Down," Jamie Foxx and fellow Chicago native Twista deliver on "Slow Jamz," Ludacris provides the hook for "Breathe In, Breathe Out," Mos Def and Freeway spit on "Two Words" and "Get Em High" features Common and Talib Kweli, whose name Kanye drops to pick up a girl before handing him the mic. The album ends with "Last Call," and all but the very beginning of the almost 13-minute track is an honest autobiography of Kanye's life in hip-hop -- the struggles, the highlights, everything. The next chapter will most definitely be the brightest, as West has delivered not only the album of the year, but quite possibly the best album in years. The College Dropout might have just changed the game.
Click here to find out how to buy this album.

-- Mason Storm

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