Kanye West's "The College Dropout" In Review: 10 Year Anniversary

A decade later, DX looks back at the debut album from one of Hip Hop's biggest stars.

Ten years ago tomorrow (February 10), Kanye West released his studio debut The College Dropout. The album, which debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200, sold nearly a half a million copies its first week on shelves and featured then-fellow Roc-A-Fella artists Jay Z and Freeway. Other rappers, including Ludacris, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, and Twista also featured prominently on the release.

In April of 2004, two months after the album was released, the RIAA awarded The College Dropout a platinum plaque for sales of more than one million copies. Some months later, in June, the album had doubled that feat and earned a second platinum plaque. Nine years after that announcement, Yahoo Music reported that, besides selling nearly ten million albums throughout his career up to that point, West’s debut had remained his best seller with more than three million albums sold domestically alone. The album, which features the rapper's personal stories of trying to break into the Hip Hop industry as an emcee as much a producer, features the artist’s early signature of sped-up Soul samples. 

HipHopDX Reviews “College Dropout”

Reviewed days after the album’s release, DX granted the album 4.5 out of 5 stars with a note that the project ushered in the Chicago producer as a bonafide emcee of his own. “Obviously it is nice to hear his poignant production on Hot97, MTV or whatever, but this is about his rhymes,” DX wrote. “With already being a well established producer, people seemed to be quite shocked that he was also an emcee (why is that surprising these days anyway?). Yes, I know Kanye won't dazzle you with intricate wordplay and mind-warping cadence, but he more than makes up for it in ways that are more vital in today's landscape.”

Later in the write up, the reviewer congratulates the artist on injecting a bit of range into a stale mainstream. “This is the kind of variety the mainstream scene has needed for too long and hopefully this opens the floodgates,” HipHopDX wrote. “Damn Kanye, I'm glad you dropped out of college.”

“The College Dropout” Singles And Awards

While the album quickly garnered favorable reviews from critics, The College Dropout was a vehicle for successful singles as much as it was an impressively cohesive commercial debut. With West’s name familiar to the production credit reading crowd years prior, the album’s first single, “Through The Wire,” formally introduced the Chicago emcee to the general public all at once. Written while his jaw was wired shut following a severe car accident, “Through The Wire” would eventually be nominated at the 47th Annual Grammy Awards for Best Rap Solo Performance. While Jay Z’s “99 Problems” beat out his own Roc protege for that award, West tallied up the most Grammy nominations of the year in 2005 with ten (for reference, Jay Z received nine earlier this year). Despite losing out to Jay for that particular nod, West did pick up the coveted Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song for “Jesus Walks.” Though separate from his own solo work, the producer also won a Grammy for his production and writing credits on Alicia Keys’ “You Don’t Know My Name” the same year

The album’s second single, “Slow Jamz,” which features both Jamie Foxx and fellow Chicago spitter Twista, earned all three artists their first #1 hit. Singles like “All Falls Down,” “Jesus Walks,” and “The New Workout Plan” spawned considerable commercial success of their own as well. Ultimately, The College Dropout earned West a total of three singles in the Top 15 and a nod as the Best New Artist at the Grammys (Maroon 5 ended up winning out in that category). The video for "Slow Jamz" can be viewed below. 

West also earned three Source Awards thanks to the album including recognition as the year’s Breakthrough Artist and awards for Album and Video of the Year. The video for Kanye West’s “Through The Wire” is below.

Kanye West's video for "All Falls Down," which features Sylenna Johnson in the song and actress Stacey Dash in the video can be streamed below.

Kanye West Since “The College Dropout”

Carrying out his university-themed titles for his sophomore and junior albums as well, West’s commercial success and popularity continued to skyrocket with his Late Registration and Graduation albums. Released the year after his debut, Late Registration helped solidify the rapper’s track record and was named Album of the Year by The Rolling Stone. At the 48th Annual Grammy Awards, West won Best Rap Solo Performance and Best Rap Song for “Gold Digger” and “Diamonds From Sierra Leone” respectively. Late Registration also earned West his second Grammy for Best Rap Album. In 2005, HipHopDX awarded Late Registration 4 out of 5 stars, calling it “stronger than his debut” but suffering from a lack of feeling. “The downfall of this album is that it is just too polished. It may sound crazy to some people that I could consider that a bad thing, but we're talking Kanye here.”

Two years later, in 2007, DX gave West’s third album a 4.5 out of 5 rating, earning him the same honors as his debut. “Kanye's biggest opponent is himself,” HipHopDX wrote, “and while he [has made] another great album, it doesn't surpass his debut.” Most recently, in 2013, HipHopDX’s much-talked about 4.5 out of 5 rating of West’s sixth album, Yeezus, nodded to the artist’s newfound minimalism. “Where does an artist move creatively after nine years of trailblazing trendsetting?” HipHopDX Editor-in-Chief Justin Hunte wrote. “Yeezus, like Yeezy, is jarring, uncomfortable, uncompromising and courageous—all the things that initially made Hip Hop great.”

Since 2005, and after releasing his sixth studio album in 2013, West has become one of the highest-selling musicians of all time. At 36, West is also the most awarded musician of his age ever at the Grammys and one of the most winningest with 21 awards under his belt. In 2007, following complications stemming from plastic surgery, Donda West, the rapper’s mother, passed away at age 58. Following her death and returning to the stage, the rapper dedicated his first public performance of “Hey Mama” to his mother.

In April of 2012, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian began dating and the couple’s first child, daughter North West, was born in June of last year. The couple’s elaborate engagement went public in October of 2013.

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The College Dropout: HipHopDX Review

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49 Comments

  • Automator

    His new music blows compared to his first 33 albums. It's sad to see him deteriorate the way he has, wish his mom would've researched some better plastic surgeons.

  • ombrah

    Here is a dope 10 years of Kanye mashup https://soundcloud.com/ombrah/hey-kanye

  • Anonymous

    Tell me.... what songs are "skippable" on the College Dropout not counting the skits? I honestly love all of them.

  • Baby North West

    I be so proud of my daddy. Hey, did you know my daddy has a picture of his penis on the internet? and there's a video of another nigga bangin my mom...what the fuck god fucking damn holy fucking shit dear fucking lord jesus h fucking Christ what the hell did I get into

  • RMAC

    .....lol.......source awards...... .....still a dope album a decade later, to bad this kanye is gone, replace by YEEZUS..... ...s/n.........I STILL WANT TO HEAR THE "ORIGINAL"HOMECOMING" mixed and mastered 10 yrs later ......that beat was so SOULFUL.....

  • name

    This album was so skit Obese. I don't even have the physical disc anymore, but when I listen to it the skits are deleted and the shit songs like New Workout Plan are deleted. He could've trimmed the album down to 10 good songs and had the 2000s Illmatic. But bloating your album was popular when The College Dropout was released.

  • j

    Forget grown, he's not even the same dude anymore

  • NicePost

    College Dropout was a great debut for a producer like this article said, and Kanye is obviously a legend in hip-hop/rap circles. My personal favorite is Graduation, only because Drunk N Hot Girls is the greatest rap song of all time

  • Sha

    What I want to know is how many hoes called their daughter Alexus after this dropped doe

  • Anonymous

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  • Trey

    First rapper with a Benz and a backpack. Never heard something so honest and accurate about an artist in such a simple line. In recent years, this has fallen back on my best of Kanye West albums, but it's still an incredible listen. Yes, the filler and skits are heavy, but the tracks here are some amazing pieces of work. Producing it all by himself and showing he has more to offer the rap game than his eccentric fashion choices, the man can flip from talking about his sex game and Polo collection, to making statements about materialism, higher education, inner city crime and religion. His albums always some degree of consciousness as well as a hint of arrogance, and always will. He's never changed, his will to experiment has. Though Late Registration still stands as my favorite, The College Dropout is still a landmark in music, nonetheless. Here's to 10 more years of great music from Yeezy.

  • Anonymous

    Classic album. Thank you HHDX.

  • So Icy Boi! Is Back

    *TROLL OFF* It was my favorite album in 2004. look at music now. you wont hear a "Slow Jamz" or "Two Words" or "All Falls Down" anymore. so sad... *TROLL ON* swag

  • Classic

    Classic album with a couple of filler tracks. But overall good work. LR(second album) was more consistent. Could listen to that album almost all the way thru. This album still a classic with a few hit or miss songs.

  • Anonymous

    Jay Balfour must really like so much Kanye dick in his ass.

    • Jay Balfour

      You've just shown me the tendencies of a bitch ass nigga. Ok so the fuck what if we post shit from other sites? NIGGA IT'S A FUCKING HIP HOP WEBSITE. WE'RE CATERING TO THE MOTHERFUCKING HIP HOP FANS. YOU'RE NOT GONNA GO TO TMZ OR HUFFINGTON POST FOR UP TO DATE NEWS IN THE HIP HOP WORLD, ARE YOU? ARE YOU? HUH? HIPHOPDX IS STRICTLY TAILORED TO THE AVID HIP HOP LISTENERS OF THE WORLD. DO YOU YOU UNDERSTAND ME? GOD, I NEED A CIGARETTE!

    • TMZ

      Yeah fuck you. we trained DX into being the true news source that they are.

    • DX Staff

      Eat a dick gayboy. every time you click on our page we pop another bottle

    • Anonymous

      why should i go to other sites for news? I mean you copy and paste all articles from other sites. This site consists of poor journalism and horrible reviews. Im not the only saying this. DX you cant stand the heat then get out of the kitchen. Oh and for Jay Balfour go watch your Kanye poster and jerk off.

    • DX Staff

      Get a life kiddo. If you don't like our articles don't click on them or go to another website for your news. No need to take your pre-teen angst you have for your mom out on our writers.

    • Jay Balfour

      @anon 1 and I guess you like the thought of being an insignificant, anonymous bitch ass nigga. Piss off.

    • Anonymous

      for making an article on one of the better hip-hop albums of the last decade on it's 10th anniversary on a hip-hop website?

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  • Anonymous

    This is the kind of variety the mainstream scene has needed for too long and hopefully this opens the floodgates" oh it did and sadly 10 years later it could have turned out more of a mistake than a blessing

  • Anonymous

    Am I the only one who thinks College Dropout, Late Registration, and MBDTF are overrated? They are great albums but people act like they are some of the best rap albums ever made and I just don't get it...

    • Anonymous

      Late Registration I personally think that album was consistent. I did skip tracks, but just because I skip them doesn't mean they weren't good. College Drop out I agree. To many skip able tracks on that album. With a lot of bangers also on there. Still a great album MBDTF I heard like 3/4 of the whole album before the album came out. Still think its his best work but overall, hearing mostly all the song made the album value go down. Graduation to me is highly overrated. Its just an ok album to me Yezus- he tried some new shit and failed. he still got great songs on here. Probably like 5 out 10. But overall a disappointment.

    • Anonymous

      a lot of mediocre songs on there, too many to be called classic

  • lord jamar

    Kanye before he started wearing skirts. Now he feminine as hell. Punks jump up to get beat down.

  • Anonymous

    Like how the fuck you go from this shit to working with Chief Keef?

  • PAhiphopFAN

    It hurts to hear Through the Wire & All Falls Down again. So much soul. I feel like we fell into the wrong universe where Kanye sold out. lol

    • Mylie

      he never sold out ever! and if you think he did your a dumb fuck tbh. first off Kanye was the exact same person he was when he droped College Dropout but a little more darker of course. because hes mother death did effect him greatly.

  • Concerned Fan

    It's truly amazing to see how much a person can change in 10 years... and not in a good way.

  • DE

    KANYE IS THE GOAT nuff said...people responding must be catching feelings because they butt hurt with their own life

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