If the reviews of Kanye West’s debut, The College Dropout, prove anything it's that West's talent has always been well received and never disputed. Though his personality, even back then, left much to be desired, initial reviews were prolific in that they questioned his intense obsession with being the underdog. They were right.
Not much has changed in ten years, since The College Dropout released on February 10, 2004. Even though Kanye became one of the premiere record makers of our generation, he’s always managed to bring, at least, one aspect of his public persona to underdog status with each new project and new stage of his career.
On his fourth studio album, 808s & Heartbreak, he dropped out of the soul-sample lane he’d become so well known for. With Watch The Throne he humbled himself to share the mic with Jay Z at a time when his relationship with the mentor/contemporary was perceived as contentious and competitive. Last year, he dropped out of the rap genre altogether with the rock and industrial influenced Yeezus. While Kanye evolves from project to project the hammer to the mold started with The College Dropout.
With ten years to reflect it can be said, the secret to the Chicago rapper’s success is dropping out off wherever we decide to enroll him. One fact will remain: wherever he does decide to enroll, West will continue to be Hip Hop’s most lauded consistently inconsistent alum.
A decade after its release, here are the initial remarks made about Kanye West's opus. He's done plenty since then, but it's always good to revisit the genesis.
“This is the kind of variety the mainstream scene has needed for too long and hopefully this opens the floodgates.” - HipHopDX
“If the album is a success, Mr. West may have to brush some of those chips off his shoulder and adjust to life as a front-runner, not an underdog. O.K., he got even. Now what?” - The NY Times
“West not only reaffirms his status as one of today’s elite beat crafters, but the Chicago native lets heads know he was rocking mikes long before he started messin’ around with soundboards.” - VIBE
“Thus the story begins for Kanye Wests debut project, The College Dropout, an album that leaps marginally beyond distinction in its endeavors at innovation; new pathways are now possible for both the conscious and street corner heads that previously didn'’t know where this rap game was headed.” - AllHipHop
“He has also succeeded in showing some vulnerability behind a glossy mainstream hip-hop sheen. On "All Falls Down," he says, ‘We all self-conscious/I'm just the first to admit it.’ Let's hope he's not the last.” - Rolling Stone
“Don't do what he says, kids, and don't do what he does, because you can't. Just stay in school. Really. I mean it.” - The Village Voice
“Frequently delayed, retooled, overdubbed, teased on the mixtape circuit, overloaded with skits and guest stars, and dispersed in multiple misleading forms over the Internet, the retail version finally takes the form of a flawed, overlong, hypocritical, egotistical, and altogether terrific album.” - Pitchfork
“Most producers who approach the mic do so at their peril, but on Dropout, West turns out to be a full-service hip-hop artiste.” - SPIN