Everybody knew 6 months ago that Kanye's album was gonna be serious. Ever since the buzz on his solo stuff started, he's been producing bigger and more diverse hits with regularity (Talib "Get By," Luda's "Stand Up," Alicia's "You Don't Know My Name"), and with all the advance tracks that were leaked, nobody had any doubt that this was a hit. Even with all that though, I'm surprised at just how good it is- top 5 of the last year easy. Other than the Black Album, College Dropout is the first hip hop record in a long time that I can listen to multiple times. There's about 16 full tracks here and not a single filler. You knew the beats were gonna be stupid, but to hold it up on every track is unheard of these days. Even the skits are pretty good to great. Kanye might not be the best lyrist and he leans on other people's styles a little too much, but dude can rap and he's way more diverse than you may expect. Right now I'm feeling the next single, "All Falls Down," the one that reinterprets Lauryn's vocals and that's got me thinking... this is a thinly disguised male version of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill! Not quite as lovey, "smart" and warm, but he's a man fer chrissakes. It's hard to pick from the other tracks, but "Breathe In Breathe Out" with Luda should be another club jam and "2 Words" with Mos Def & Freeway is just as hot as when it floated on white label last year. "Get Em High" with Talib Kweli & Common is pretty incredible too. Gotta also give a nod to the ambitions "Jesus Walks." Previous singles "Slow Jamz" and "Through The Wire" are here as well. 21 tracks total.
- music label: Roc-A-Fella / 2004