I’ve had a thought in my mind for a while now to write about some of my favorite albums I’ve listened to over the years. I’ve thought about sharing the significance of these albums for me. The impact they’ve had on me in helping shape the person I am now. Recently my man Nasir, another writer for the trifecta, helped me with putting my thoughts on paper. He came up with the “essentials” when breaking down the songs to listen to with specific artists.
Man, there are so many albums to choose from and they all give me different vibes. They fit the stages I was going through and I’ve been riding with them ever since the first time I listened. So let me not waste any more characters. Here are my essentials: the albums that influenced me.
The College Dropout
Today is the 13th anniversary of the College Dropout. I had no idea about that but I want to shout out Twitter for making this all tie in. The first time my ears were treated to Kanye West’s first album was back in high school: sometime in between sophomore and junior year. So I was about 15 or 16 when I first heard this project. About 10 or so years after it first came out. The first hundred or so times I listened to the album, I enjoyed the production, gospel, upbeat tone and the singles. Of course, I was just a kid so I didn’t understand much about the concept.
When I hit my freshman year of college, boy, did this album start striking a cord with me. It started to speak to me and laid down some cold hard facts about where I was in life at that moment. It was my first time being away from home, my grades weren’t all that pretty, and it was freezing outside. Very, very cold. So Kanye had me focused and questioning if all this was worth.
The way the album started with the signature Bernie Mac impersonation and hearing that flow into one of my favorite tracks, “We Don’t Care,” set the tone for the project. The production is what sets this album apart from a lot of other artist’s projects. This was peak ‘Ye with the soulful approach. The choirs and the beautifully sang choruses, added to the songs. You can see how much better Kanye has gotten as a rapper/MC over the years. In his later projects, his lyrics tighten up and his punch lines were sharp. But, for me, the College Dropout showed a Kanye who was lighthearted, funny and witty. Even some of his clumsy lines are enjoyable to listen to due to his charisma. Ex: “Nice as Bun-B when I met him at the Source awards, Girl he had with him – ass coulda won the horse awards.”
The guest verses on this album are arguably the best in his discography. Everyone who was featured stepped up including a LEGENDARY verse from Hov, yup! When adding up the content, production, guest appearances, and impact this album has had on me – and others – it’s one of the universally celebrated albums of all time. Whether I’m feeling down or having self-doubt, I can put this album on and I’ll be screaming at the top of my lungs, word for word, laughing and having a good time. No matter what Kanye is doing now or how much he’s wilding out, he put out this album. And for that, I’ll always appreciate him.
My Five Favorite Tracks
Ok…breaking this down into my 5 favorite tracks is going to be a painful process but nonetheless, I’m a man of the people. I will fulfill my duty to all of you.
School Spirit Skit 1 and 2
Ok, I had to cheat and add an honorable mention because cutting down this album to my five favorite songs has proven to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Also, I know these are skits but what he was talking about was real and relatable.
All of them. Just listen to the skits. They’re just a few minutes long and for anyone in college right now, they’re relatable.
5. (Tied) Family Business
Listening to this song reminds me of all the great times I had as a child. The great family I have and how much laughter they’ve brought me. Also, the great friends I’ve had throughout the years. A feel good song bolstered by its great chorus, vocals and heartfelt lyrics.
“I woke up early this morning with a new state of mind,
A creative way to rhyme without using knives and guns.”
5. (Tied) Last Call
The 12:41 joint had Kanye lay down 2 verses where he elaborated more on his come up and everyone who doubted him. Showing them all that he was more than a super producer but he could also be one of the top MCs in the game. He spent the last 8 minutes or so, showing love to everyone. Telling stories about he finally got put onto the game.
“Killin y’all niggas on that lyrical shit
Mayonnaise-colored Benz, I push Miracle Whips”
One of the greatest lines in the history of rap. FACTS.
4. All Falls Down
The vibe of it mixed with Kanye’s honest reflection of himself when it came to material things made it enjoyable to listen to. Beginning every verse with “man, I promise, I’m so self-consicious” showed that he was about to say something reflective. This song especially hit me hard as I’ve grown and made me question what’s my motivation to make it. Is it the money, the things money can buy, or my actual passion that’s pushing me? Also, Syleena Johnson’s vocals are ON POINT.
“Even if you in a Benz, you still a nigga in a coupe!”
3. Never Let Me Down
This was just a preview of what great music these two would make together in the future. Kanye always brings his best work when paired with Jay and this was no different. Hov was Hov and he brought the heat with one of his more memorable verses. The spoken word added that feel good to the song.
Favorite Lyrics: (Tied)
Hov – “Hov’s a living legend and I’ll tell you why
Everybody wanna be Hov and Hov’s still alive.”
Kanye – “Now niggas can’t make it to ballots to choose leadership
But we can make it to Jacob’s and to the dealership.”
2. We Don’t Care
The ultimate “f*ck you” to everyone who has something to say. We’re out here doing our thing and “we don’t care what people say!”
Favorite Lyrics: (Tied)
“We never had nothin’ handed, took nothin’ for granted
Took nothin’ from no man, man, I’m my own man!”
“You know the kids gon’ act a fool
When you stop the programs for after school
And they DCFS, some of ’em dyslexic
They favorite 50 Cent song “12 Questions”
1. Two Words
Kanye, Mos Def and Freeway, just a legendary combination right there. The production on this song mixed with the grade A verses from everyone involved, made this my favorite song on the album. The concept of the song played on with the title of “Two Words.” So with a witty concept, memorable lines, production, and that beautiful Harlem Boy Choir performance makes this the song to be messed with on the album.
Favorite Lyrics: (Tied)
Mos Def – “These streets know game, can’t ball, don’t play
Heavy traffic, one lane, everybody move”
Kanye – “Two words, Chi-town raised me crazy
So I live by two words: “fuck you, pay me”
Freeway – “Turn y’all rap niggas to two words, fast runners
Like Jackie Joyner, you better sleep with your burner.”
Damn that was hard. I told y’all I was going to do my top 5 favorites song on the album but I ended up doing 8. So that should speak on the album and how much it means to me.