By Sydney Wanguhu
Everybody knows Kanye West. From his controversial statements, like saying “Slavery was a choice”, to his relationship with Kim Kardashian, and his current presidential campaign. Kanye is known for his outrageous moments as much as his music. As a kid, my parents would constantly play Kanye’s music, and soon I began adding him to my playlists. Over the years, I really fell in love with his music and his story. The passion he embodied was something I’d always admired and looked up to. But as I matured, I really fell out of love with him as a public figure. Even though I disagree with his public remarks, I have separated “Kanye the Artist” from “Kanye the personality” and this is the reason why he is still a part of my “Slapz only” playlist today.
On February 10, 2004, West gifted the world with College Dropout, an album that was ahead of its time. Consisting of 21 tracks, West speaks his mind about not only his hardships, but also things that people at the time were afraid to talk about, like faith and success. For example, West’s second track “We Don’t Care” answers those who doubted him and other successful African American men–type casting them as nothing more than drug dealers, dead by the age of 25. On West’s fourth track, “All Falls Down”, he addresses how everyone, including him, can feel materialistic and insecure with the lyrics: “Man, I promise I’m so self conscious, that’s why you always see me with at least one of my watches”. Again West leaves the world speechless with track number seven, “Jesus Walks”. He outed the music industry for excluding Gospel and Worship music, labeling it as “unfitting to society”. And with West’s Christian upbringing, that did not settle with him. The single won a Grammy in 2005 For Best Hip Hop song and had people in the club screaming out “Jesus Walks”.
Finally, West’s most inspirational song: “Through The Wire”. The 18th song on the album is considered a hip hop classic. Not just because of the melodic beats and background vocals, but because of the story behind the song. On October 23, 2002, Kanye fell asleep while driving into oncoming traffic and shattered his jaw. West had his jaw wired down while he recovered after the accident. On this track he explained how the near death experience would never set him back in life, literally rapping “Through the Wire”.
West has a specialty of rapping what other people are afraid to say. His rhymes on College Dropout made people appreciate the truth of imperfections, and the album became a cultural reset. And the stories told throughout the album are just a small part of Kanye West’s genius. The sampled music from previous influential artists, use of autotune, new melodies, and incorporating monologues also changed the sound of hip hop music today.
Kanye’s controversial comments and political stances have made him a villain to many fans. But in the era of cancel culture, it’s unfair to dismiss an artist’s music because of his personality and public comments. You don’t have to like Kanye to appreciate the beauty of College Dropout or any of his successful projects. No matter how controversial Kanye West may be, he is a musical icon that should be appreciated.