5 February 2004
The College Dropout is the debut studio album by American rapper and producer Kanye West. It was released on February 10, 2004, by Def Jam Recordings and Roc-A-Fella Records.
A widespread critical success, The College Dropout was praised for West's production, humorous and emotional raps, and the music's balance of self-examination and mainstream sensibilities. It earned the rapper several accolades including a Grammy Award for Best Rap Album at the 47th Annual Grammy Awards. It has since been named by Time, Rolling Stone, and other publications as one of the greatest albums of all time.
In the years leading up to the album, West had received praise for his production work for rappers such as Jay-Z and Talib Kweli, but faced difficulty being accepted as an artist in his own right by figures in the music industry. Intent on pursuing a solo career, he signed a record deal with Roc-A-Fella and recorded The College Dropout over a period of four years, beginning in 1999.
The album's production was primarily handled by West and developed his "chipmunk soul" production style, which made use of sped-up, pitch-shifted vocal samples from soul and R&B records, in addition to West's own drum programming, string accompaniments, and gospel choirs; it also features contributions from Jay-Z, Mos Def, Jamie Foxx, Syleena Johnson, and Ludacris, among others. Diverging from the then-dominant gangster persona in hip hop, West's lyrics concern themes of family, self-consciousness, materialism, religion, racism, and higher education.
The College Dropout debuted at number two on the US Billboard 200, selling 441,000 copies in its first week of sales. It was a massive commercial success, becoming West's best-selling album in the United States, with domestic sales of over 3.4 million copies by 2014. The album was promoted with singles such as "Through the Wire", "Jesus Walks", "All Falls Down", and "Slow Jamz", the latter two of which peaked within the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100.
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