Kanye West’s 20 Best "College Dropout" Era Beats


It’s onerous to imagine there was a time the place folks didn’t take Kanye West severely. Before he grew to become some of the divisive figures in popular culture, he was an in-house producer at Roc-A-Fella Records. Even when Jay-Z’s The Blueprint took off, together with his manufacturing taking part in an essential function, Kanye nonetheless held aspirations of being a rapper. By the time he took his activate the mic for “Through the Wire,” Kanye had been working as a producer-for-hire for seven years, all whereas placing the ending touches on the album that might make him a celebrity.

In later years, Kanye’s manufacturing course of has undergone a drastic change, executively producing his solo albums whereas working with rising producers. It’s one of many nice disappointments in hip-hop, however when he does sometimes resurfaces with a beat or two, it’s marked with loads of pleasure. As his seven-song made-in-Wyoming album sequence from 2018 proved, there aren’t many producers higher than Kanye with regards to chopping soul beats.

In honour of The College Dropout turning 15 this 12 months, we ranked the perfect Kanye manufacturing from this period (2002-2004), each for himself and others. Agree? Disagree? Sound off within the feedback.

Kanye West's 20 Best "College Dropout" Era Beats

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Kanye West – “Through The Wire”

The track that began all of it. Kanye’s self-mythology summed up in a couple of brief minutes. Flipping Chaka Khan was a daring grasp transfer; Kanye wanted all of the gravitas he might get to promote Roc-A-Fella, Jay, and most of the people on what he was all about. Turns out Kanye’s contact with soul and spoken phrase was all he wanted, making “Through the Wire” each poignant and propulsive.

Jay-Z – “Lucifer”

For Hov’s “retirement,” Kanye gave him the equal of a fantastic cognac – constructed round a intelligent flip of Max Romeo’s “Chase the Devil” and energetic drums. Kanye had an inclination to offer hooks together with his productions on this period, giving Jay the “I’m from the homicide capital the place we homicide for capital” line that he constructed right into a meditation on loss of life and the afterlife. Kanye produced loads of highlights in Jigga’s canon however none fairly so masterful as “Lucifer.”

Ludacris – “Stand Up”

The first #1 Billboard hit for Ludacris and Kanye. For Luda, it was the end result of every thing he had labored for up till that time, efficiently revitalizing the South together with his charismatic bark and launching album Chicken-n-Beer to the pop stratosphere. For Kanye, “Stand Up” instructed the Chicago beatmaker had the makings of a golden contact for hits.

Scarface (feat. Jay Z & Beanie Sigel) – “Guess Who’s Back” 

The Fix was Scarface’s first album as president of Def Jam South, and the stakes have been excessive. Fortunately, he got here by together with his controversial magnum opus. On this tender, dreamy minimize, Scarface sounds onerous, conjuring a few of his wildest imagery to eclipse certainly one of Jay’s finest performances, marking one hell of a comeback within the course of. 

Mos Def – “Brown Sugar (Fine)”

You in all probability missed this except you watched the 2002 Brown Sugar film starring Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan. The hip-hop love story benefitted from Mos Def starring within the function of an upcoming rapper, and a star-studded soundtrack that includes Erykah Badu, Mary J. Blige, Common, Black Star, Jill Scott, and the Roots. Kanye produced three completely different variations of the title monitor, together with a (Raw) model which featured Black Star in stellar kind, but it surely’s the solo (Fine) iteration that deserves discover right here. Evoking ‘70s R&B, Mos Def sounds completely at house on the ethereal manufacturing, delivering it uncooked and bittersweet. 

Freeway –  “Turn Out The Lights”

The non secular successor to Jay-Z’s “Takeover,” Freeway takes Kanye’s soiled guitars and fuzz bass and turns it right into a declaration of warfare, completely straddling the road between boastful and confident. Kanye joins in on the refrain, making this a singalong appropriate for each the boxing ring and the work commute.

Trina (feat. Ludacris) – “B R Right”

“B R Right” marked the reunion of Ludacris and Trina after coming right on “What’s Your Fantasy,” however make no mistake – this was Trina’s coronation second, throwing down on a bedrock of strings and Timbaland-inspired drums that wouldn’t be misplaced on The College Dropout.

Mos Def – “Sunshine”

Built on a implausible flip of Melba Moore’s “The Flesh Failures (Let The Sunshine In),” Kanye gave Mos loads of room for him to do his factor, exuding Brooklyn vibes on a traditional ‘Ye basis of classic gospel soul and hard-knocking rhythms. It’s the type of rap track that does not attempt for dopeness – it’s already dope by merely present.

Kanye West (feat. GLC and Consequence) –  “Spaceship”

Maybe it’s as a result of the lens was centered immediately on himself, however the bluesy waltz vibe on “Spaceship” appears to have sufficient room for each aspect ‘Ye we all know right this moment: the artist with a chip on his shoulder, the soul fan, the everyman with an eye fixed for social commentary and the egomaniac crafting his success story in actual time. It’s an underdog story meant to evoke each throwback rags-to-riches you’ve already heard.

Janet Jackson – “I Want You”

For 2004’s Damnita Jo, Kanye took Janet on a visit down reminiscence lane, supporting her balladry with a backdrop of classic soul. A welcome change for a singer used to sensual, envelope-pushing R&B. It’s old-school ‘Ye, taking place candy and fizzy.

Kanye West – “All Falls Down (Original)”

“All Falls Down” is certainly one of Kanye’s finest songs, crammed with moments of real reflection and humor. The authentic model, sampling Lauryn Hill from her MTV Unplugged No. 2.zero album, feels much more sparse as Kanye opted to let Lauryn take middle stage. It’s a transfer Drake and Cardi B used to nice impact fourteen years later.

Monica – “Knock Knock”

Why did not Kanye make extra R&B beats? Pink Polo ‘Ye’s beats appeared to deliver the perfect out of performers and right here, Monica takes this break-up ballad and injects it with a layer of tender melancholy, becoming proper at house over the chiming keys.  

Jay-Z (feat. Beyonce) – “’03 Bonnie & Clyde” 

One of Kanye’s most enduring productions. Immortalizing rap’s first couple with flamenco guitars and hard-knocking snares, Bey and Jay commerce verses akin to a weak declaration of affection, with out feeling saccharine.

Janet Jackson – “Strawberry Bounce” 

While “I Want You” felt conventional, “Strawberry Bounce” was the start of Kanye exploring his extra experimental aspect. Consisting solely of finger snaps, pitch-shifted bells, a Jay-Z pattern and Janet’s breathy vocals, it’s an album minimize that has aged like fantastic wine.

T.I. – “Let Me Tell You Something”

Ye had a knack for crafting tender thug ballads and with T.I, he took to the ‘80s. Borrowing R&B’s obsession with vocoders, the pair created one thing that completely knocked, whereas nonetheless letting T.I soften his edges somewhat bit.

Kanye West (feat. Mos Def, Freeway and the Boys Choir of Harlem) – “Two Words”

“Shoulda been signed twice,” Kanye raps on “Two Words,” ensuring to remind listeners of his affect earlier than he, Mos Def and Freeway commerce hood tales over a beat that foreshadowed Late Registration strategy of blending excessive and low. By the time the choir reveals up, the present’s already over, the listener overwhelmed into submission by the overwhelming mixture of heavenly vocals and strings. 

Cam’ron – “Dipset Forever”

It’s stunning to find Kanye solely has manufacturing credit on a handful of Cam’ron songs. The Dipset aesthetic – shiny colors, chipmunk soul samples and New York shit-talk – emerged from manufacturing constructed by Just Blaze and Kanye’s work for Jay-Z. When Kanye and Cam linked up on “Dipset Forever,” it appeared like two acquainted mates catching up for the primary time eternally: heat and triumphant. Makes you would like Kanye did extra work behind the boards for Dipset, proper?

Talib Kweli – “Get By”

With Kweli dropping acutely aware bars over a hard-hitting, piano-flecked backdrop, “Get By” appeared like a chilly day in Brooklyn. Kanye matched Kweli’s hearth together with his personal, juxtaposing Nina Simone with drums that would have been on a Wu-Tang album. The beat was so scorching everybody wished to get on it, and Kweli ended up releasing remixes that includes Kanye himself, Mos Def, Busta Rhymes and Jay-Z.

John Legend – “Let’s Get Lifted”

One of the primary signees to G.O.O.D. Music, John Legend had all of Kanye’s manufacturing abilities at his disposal. Ye believed Legend was the longer term however clever to his credit score, he made certain to remain out of the best way on “Let’s Get Lifted,” solely including chops and a easy loop to Legend’s piano. It’s the only of touches, however sufficient to present Legend the shine he wanted.  

Kanye West – “Family Business”

When folks discuss lacking the previous Kanye, they usually refer to at least one on “Family Business”: the weak, nostalgic rapper detailing a sentimental send-up to household over the Dells’ “Fonky Thang.” The piano and vocal chops really feel completely bittersweet, imbued with the type of sadness-mixed-up-with-soul that folks weren’t used to listening to from rappers. No matter. As Kanye’s rise proved, they’d determine it out quickly sufficient.