Review Summary: Chapter 1: Roots
I honestly can’t imagine what a world without Kanye West would be like. He’s one of the biggest stars on the planet, and is a humongous lightning rod for attention thanks to his “outgoing” personality and all his PR stunts. However, there was a time when he was just another producer who happened to release an album, and what an album it was. Mr. West takes no time in showing off his trademark production style of high-pitched soul samples. While this may be old news now, this was huge back in the mid 2000’s. Kanye almost single-handedly brought soul back into hip-hop, something that was needed urgently in a time dominated by crunk. Every song just has that smooth, classic sound just makes you feel good. There is a little R&B and Funk put into there, but West successfully keeps the music at its soul roots. While that makes it sound like there’d be no variety at all, you’re mistaken. Every track has its own elements that make it unique, from the acoustic guitar driven “All Falls Down”, to the children’s choir in “Jesus Walks”, and the funky guitars of “The New Workout Plan” keeps the record from feeling derivative.
While West himself has said multiple times, even on the track “Last Call”, that he’s a producer first and a rapper second, you wouldn't be able to tell so when he’s on the mic. Even though he isn't flashiest MC around, he definitely has flow and is a gold mine when it comes to lyrics, especially when it comes to hooks. There’s no doubt that you’ll have at least one chorus stuck in your head in the best way possible. You can also tell that Kanye has quite a sense of humor. Tracks like “The New Workout Plan” and “Family Business” had me laughing, which is incredibly hard to do when it comes to music, with lines like this:
"Oh my god, is that a black card?"/I turned around and replied,
Why yes. But I prefer the term African American Express"
However, it’s not all fun and games with Kanye. As mentioned before, he isn't afraid to tackle topics most rappers won’t even touch with a stick. This is most exemplified in the “Jesus Walks”, where Kanye raps about one of the biggest taboos in music: religion; and he knows it’s wrong. It’s the whole topic of the song. He questions why rapper can rap about hoes, drugs, and violence all they want, but won’t even touch religion. This topic is still talked about today, and without this song that discussion probably wouldn't have even started. He also raps about the dangers of consumerism, the absurdity of gender stereotypes, and the effects of a car crash he was in that almost killed him, showing his lyrical range that is held up for the majority of the album.
The closer of the album, “Last Call” lasts for 12 minutes, however the real song only lasts for about 4 minutes. The remaining time is dedicated to a autobiographical monologue about how West got his big break, and this is honestly a prime example of what sets him apart from almost any other popular artist on the planet. It feels genuine. One of the biggest problems plaguing pop music, is that it always seems they’re always putting on a mask, hiding their true self. But with West, you just feel his heart and soul into every track, and you know that everything he says came straight from him.
This album is not perfect; no album is. In fact, the largest problem with this album is a problem that plagues many of West’s albums: filler. Some of the songs on Dropout honestly don’t feel needed, as they don’t break any new ground lyrically or sonically. But for a debut album, this shines bright among the best. He may now be one of the most polarizing artists in the mainstream nowadays, but remember, a decade ago he was just a man with a Benz and a backpack.