2004 was a big year for popular culture. We saw the launch of Facebook (then known as the Facebook), endured a nipplegate at the Superbowl, was introduced to some Desperate Housewives, and said goodbye to out Friends. But nothing can complete with Kanye West’s arrival onto the music scene, not just as a talented producer, but as a rapper of the kind we hadn’t seen before. Nobody knew back then, I don’t think even Kanye truly knew, how much of a iconic figure, on stage and off, the 27 year old “Through The Wire” singer would become.
Recorded over four years beginning in 1999, his debut was a struggle to get to the shelves. Kanye began to find success when he produced a track on Jay Z’s The Dynasty: Roc La Familia as a up-and-coming artist, and received even more recognition for his work on The Blueprint, released in 2001, when he crafted hits like “Izzo (H.O.V.A)” and “Heart of the City (Ain’t No Love)”. Even with his mainstream success, “Izzo” making it to number eight on the Billboard Hot 100, Capitol Records decided against taking him on after a series of meetings, and Roc-A-Fella Records reluctantly took him onboard in fear of him taking his work elsewhere. On October 23, 2002, Kanye fell asleep at the wheel while driving home from a California recording studio, which left him with a shattered jaw. The crash was near-fatal, so Kanye was lucky for only his jaw to be wired shut in reconstructive surgery. All of this lead to “Through the Wire”, the first song to be heard out of his work, where he expressed his experiance in the accident, and took Kanye in the right direction for his debut saying, “all the better artists have expressed what they are going through”, and that is exactly what he intended to do. When “Through the Wire” became available on the Get Well Soon… mixtape, Kanye also announced he was working on a album called The Collage Dropout, and told that its overall theme was “make your own decisions. Don’t let society tell you, ‘This is what you have to do.’” This instantly drew me in towards the album and all it represented.
You could say I was a latecomer to the genre of hip-hop. Before I first downloaded Yeezus, I had listened to Watch The Throne (West’s full album collaboration with mentor and friend Jay Z), and of course had heard of Kanye’s commercial hits like “Stronger” and “Gold Digger”, but never dug deeper. I remember the first time I listened to Kanye’s experimental 2013 album. I was at school. It was a cold morning. I had a free period, when I was meant to be studying, but wasn’t. I, within an hour, was hooked on this work of art. Getting home I had to have more. Over and over again I listen to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, till I became sick of it. The next Kanye West LP that received heavy rotation from me was his first.
The Collage Dropout is a great achievement in its own right. His music was about family, religion, consumerism, and his other personal struggles. He was able to shake of the gangster tag that came along with being a rapper at the time, all while crafting his debut album. People forget that his first album peaked at number two on the Billboard 200 (only being held off by Norah Jones’ Feels Like Home) and was nominated for both Album of the Year and Best Rap Album at the 2005 Grammy Awards (he would go on to win Best Rap Album, while losing Album of the Year to Ray Charles for Genius Love Company). All this was from a guy that nobody wanted to take a chance on. These days Kanye West receives most of the medias attention for punching photographers every second day and being part of the force that is Kimye, which can be considers the 2010’s version of Brangelina. But on the 10th of Febuary, 2014, Kanye West needs to be seen as the incredible artist that he truly is.