Kanye West, The College Dropout (2004)
Label: Roc-A-Fella, Def Jam
With the right narrative, anything is possible, and on Kanye West's debut, one of the most enduring stories catapulted a barely-known beatmaker from soundtracking Jay-Z LPs to becoming an international superstar and one of the rap's heroes. Kanye wasn't anyone's idea of a major rapper when he first emerged; he didn't have dexterous lyrical skills required of the underground, but a consummate self-confidence reminiscent of gangster rap's biggest personalities that made up for it.
He transformed his self-awareness (and a potent sense of humor) intro strengths, humanizing himself on tracks that looked to his humble beginnings ("Spaceship") and personal hardships ("Through the Wire") in order to paint a picture of an artist with a singular perspective. Not only did it jumpstart a career of one of the art form's most significant artists, but it cleared a lane for so many others as well. — DD
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