Album: The College Dropout

Kanye West arrived on the hip-hop landscape during the heights of drug dealer chic—a time when it seemed like a great career liability to oadmit that you had never sold cocaine. So it was with knowing irony that The College Dropout opened up with a song about just that topic. Instead of first person crime tales, Kanye frames the problem in the context of black poverty—explaining the hustle as a way to get over on a system that offers little with its pitiful miminum wage: "We put shit on layaway, then come back/We claim other people's kids on our income tax/We take that money, cop work, then push packs to get paid." Al Shipley