The Making of Kanye West's "The College Dropout" Illustration by Sam Rodriguez

Ten years ago today, Kanye West’s debut album, The College Dropout, first hit stores. Like many classic albums, there’s more to The College Droput than just the music itself. Of course the album is celebrated for its banging beats courtesy of Mr. West and the honesty, vulnerability, and humor of Kanye’s still-evolving raps. But what really made the album such a special moment in hip-hop was how it bridged the gap between the underground and the mainstream.

THE PLAYERS:
Miri Ben-Ari — Violinist
Common — Rapper
Consequence — Rapper
Damon Dash — Entrepreneur, Co-Founder of Roc-A-Fella Records, Executive Producer
DeRay Davis — Actor, comedian
Evidence — Rapper, producer
Freeway — Rapper
GLC — Rapper
Talib Kweli Greene — Rapper
J. Ivy — Poet
Syleena Johnson — Singer, Songwriter
Kyambo "Hip-Hop" Joshua — Co-CEO of Hip Hop Since 1978, President of the Urban Division at Columbia Records
John Legend — Singer, Songwriter
John Monopoly — Co-Founder of Hustle Period
Chike Ozah — Director ("Through The Wire"), Co-Founder of Creative Control TV
Patrick "Plain Pat" Reynolds — Producer, Songwriter
Gee Roberson — Co-CEO of Hip Hop Since 1978, Co-Executive Producer
Coodie Simmons — Director ("Through The Wire"), Co-Founder of Creative Control TV
Tarrey Torae — Singer
Twista — Rapper
Aisha Tyler— Actress, author
Kanye West — Rapper, Producer, Songwriter  
Antony "Tony" Williams — Singer, Songwriter, Kanye's Cousin
Dion "No I.D." Wilson — Producer, Kanye's Mentor

At the time, hip-hop was divided in ways today’s younger rap fans might not be able to fathom. Just a year before Kanye dropped his debut, 50 Cent came through like hurricanes do and shook the rap game to the core with his monster debut, Get Rich or Die Tryin’. It felt like rappers either had to be chiseled gangsters like 50 Cent or Cam’ron or backpackers like Talib Kweli or Common. There was simply no middle ground. But with The College Dropout, Kanye West was able to create a masterful project that spoke to rap fans of all tastes and creeds.

They say you spend your entire life writing your first album and that statement couldn’t be more true of Kanye’s debut. The story of this album starts in Kanye’s hometown of Chicago where the young man first dreamed of being a rapper. After finding his way to New York, getting down with Roc-A-Fella Records, and becoming one of the most in-demand producers in the game, Ye struggled to convince anyone to take him seriously as a rapper.

After failing to secure a record deal anywhere else, Kanye eventually settled with the Roc. But even then he had to struggle to get his team to believe in him. But everything changed on October 23, 2002, the night Kanye got into a car accident in Los Angeles after working late. He survived the crash, which gave him a new lease on life, and inspired him even more.

How do we know all this? Because we spoke to all the major players who helped make Kanye make his debut album. From A&Rs and managers like G. Roberson and Kyambo "Hip Hop" Joshua to rappers like Consequence and GLC to videographers like Coodie, everyone had something to say about how this historic album was made and how a go-getter named Kanye West got his start as a rapper. We even managed to find some unpublished quotes from Yeezy himself. So hop in your Benz and grab your Louis Vuitton backpack because this is The Making of Kanye West’s The College Dropout...

As told to Insanul Ahmed (@Incillin)

Additional interviews by Joe La Puma (@JLaPuma), Rob Kenner (@boomshots), Brandon Jenkins (@Jersey_Jinx), Thomas Golianopoulos (@golianopoulos), & Dharmic X (@dharmicX).

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