Album: The College Dropout
Producer: Kanye West
Label: Roc-A-Fella, Def Jam

After it was announced that the guy who did all of those great beats on The Blueprint had just inked a solo record deal with Roc-A-Fella, most assumed the only place they'd actually see the album was in "coming soon" advertisements on liner notes inside the latest Jay-Z release. You know—right there beside Oschino & Sparks and Rell.

Taking his destiny into his hands, Kanye dug into his own pockets to finance the video for "Through the Wire" (directed by then-unknown duo Coodie & Chike), which he serviced to television and radio himself.

The unexpected hit, recorded just two weeks after West almost lost his life in a car accident—with his jaw wired shut, he was literally rapping “through the wire.” The world had no idea what they were in for. This Chaka Khan–sampling smash thrust Kanye into the limelight, introducing us to a soon-to-be megastar who balanced traditional hip-hop aesthetics with commercial viability. Who knew a brush with death would birth arguably the biggest rapper in the world?