Label: Roc-A-Fella, Def Jam
Where would modern rap be without The College Dropout? At a time when super hero rap was the hot ticket, here came a kid from Chicago rocking pink Polo shirts with popped collars who was rapping about how bad he felt for all the clothes he bought. Behind those rhymes weren't slick keyboard synths, but warm, lovingly chopped soul samples that played like a mix between the RZA and Diddy's Hitmen crew.
From "Through the Wire" to "Slow Jams" to "All Falls Down", Kanye was able to bring the best of the underground to the forefront and infuse it with pop sensibilities. The reverberations of the album could be heard all through the genre, from the more self-effacing lyrics to the re-emergence of soul beats. Ask any rapper under 30 and they'll tell you that they studied The College Dropout.