Kanye West has been one of the biggest rappers in the world for nearly a decade now.

But the album that cemented him as one of hip-hop’s most visionary stars, The College Dropout, came after years of paying his dues as a producer, all while trying to convince skeptics that he had artist potential beyond just being a “producer-rapper” vanity project.

From making beats for local Chicago acts under the tutelage of No I.D., to ghost-producing for Bad Boy hitmaker D-Dot, Kanye had a long road to travel before he landed in the Roc-A-Fella stable alongside Just Blaze to redefine Jay-Z’s sound for the 21st century. And every step of the way West had the sample-driven bangers to keep him climbing up the industry ladder.

While Complex TV goes behind the scenes on one of Ye’s classic productions, Talib Kweli’s “Get By,” we're looking back at 25 tracks that trace Kanye’s evolution from the earliest days of his career up until College Dropout.

Written by Al Shipley (@alshipley)

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