Kanye West: “It’s all about the experience, The College Dropout experience. I’ll never be able to relive making the first album again. I’ll never be able to relive being able to walk through the airport and nobody knows who I am.”
Consequence: “The camaraderie during that time is the reason why we’re celebrating it 10 years later. You spend your lifetime trying to write your first album—that was Kanye’s life at the time. The landscape of music got hit with an uppercut. It was a barter for me giving up the resource of my flow, information, and my diligence for wanting to be back on. In this game, nothing sparks more interest than a major release that’s successful.
“At first people were like, ‘Consequence, why you fucking with him? He sucks.' I was like, ‘Nah he don’t suck. I promise you he don’t suck.’ The album dropped and the same motherfuckers is now on his dick. Like, ‘I remember you straight fronted on that nigga.’ This is an industry based on manufacturing and that’s the timepiece—that’s a collector’s item. All that four-in-the-morning recording is worth it when 10 years later we can discuss it.
A lot of people said they could tell me and Kanye had been doing a lot of work together because of his delivery. So it was a good validation for me. - Consequence
“From an industry standpoint, a lot of people said they could tell me and Kanye had been doing a lot of work together because of his delivery. So it was a good validation for me. [As far as flows] I would make a pitcher of grape lemonade Kool-Aid, then we would start rapping, and then whatever happened...you know, just pay me later. When we read that he’ll laugh his ass off. [Laughs.] That ain't figurative language, that’s literally what happened.
“He wasn’t the MC that you hear on The College Dropout yet. It took a lot of work. I want to make sure that people understand that team the was around for The College Dropout [made it what it is]. The College Dropout is the cornerstone piece of Kanye’s career."
Miri Ben-Ari: “There’s a brilliance to Kanye. Some people call him a musical genius. Is he really? What music can he play? Can you tell me? So, what does it mean, musical genius? For Kanye, it means the ability to appreciate good music and good musicians. He always knew who to put around him. He knows what trends to follow. Not only in America, but globally. He knows how to fuse things right and how to introduce things at the right time. At the time, when College Dropout came out, urban music really needed that sound."
Common: “The night Kanye played SOBs in New York [a few months before the album dropped], I knew that hip-hop was about to change. He was the first artist to bring together the backpack crowd along with the Roc-A-Fella ballers. I remember seeing people throwing up the Roc, but it was all underground hip-hop backpackers doing it. That album, he bridged the gap.”
John Legend: “I certainly wouldn’t have gotten signed were it not for The College Dropout. Prior to the album’s release, we weren’t getting good offers and we were frustrated. When College Dropout came out, everything changed and everybody wanted to sign me.
“I felt like it was going to be special when we were working on it because I had worked a little bit on Lauryn Hill’s Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and I got that same feeling when I was working on College Dropout. It became a moment in hip-hop that was going to be special and going to be historic.”
Deray Davis: “A couple of years later after the album came out, Kanye walked up to me and handed me a big-ass bulk of money for the skits. I won’t go into the amount, but it was enough to buy a small car. Yeezy was like, ‘Take it.’ I was like, ‘What the fuck?’ He’d do shit like that all the time. So I was like, ‘Thank you, I appreciate it.’ That’s just the kind of guy he is.
“One of the biggest things of my career was being on that album. We performed at the Grammys. He changed everything with that. That’s what birthed all the Drakes. Kanye birthed all that’s going on now. He remembers the album, he remembers the people that was there, he knows what that album was it. That’s the root to all the big branches going on now.”
A couple of years later after the album came out, Kanye walked up to me and handed me a big ass bulk of money for the skits. I won’t go into the amount, but it was enough to buy a small car. —Deray Davis
Aisha Tyler: “As mercurial as Kanye is, what I’ve always found compelling about him is his honesty and his willingness to be very intimate. That’s what was so great about this album. It’s not like there haven’t been other vulnerable rappers, but it felt like he was willing to play every side of a part and be complex and not just have it be about ‘My car is the biggest, my dick is the biggest.’ That will always be a beautiful aspect of his work.
“Kanye captured something. He captured a moment, not just in the music but in the whole concept of that album, that felt new. I think a lot of guys who have come after—from Frank Ocean to Kendrick Lamar—they’ve flowed out of that. I’m proud of Kanye. It’s nice to see that when Aisha Tyler guests on your record, you blow up. [Laughs.]”
Coodie: “Working with Kanye was great for awareness for us. It took a while for people to separate us from Kanye so that enough people respect us just for the work that we’re doing like the 30 For 30 on Benji, and not just lumping us with, ‘Oh, those are the guys that did the ‘Through the Wire’ video.’
“As far as Kanye, after that album it turned into more of a business and everyone around him is about the money. The powers that be kind of took over and there wasn’t no room for us. We had a couple of opportunities we could have worked with Kanye, but it just wasn’t right for us. I would love to ask Kanye why we’re not working together.
“I still love him. I still hope the best for him. Every time I see something bad happen to him, I’m like, ‘I wish I could have been there to tell him no or tell him different.’ Ain’t nobody do that or say that but a friend. It just hurts me. But then, if I’m thinking like anybody else I’m like, ‘Oh my footage is gonna be worth a lot of money now! Keep doing crazy stuff! Yeah!’ But every time, I cringe, like, ‘Damn.’ But hey, that’s Kanye West. That’s his life, and I wish him well.
L.A. Reid wasn’t trying to hire me, they wanted to keep me doing admin work. But they hired me because Kanye called L.A. and was like, ‘Yo you gotta make Pat A&R or else...’
“The plan is still to do [the documentary about Kanye]. When it’s time, it will happen. All that footage I shot, people wanted that. They couldn’t have it because I owned it. People offered money before. I talked to Kanye he’s like, ‘Nah man, I don’t want nobody to see that side of me.’ That side of him is Kanye being humble, on the grind, doin' what it takes—now he’s a rock star. When people see that, they gone fall right back in love with Kanye because that’s what they miss about him.”
Plain Pat: “I didn’t get promoted to A&R at Def Jam until after College Dropout came out. It was when Lyor Cohen left and L.A. Reid came in. L.A. wasn’t trying to hire me, they wanted to keep me doing admin work. But they hired me because Kanye called L.A. and was like, ‘Yo you gotta make Pat A&R or else...’ They didn’t really fuck with me like that, but I was just up there as, like, the Kanye guy.
“[When making the album] I was going so far above the job I was supposed to be doing. Some days I would pay for something myself, like a studio, because we just want to get it done so bad that it didn’t matter. We just loved the music so much, it was important to us.”
GLC: “The album changed my life. It was like the first time the world heard me rap. I had about five different offers on the table off of that one verse. There I was traveling all across the world. Having people coming up to me crying, talking about, ‘They just lost their mom too and thanks.’ I always was a popular guy, I always had girls competing for my affection. But after that ‘Spaceship’ verse, my lady rate went through the roof! [Laughs.] And I embraced it!”
Hip Hop: “When I used to think about it, that shit made me cry. That shit was incredible, the way the album was being accepted. It was just everything that he wanted to do. Just thinking about it from that point of me and him out there in Chicago in 1996 all the way to that point when it came out is crazy.”
J. Ivy: “I remember when Kanye performed at Webster Hall [after the album dropped] and me and Coodie talked Dave Chappelle into wearing the bear costume. The album was a magical moment. We had a lot of gifted people come together. College professors have told me that they have taught people my work. People have tattooed my verse on their arms.
“I’m sitting in this cafe and this girl walked up and gave me a note right now. It says, ‘Thank you for exercising your gift. Chante Alicia, a fan.’ She just handed me this.”
I always was a popular guy, I always had girls competing for my affection. But after that ‘Spaceship’ verse, my lady rate went through the roof! [Laughs.] And I embraced it! —GLC
Tony Williams: “When College Dropout came out, it was like, 'OK I still have a chance.' My first album came out last year. Nobody gets to my age and puts out their first album. Before College Dropout came out, I had no idea of the magnitude of what Kanye’s celebrity was [or would become]. He’s still not ‘Kanye West’ to me, he’s just Kanye. I remember when he was born. [Laugh.]”
Syleena Johnson: “Me and Kanye lost contact, but it will always be something that I’m glad that I did. Maybe he’ll do a College Dropout 2. A lot of people be like, ‘Man, I wish he go back to what he used to do.’”
Gee Roberson: “It’s impossible to remotely measure what that album has done for my career, my business, and who I am today. You only get that one shot of having your first [artist’s album]. And of all the countless artists that I’ve came across throughout the years and around the world, how blessed am I to be the one to encounter Kanye West? Think about that.
“Even now, 10 years later, we still work together and I’m still saying, 'We about to tear it up because we working on this new album.' I’m still in awe. I shouldn’t still be amazed by what’s going on. One word: blessed. That’s it.”
Dame Dash: “I didn’t know that he could shift the culture. I didn’t know that he could do it on his own—I thought he needed me to do it. And I didn’t anticipate that he was fearless on the publicity-stunt tip. So the shit with the president and the Taylor Swift thing—I didn’t know he was that nuts! [Laughs.]”