CampusLATELY Names Kanye West “The Black Collegiate Wordsmith”

Kanye West left college to pursue his passion in 1996. He attended American Academy of Art briefly and Chicago State University where he majored in English. His mother Donda West worked as a professor at the time. Can you imagine that conversation the nerve he had to work up to tell his mother he was dropping out of college? Many of us have contemplated the same thought, be it quitting college to follow your dreams or quitting your job to do it. That experience did its part in helping to define Kanye West and his music at that time. But what also shaped his early music was #Collegelife, #GreekLife, and #BlackCollegiateLife which in return helped to shape a generation and a culture. Kanye West first album “The College Dropout” was one of the first albums to talk about black collegiate life and greek life on a national level. Walk down memory lane with us as CampusLATELY names Kanye West “The Black Collegiate Wordsmith.”

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10 Reasons We Fell For Kanye West!

1.)He took the job he didn’t want to get closer to the job he did want. He saw producing for other artists merely as his entry point into the music business. Roc-A-Fella chief Damon Dash signed him in 2002 with the idea that he’d produce a compilation album for the label’s roster of talent, which at the time included acts like Cam’ron, Beanie Sigel and the Young Gunz, among others.

2.)Everyone who contributed to his first album was an underdog “at that time.” Kanye West pulled “his people” and a lot of his friends he grew up with in Chicago to help him create “The College Dropout” (GLC, Coodie, Chike, Really Doe, Olskool Ice-Gre, JB Marshall).

3.)He is a Poet!

Also Read: Campus Lately Poetry Jam

4.) Before there was Chance The Rapper incorporating church hymns in his music there was Kanye West with “I’ll Fly Away.”

5.)He worked at the Gap. Who didn’t get a job at the Gap during the Christmas holiday’s or a gap like spot, not making “s#&^” wishing for a spaceship.

6.)He said what we were all thinking during Hurricane Katrina “Bush doesn’t care about Black People” and have thought many times since about our justice system and new representation i.e number 45.

7.)He let my generation rock to “Jesus Walks” in the club. Maybe not breaking it down on the dance floor but definitely body rocking, rapping all the words and people screaming Jesus in the club. Thanks for that @Kanye!

8.)In 2004 he dropped Slow Jamz and it “set so many parties off right”!

9.)School spirit repping the Devine Nine and #greeklife is a one of a kind.

10.)He has an angel he literally got a second chance at life. When he released “Through The Wire” he told us his story of surviving a car crash after which he dropped his first single and blew up! The American Dream.

7 Of Our Favorite Black Collegiate Versus

1.)She was with me before the deal, she’d been tryna be mine
She a Delta, so she’d been throwin’ that Dynasty sign

2.)Alpha, step, Omega, step
Kappa, step, Sigma, step
Gangstas walk, pimps gon’ talk
Oh hecky naw that boy is raw
AKA, step. Delta, step
S G Rho, step, Zeta, step
Gangstas walk, pimps gon’ talk
Oh hecky naw that boy is raw – School Spirit

3.)Cause ain’t no to tuition for havin’ no ambition
And ain’t no loans for sittin’ your ass at home
We forced to sell crack rap and get a job
You gotta do somethin’ man your ass is grown. – We Don’t Care

4.)Man, I promise, she’s so self-conscious
She has no idea what she’s doing in college
That major that she majored in don’t make no money
But she won’t drop out, her parents will look at her funny.- Alls Falls Down

5.)Saying “We eat pieces of shit like you for breakfast!”
Huh! Y’all eat pieces of shit? What’s the basis?
We ain’t goin’ nowhere, but got suits and cases. – Jesus Walks

6.)My freshman year I was going through hella problems
‘Til I built up the nerve to drop my ass up outta college
My teacher said I’m a loser, I told her why don’t you kill me
I give a fuck if you fail me, I’m gonna follow my heart. – Get ‘Em High

7.)And you don’t want to stay there ’cause them your worst cousins
Got roaches at their crib like them your first cousins
Act like you ain’t took a bath with your cousins
Fit three in the bed while six of y’all
I’m talkin’ ’bout three by the head and three by the leg
But you ain’t have to tell my girl I used to pee in the bed – Family Business

Kanye West’s ‘The College Dropout’ at 10: Classic Track-by-Track Review by Paul Cantor on Billboard.Com

Kanye West popped on the scene with full skits on his album and they were hilarious and relatable. You understood the message behind the joke or just loved the comedy.


DeRay Davis (impersonating Bernie Mac) opens things up and asks Kanye to do something for the kids, on their graduation day. It sets up the concept of the record, which is essentially Kanye speaking to the student body from the standpoint of a dropout who made good on his life without a college degree.

“We Don’t Care”

The celebratory track finds Kanye, like a valedictorian, stating his position to the graduating class — they shouldn’t care what anyone thinks of them. “We forced to sell crack, rap and get a job/ You gotta do something man your ass is grown,” he spits over a steady drum pattern and chopped sample. Elsewhere, children sing, “We wasn’t supposed to make it past twenty-five/ Jokes on you, we still alive.” It’s this idea that people are just trying to get by, and with the odds already stacked against them, they’d never planned to do much with their lives. Survival was their priority. Via

“Graduation Day”

DeRay (as Bernie Mac) returns, incredulous at the song Kanye has just delivered to the students. He calls him the n-word, and tells ‘Ye he’s not graduating, at which point the music takes a much darker tone — minor keystrokes and a sweeping string arrangement — setting up the rest of the LP.

“All Falls Down” feat. Syleena Johnson

Kanye at his confessional best, acknowledging that his addiction his not wealth; rather, it’s consumerism. Over muted guitar licks, he spits: “Then I spent four hundred bucks on this/just to be like ni–a you ain’t up on this!” The original mixtape version features samples of Lauryn Hill’s “Mystery of Iniquity,” from her “MTV Unplugged No. 2.0” album. Via

“I’ll Fly Away”

A short rendition of Albert E. Brumley’s classic gospel hymn, sung by a then-unknown John Legend. It’s more of a skit than a song, but again, sets up the next track, which deals with the themes of escapism. It’s in these early Kanye experiences where you can see his penchant for big conceptual ideas taking shape.

“Spaceship” feat. GLC and Consequence

A sample of Marvin Gaye’s “Distant Lover” provides the backdrop for Kanye and his comrades to detail needing day jobs to finance their rapping dreams: “I’ve been working this graveshift, and I made shit/ I wish I could, buy me a spaceship and fly, past the sky.” ‘Ye melodically croons, while rapping about the hypocrisy of being the only black employee at The Gap. Via

“Jesus Walks”

Over a skittering drumline, Yeezy goes in on organized religion, acknowledging that he needs Jesus, but questioning how helpful he’ll be. He speaks of the American Midwest — a region filled with its fair share of blight, back in 2004, the same as now — and says that it too, needs Jesus, but to what end? He hopes the song will help absolve him of his sins, but he’ll have to report back to us from pearly gates when he gets there.

“Never Let Me Down” feat. Jay-Z and J. Ivy

Perhaps looking to cash in on the slam poetry explosion of the time, J. Ivy — a Chicago native who’d appeared on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam — finds himself sandwiched between Kanye and Jay-Z, kicking the rare poem on a rap album. The results are mixed, and mostly it’s because Jay-Z phones in a verse about making number one albums when the rest of the cut is about overcoming racism and undefeatable odds. Via

“Get ‘Em High” feat. Common and Talib Kweli

Fun fact: before he was famous, Talib Kweli used to take Kanye West on the road with him, and he used to interrupt his shows too. In an attempt to pay him back for that favor, Kanye recruited him and Chi-town hero Common for “Get ‘Em High,” one of the album’s more playful cuts. Rapping about using the Internet to hook up with girls? A very honest and open portrayal of every twenty-something’s real life. Kanye, again, showing that he wasn’t caught up in the fantasy world of being a rapper. He was one of us. Via

“Workout Plan” [Skit]

A simulation of what would ordinarily be a nail salon conversation about what else?: losing weight. It looks to highlight the reasoning many women have for hitting the gym and the honest conversations that surround those efforts.

“The New Workout Plan”

Some critics argue that “The New Workout Plan” doesn’t fit in with the rest of the album, but critics are traditionally anti-fun, so that explains that. This playful jam should be commended as much for its conceptual ingenuity as its arrangement; it effortlessly transitions from juke to four-on-the-floor Chicago house, and in a nod to his forbearers, even includes a soul clap. Miri Ben-Ari’s violin work can be heard all over this track, and sonically you can hear the beginnings of Kanye’s maximalist approach — songs inside of songs — taking shape.Via

“Slow Jamz” feat. Twista and Jamie Foxx

Kanye’s first number one record on the Hot 100, and ultimately the track that put “The College Dropout” over the top. Lyrics like, “Got a light skinned friend looked like Michael Jackson/ Got a dark skinned friend looked like Michael Jackson,” displayed ‘Ye’s infectious lyrical wit. Paired with Jamie Foxx’s surprisingly nimble voice and Twista’s rapid-fire flow, “Slow Jamz” became one of the biggest songs of 2004.

“Breathe In Breathe Out” feat. Ludacris

“Breathe In Breathe Out” looks better than it sounds. Ludacris was one of the hottest rappers out at the time, but for whatever reason, he’s relegated to hook duty here and doesn’t add much. “First ni–a with a Benz and packpack,” Kanye rhymes, over bluesy trumpets. Not a bad song per se, but with its spare arrangement, it just doesn’t live up to the rest of the album. Via

“School Spirit Skit 1”

Davis delivers the first part of a hilarious skit that pokes fun at the post-college experience: the graduate who has to work a menial job even though he/she has a degree. Millennials everywhere know exactly what that’s about.

“School Spirit”

Kanye West is done with the fraternity life. “I’ma get on this TV mama, I’ma put shit down,” he spits, singing a line that would eventually be incorporated in his 2007 hit “Good Life.” A declarative boast about washing his hands of the school experience, complete with ending shots at Omega Psi Phi. (“I feel a ‘woo’ coming on cuz.”).Vicious. Via

“School Spirit Skit 2”

“When I die buddy, you know what’s gonna keep me warm? That’s right, those degrees.” More hilarity from DeRay Davis, who takes shots at the ridiculousness of higher education.

“Lil Jimmy Skit”

A continuation of the “School Spirit” skits, but goes even further and shows how a family that chooses education over finance won’t be able to leave anything of value to their children. Pity.

“Two Words” feat. Mos Def and Freeway

This Mandrill-sampled cut sees Kanye adding live guitars, piano, a string arrangement and the Harlem Boys Choir, making it perhaps the symphonic high point of the record. What’s more, conscious hip-hop and street rap meet on the same track, with Mos Def and Freeway featured. It’s Kanye bridging the gap between the two worlds, as if to say, ‘hey, this is all hip-hop and we’re all not that much different.’

“Through The Wire”

This is the song that started it all. Kanye, post-car accident, rapping with his jaw wired. Though the track is devoid of a hook — ‘Ye even apologizes for not speaking that clearly; such humility! — it’s an endearing cut that displays his passion for the craft. His passion for life, too. Via

“Family Business”

One of the most soulful cuts on the record, “Family Business” finds Kanye waxing poetic about the loving relationships he shares with his family members. If you dig around online, there’s a demo version of this cut with some slight differences in the piano melody and lyric delivery. Worth checking out, just to see how much work went into the final version.

“Last Call”

In Jay-Z’s 2004 retirement movie “Fade to Black,” there’s a scene in which Kanye plays Hova the instrumental to “Last Call,” which should be an indication that it could have wound up as just any other song on “The Black Album.” Luckily, it escaped that fate and became Kanye’s 15-minute rags-to-riches tale about getting signed to Roc-A-Fella. It’s really on this last cut, just hearing Kanye talk over the jazzy instrumental, where the brilliance of “The College Dropout” — and the brilliance of Kanye West, the artist — is fully realized. It never gets boring or dull. The music is dynamic, the story is engaging, and Kanye sounds excited just to be living his dream. We were excited just to be living it along with him, on record Via


We respect his growth as it had to occur but we thank him for his history and the stories he shared with the world that connected with a generation. CampusLATELY Names Kanye West “The Black Collegiate Wordsmith.”

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