Few hip-hop experiences are as surreal as listening back to Kanye West's formative debut, The College Dropout, which arrived sixteen years ago to this day. Marking a major transition for the youthful Roc-A-Fella producer, who until then had largely crafted beats for the likes of Jay-Z, Freeway, Beanie Sigel and more, Kanye's first solo album brought him in front of the mic to surprising results. Endearing, amusing, and occasionally sharp, Ye's bright-eyed introduction remains celebrated among hip-hop's great debut albums -- and rightfully so, if only on the basis of historical significance.
While the entire project is lined with classic tracks, it seems fitting to remember a time when "The Throne" came to manifest. While Jay-Z and Kanye were no stranger to working with one another, "Never Let Me Down" explored the dynamic in a new light. GOAT-tier though the Jigga Man may be, he found himself being outshined (or perhaps letting little bro claim a victory) by a passionate and notably hungry young Yeezy. "I get down for my grandfather who took my mama, made her sit in that seat where white folks ain't want us to eat," he raps, in his opening lines. "At the tender age of six, she was arrested for the sit-ins, and with that in my blood I was born to be different."
A far cry from the man who would one day sing of bleached anuses and eventually rediscover his faith, College Dropout Kanye was operating on a refreshingly wholesome plane of existence. "Never Let Me Down" features one of his best performances on the entire project, a window into the soul of an artist looking to prove himself. Happy anniversary to a hip-hop classic.
I get down for my grandfather who took my mama
Made her sit in that seat where white folks ain't want us to eat
At the tender age of 6, she was arrested for the sit-ins
And with that in my blood I was born to be different
Now n***as can't make it to ballots to choose leadership
But we can make it to Jacob's and to the dealership
That's why I hear new music and I just don't be feelin' it
Racism's still alive, they just be concealing it