An Ode to Kanye’s “The College Dropout”

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Yeezus concert, Madison Square Garden, 11/24/13

10 years ago, I was that high school kid riding the bus to school every day when all of her friends had cars. The ride was about an hour each way, and to fill those two hours, I’d listen to music. Discman in hand (Yes, Discman—it was the Stone Ages…) I’d sit with my knees pressed against my chest, listening to mixes I’d created from downloads and my parents’ CDs.

I learned that certain albums would become the soundtrack for different parts of my life, and Kanye West’s The College Dropout set the tone for the latter half of high school. I’d never heard a record like it: His distinct voice and lyrical wit gave a breath of new life to samples from artists like Marvin Gaye and Chaka Khan. The passion I felt as he rapped with a wired-shut jaw on “Through the Wire” gave me goosebumps. “Spaceship” helped me get through long days in classes I didn’t care about. “We Just Don’t Care,” became my anthem for hope, and of course, “All Falls Down” was full of aha-moment gems like: “It seems we living the American dream, but the people highest up got the lowest self-esteem.”

And so, thanks to those early morning bus rides, my love affair with ’Ye began. A decade later, I’ve seen him perform live six times. Late Registration became (ironically) the soundtrack for my freshman year of college; Graduation, for early morning inspiration; 808s and Heartbreak for the laying-in-the-dark emo moments (hey, you know you have them too!); My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy for long walks in the city, and Yeezus for intense workouts at the gym.

Rants and Kardashians aside (although, full disclosure: I love a good Kanye rant, and I’m maybe, kinda, sorta coming around to him and Kim) Kanye is, as he himself has pointed out to all of us, a genius. His music has helped me feel confident enough to dream out loud, to go against the grain, and to be my own biggest champion—and it all started with an album that’s just as relevant today as it was ten years ago. Now that’s a classic.

Forever Young

photo of Jay-z & Kanye West at Yankee Stadium, 9/14/10

“Fear not when, fear not why, fear not much while we’re alive/life is for living, not living uptight/see ya somewhere up in the sky…” – Jay-z, Forever Young

Scene: September 14th, the Bronx. Yankee Stadium. Two of hip-hop’s greats, Eminem and Jay-z, and some 50,000 + screaming fans.

A historic day for music, and the best concert I’ve ever been to, hands down.

This all might sound a bit dramatic, but here’s a little background: I’ve always loved hip-hop, but as of late it has been so disappointing – with little meaning or authenticity, there are few hip-hop artists I am still a major fan of, but I do have my top three right now: Jay-z, Kanye, and Drake.

So imagine my excitement when my boss surprised me last Tuesday with tickets to a Jay-z concert, and a historic NY concert at that – the first concert in Yankee Stadium.

Me and my co-worker went together, and we were shocked when we found our seats were actually down on the field of the stadium, 20th row. The seats were perfect to see the show from beginning to end. I’m not a huge Eminem fan, but he opened with a great set. He brought out 50 Cent and, my favorite part, also brought Dr. Dre out of hiding (who knows where he’d been all this time?) But Jay-z blew the entire stadium out of the water when after coming on with a freestyle, he brought out Kanye West, bright red leather suit and all. I almost collapsed from excitement – I’ve seen him in concert twice, but my love for Kanye runs deep and I can never get enough of his energy. And when Drake came out next, I just about lost it. Seriously? It was hard to keep up with the surprises, especially when more of them followed – throughout the show, out came Swizz Beats, Mary J. Blige, Nicki Minaj, and Beyonce. Hip-hop heaven.

The most magical moment was when Jay-z was performing Empire State of Mind, which, as I think I’ve mentioned, will forever hold a special place in my heart as the theme song behind me getting my feet on the ground in NYC. When I turned around to look at the stadium behind me filled with thousands of people. I couldn’t help but think, “here I am, on the field of Yankee Stadium, watching Jay-z perform on a perfect fall night…” It was enough for my eyes to fill with tears, and was definitely an unforgettable moment…