On Feb. 10, 2004, hip-hop was introduced to Kanye West, the rapper, with his debut album College Dropout. The singles from this album were soulful and awe-inspiring. The execution of the roll out was near-perfect, and Kanye crafted a well-rounded debut body of work that at the time was the total contrast to the street anthems that were being pumped out over the radio. Even the album cover became iconic. Even though he’d already become a successful producer for Roc-A-Fella, his true passion was getting a record deal as a rap artist.
The notion of things happening for a reason or a bigger plan can be very hard to see; when Kanye suffered a near-fatal car accident that resulted in a shattered jaw in 2002, it was hard to see it as anything other than a disappointment in a promising career. But the accident that could have derailed his whole dream of being a rapper wound up catapulting it instead, as “Through The Wire” established Yeezy as a formidable force. You felt every syllable spat out over the smooth soothing sample of Chaka Khan’s 1985 single “Through The Fire” as he told of his long road to becoming a rapper. Ten years later this album now stands in the same class as classic debuts such as Reasonable Doubt, Illmatic, and Ready To Die.
A man that was an integral part of the battle to introduce the world to Kanye was Roc-A-Fella head honcho Dame Dash. At the height of the Roc-A-Fella era, Dame was one of the central figures who directed the ship, with theHarlem native positioned as one of the most powerful men in hip-hop. It was Dame who saw something in Kanye’s work ethic that made him want to fight to get him that platform. At Dame’s art gallery in the Lower East Side of New York City, XXL caught up with him to talk College Dropout, the glory days of the Roc and the growth of Kanye West. —Emmanuel C.M. (@ECM_LP)