Kanye's Blueprint: 10 Albums Directly Influenced By 'College Dropout'
February 10, 2014 - 4:31 pm
Food & Liquor, Lupe Fiasco
Lupe took Kanye's conscious raps and jumped out the window with them. The political and religious aspects of College Dropout were amplified via Lupe's debut, and together both albums helped position Chicago as the center of renaissance rap in 2005-2006 (alongside Common's "Be).
Sideline Story, J. Cole
J. Cole is probably the MC on this list most influenced by Kanye To The. Though the (constant) explicit references to St. Johns and student loans are what may make Cole identify with 'Ye the most, there's also a larger, more intangible Kanye cloud that has floated over Cole's career. Something about the samples, the production style and the subject matter (especially revolving around his vulnerable/player dichotomy) made it clear that had College Dropout not impacted the masses, J. Cole might still be playing pickup ball.
Don't Quit Your Day Job, Consequence
Besides featuring guest verses and production from College Dropout-era Kanye, Consequence's Don't Quit your Day Job had a mellow, regular Joe feel that blossomed under Kanye's shadow. Just look at the cover. Just a regular dude with a sharper-than-most sense of style keeping tabs on the current news and rapping about his everyday concerns. Once again, being influenced proved much less beneficial than doing the influencing.
Kendrick Lamar EP, Kendrick Lamar
You might think that Kanye took "Vanity Slaves" from (O)verly (D)edicated and injected a shot of steroids to make "New Slaves," yet Kendrick's maiden EP showed traces of Kanye's DNA first. He was a self-aware lyricist, but not too sheltered to look at his life in the context of a bigger mirror. He applied his personal problems (the one most attractive to listeners via identification) and related them to the problems of humans across the world. He won the hearts of traditional boom-bap enthusiasts before experimenting with his sound down the line. Those details could describe either Kendrick or Kanye, so it's clear that College Dropout helped form Kendrick's artistic outlook.
A Kid Named Cudi, Kid Cudi
Some might say that as time wore on, the opposite became true—Cudi's style would indirectly and directly help form 808s and Heartbreak—but Cudi was another fine student of College Dropout when he started his career. If you remember, he was still trying to rap on his first mixtape before embracing his more hybrid abilities, and he did so over beats by Dilla and OutKast. He attempted to do what Kanye had finagled—enticing traditional heads with trustworthy references like those above, while also extending his sound with hit songs like "Day N Nite." It was the same balance that Kanye deftly maneuvered between songs like "Two Words" and "Workout Plan."
When Fish Ride Bicycles, Cool Kids
Kanye might not have been the first guy to focus on the life he knew in his raps, but he made it popular. College Dropout was at once aspirational and realistic—he wanted all the riches but knew that escaping Chicago was the first big hurdle.
Midwestern peers Mikey Rocks and Chuck Inglish took that attitude, laid some bone-rattling drums on top of it, and began to format their own definition of cool through their music. They never bragged about things they didn't have, but instead focused on the nicer things in life as a way of channeling their hopes and dreams through art. The result was one of the biggest (blog) acts of the 2000's, and while they didn't quite achieve the success that many had pegged them destined for, they did continue the legacy of College Dropout—clever, down-to-earth rhymes with undeniable production.
Camp, Childish Gambino
Gambino is one of those artists that is perhaps better understood as a consummation of many different influences. Shit, his name was even taken from a Wu-Tang name generator. The humorous punchlines, the bare honesty and self-examination in Gambino's music are only some of the many facets of College Dropout that were front and center on Camp.
Acid Rap, Chance The Rapper
Part of why College Dropout is still so far-reaching in it's impact is because of the range of feelings that it exhibited. Kanye could go from depressed and outraged at racism to happy-go-lucky and upbeat in the course of one verse. That's what Chance the Rapper mastered with Acid Rap—the ability to show his darkest sides and his brightest sides on the same project, fueled by his limitless capacity to be himself. No other artists on this list has so finely studied Kanye's debut blueprint as Chance seems to have.
School Was My Hustle, Kidz In The Hall
Everything about Naledge and Double-O screamed College Dropout. From their group's moniker to the name of their first album and their kid-centric subject matter, many elements of the Chi-Town duo's style might not have existed without Kanye's debut LP. Of course, being so narrowly influenced by the holy grail of backpack rap automatically cornered them, and so their time to shine was short-lived.
Asleep In The Bread Aisle, Asher Roth
Asher Roth took the school gimmick too seriously. He also took it as a gimmick. The kid could rhyme but that debut album... let's just say it was as bland as its appropriate album title. This marks the negative influence that College Dropout had, and Asher hasn't yet been able to crawl out from under the crushing categorization of "frat rap." Kanye used the college motif as a platform off which to catapult into the universe; Asher used it as more of a crutch.