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Kanye West
THE COLLEGE DROPOUT
(Roc-A-Fella)
Stars graphics

Behold, an album that praises Jesus, curses racism, and ponders the benefits of higher education ó and we have the gangsta label Roc-A-Fella to thank. Hip-hop polymath Kanye West (best known as producer of smashes like Ludacrisís "Stand Up") dwells on these and other starkly non-jiggy themes on this terrific rap debut. Although "Slow Jamz" hits hard, the standout track is the caged-bird lament "Spaceship" (featuring GLC and Consequence), whose urgent gospel swing soars without overreaching for airplay. Restless and righteous, West is an earthbound lyricist in search of spiritual uplift, not tough-guy cred; even when he threatens a beatdown, itís directed only at a Gap manager. More than a collection of survivor tales, party joints, and confessions, the album rocks in a gospel vein on "Jesus Walks," puts Mos Def, Freeway, and the Harlem Boys Choir on the same track, and finishes up with a 12-minute-plus first-person recounting of how West got signed. Tossing in three skits deriding college graduation as a goal may be dumb-as-dirt even if youíre this gifted, but The College Dropout is proof that a talent this great would also be a terrible thing to waste.

(Kanye West headlines SummerJam 2004 next Sunday, June 13, at the Tweeter Center in Mansfield with Beenie Man, Mario Winans, Murphy Lee, Twista, J-Kwon, Ying Yang Twins, and Ryan Duarte; call 617-423-NEXT.)

BY DAMIEN MCCAFFERY


Issue Date: June 4 - 10, 2004
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