Andrew Barber, in the Chicago office of fakshoredrive.com, recently chatted… (Terrence Antonio James…)
Andrew Barber of FakeShoreDrive.com has been documenting Chicago rap at great length for years. I recently sat down with my friend Barber for a casual conversation about Barber's thoughts on "The College Dropout" and its impact on the city and hip-hop scene.
"I'd already been a huge fan of Kanye's production since Jay Z's "The Blueprint," and "Izzo" remains one of my favorite Jay songs to date. I remember the MTV News brief in '02, '03 about Kanye pursuing a solo rap career, and it was on my radar from that day forward. Then the ads for "The College Dropout" started popping up in the album inserts of Roc-A-Fella releases, giving me hope that it'd actually come out. Because remember, there was a time when Kanye never coming out was a possibility -- album insert ads have been graveyards for many a rapper. Young Steff, anyone?
"In the summer of 2003, "The College Dropout" was beginning to become a reality. I vividly remember seeing the Kanye ad snipes on Milwaukee Avenue -- you know, the picture of him with the Louis Vuitton backpack on? Then the "Through the Wire" video dropped. That same summer I bought his two mixtapes, "I'm Good" and "Get Well Soon," from the mixtape rack at Tony's Sports on Sheridan. I downloaded every Kanye song I could find on Limewire and Kazaa. The freestyles, the verses tacked on "La, La, La." Everything.
"Then I went back to school for my senior year of college. Early versions of "Slow Jamz" and "All Falls Down" surfaced, and that's when Kanye became my favorite rapper. I was anticipating this album more than anything my senior year -- even more than Jay's fake-retirement opus, "The Black Album," that dropped a few months prior [Nov. 2003].
"Even though I was about to be a college graduate, I related to so much of what Kanye was saying on that album. And he dressed just like me! Polo shirts, Paper Denim jeans and sneakers -- that was my uniform at the time. He spoke to me. And it was dope to see a rapper who looked like a real person, not your standardized rapper in throwbacks and fitteds. And the music was incredible and thought-provoking. Screw Jeezy, this was my motivation music. I still listen to "Last Call" to this day for inspiration. I used to play the end of that track over and over and over. His story really influenced me, and motivated me to create my own path and follow my dreams. I have a feeling it had the same effect on many others.
"From his sound, to his look, to his message, Kanye has changed a lot since then. But Kanye in '03, '04 was the greatest, and "The College Dropout" will always be my favorite Kanye album. It came at the perfect time of my life, and was the soundtrack for me transforming from a kid into an adult."
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