Before The College Dropout, Kanye West had already gained notoriety as a respected producer for his work on Jay-Z’s The Blueprint, in particular for crafting the lead single “Izzo (H.O.V.A)”. The Jackson 5 sample complimented Jay’s delivery all too well, successfully placing the track on the Billboard Top 100 and providing Jay with one of his most globally recognized songs of all time. Kanye’s mastery of “soul beats”, at the time, brought an undeniably fresh sound to the hip hop world. With beats reminiscent of J.Dilla and techniques garnered from mentor NO I.D, Kanye undoubtedly established himself as a producer to be reckoned with.
The status quo of world renowned producer would suffice for many but not for Mr. West. His hunger left him unsatisfied and his passion provided a resiliency that not only led to his first venture as a hip-hop rap artist but would also define him as an individual-one with grand ambitions of constantly moving the culture.
Monday, February 10 2014 served as the 10 year anniversary for The College Dropout which prompted Kanye to talk about the album and the difficulty of treading those waters via twitter.
“Ten years later I am still the same kid from Chicago, still dreaming out loud, still banging on the door.” 2:03 PM – 10 Feb 2014
“The doors may be heavier, but I promise you WE WILL BREAK THEM.” 2:03 PM – 10 Feb 2014 –
This same story of “breaking down doors” served as a testimonial for the last track on The College Dropout, “Last Call”.
The track commences with an iconic Jay-Z laugh, a classic industry trick to give the listener the sensation of being in the studio. The classic ’70s soul loop and sped-up vocal sample that we’ve gotten so accustom to hearing the entire album follows, bearing the words: “Here’s to the rock, Here’s to Rockafella”. This toast set the tone, equipping the song with an upbeat melody that possessed the right amount of knock, giving smooth head-nod effect while providing a relaxed ambience, telling the listener to “sit back and vibe out.”
Ye’s first verse was laced with several double entendres cleverly delivered each time the beat went a-capella. The braggadocios spirited bars were not only thoroughly entertaining but also served as the underlying theme of the song. “The Rudolph the red nosed reindeer of the Roc” and “overlooked” are just some of the analogies he relied on in relaying how difficult it was for him to get signed. “Last Call” was The College Dropout’s victory lap, a toast to the completion of the first album, his newly minted Rocafella deal, and a validation of his skills as an emcee. The last part of the third verse depicts this perfectly.
I prayed to the skies and I changed my stars
I went to the malls and I balled too hard
‘”Oh my god, is that a black card?’”
I turned around and replied, ‘”Why yes
But I prefer the term African American Express’”
Brains, power, and muscle, like Dame, Puffy, and Russell
Your boy back on his hustle, you know what I’ve been up to
Killin y’all niggas on that lyrical shit
Mayonnaise colored Benz, I push Miracle Whips
During his come-up, many people (including Roc-a-fella themselves, thus why the album was funded 100% out of Ye’s pocket) doubted Kanye’s lyrical abilities, and this slight is what fueled the energy that made “Last Call” and the rest of the album such an enjoyable listen. After four minutes into the song, just when the eye-popping line was delivered (see stanza above), the song progressed into an outro/testimonial that transcended the song from good to great and from great to what some would call legendary. With soulful ooo’s and ahhh’s serving as a backdrop, Kanye began, unannounced, to detail his success story. From his series of meetings with Capitol Records, where West was ultimately denied an artist deal, to making beats for local acts in Chicago to keep the lights on. The story became a rally, complete with bone chilling horn solos and vocal contributions from the characters in his story. Without even realizing it, you’re drawn deep into his journey, listening to his personal triumphs and failures first hand. The story feels authentic and raw; it showed the nature of the industry, the unglamorous climb to the top and most importantly an inherent vulnerability in a genre based on masculinity and toughness, something few artists are willing to display. The song ends, as we all now know, with Kanye signing to Roc-a-fella records, and a world of opportunity awaiting him.
The College Dropout has classics; between the innate soulfulness readily apparent in Kanye’s sample choices (Chaka Khan on Through the Wire and Luther Vandross on Slow Jamz), the heartfelt lyrics and the memorable features it was hard choosing which favored the other but nonw seldom matched genuineness of “Last Call” which places it in a class above, inspiring many other listeners like myself to continue with effort for success and to celebrate those that we do achieve.
– Joshua Eferighe