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Ranking Every Song on ‘The College Dropout’ by ‘Kanye West’

Released: 2004

Label: Roc-A-Fella

Featuring: Syleena Johnson, GLC, Consequence, JAY-Z, J. Ivy, Talib Kweli, Common, Twista, Jamie Foxx, Ludacris, Mos Def, Freeway, The Boys Choir Of Harlem

When ‘The College Dropout’ hit the scene in 2004, it was like hip-hop had taken a fresh breath. Kanye West, the genius from Chicago, emerged, bearing an album that would be patent evidence of his audacious creativity and an enduring footprint in the music industry. He stepped on the scene with an intricate blueprint of beats, insightful lyrics, and a unique perspective that shifted the hip-hop narrative away from street credibility to intellect, introspection, and vulnerability. ‘The College Dropout’ was a rebellious entry into the rap arena, an opus that took the guts of unpredictable samples and stacked them against profound, witty lyrics to produce a sonic masterpiece.

Songs like ‘All Falls Down,’ ‘Spaceship,’ and ‘Jesus Walks’ showcase West’s gifted wordplay and storytelling talent. They present him as a keen observer of societal constructs and personal agonies, translating them into verses that are both relatable and thought-provoking. Through these tracks, Kanye West unapologetically pushes the boundaries on topics such as materialism, faith, struggle, and the quest for success. ‘Family Business,’ ‘Through The Wire,’ and ‘Last Call’ reveal the man behind the music, painting vivid memories from his past and his uncompromising will to attain his dreams.

So let’s get into it. From the hopeful naivety of ‘We Don’t Care’ to the triumphant resilience in ‘Last Call,’ here we’re ranking every song on ‘The College Dropout’ by ‘Kanye West.’

All Falls Down

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The raw lyrics showcase West’s ability to mirror the society around him, liberating his thoughts on capitalism, consumerism, and self-esteem. He paints a vivid picture of a self-conscious woman trapped in social constructs. It’s classic Ye with a soulful balance brought by Syleena Johnson, it’s a whole mood.

Through The Wire

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Following a near-fatal car accident that left his jaw wired shut, Kanye spits bars with vivid imagery, capturing his traumatic experience and ensuing struggle. Notably, he raps, “I swear, this right here, history in the making, man” – a prophetic declaration, considering his subsequent impact on hip-hop culture. His recovery is framed not solely as personal victory but as an artistic breakthrough, showcasing his sheer willpower and passion. Despite his physical condition, he persists, exclaiming “Make music that’s fire, spit my soul through the wire,” a line powerful enough to give you goosebumps. Kanye’s audacity to express his trauma through music, amplified by his raw delivery, is what sets “Through The Wire” apart in the canon of hip-hop, anchoring it as a significant milestone in The College Dropout, and Kanye West’s meteoric rise to hip-hop royalty.

Slow Jamz

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The lyrical content is clever, playful and deeply rooted in hip-hop’s penchant for bravado and romantic inclination, with Twista’s quickfire lines juxtaposing Kanye’s more laid-back delivery. Lines like Kanye’s “She got a light-skinned friend look like Michael Jackson, Got a dark-skinned friend look like Michael Jackson” exhibit his witty wordplay and humor. Kanye’s beats are just as soulful as the R&B classics he name-drops, with samples from the likes of Luther Vandross providing a sonic bedding for this romantic hip-hop opus. The track became a chart topper and further solidified Kanye’s reputation for creating crossover hits that appealed to both rap purists and a wider mainstream audience.

Jesus Walks

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He’s caught in a war – with terrorism, racism, but most of all, a personal battle within. He articulately portrays the struggle and desperation through lines like, “God show me the way because the Devil’s trying to break me down.” He’s not merely making statements; he’s probing the listener’s consciousness. He unearths the hard realities of the Chi, of the streets, while grappling with existential questions. Though the Midwest may be branded ‘young and restless,’ Kanye seeks peace and deliverance from the relentless grind. He decries the dichotomy between mass-accepted and taboo topics in hip-hop, challenging the conventional with a line that hits you hard: “They say you can rap about anything except for Jesus.” In doing so, Kanye secures his spot as a trailblazing provocateur in the hip-hop scene, using his platform to delve into personal faith and social commentary.

Family Business

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He candidly explores familial issues, embracing the good, the comical, and even the hardships. A standout line, “I woke up early this mornin’ with a new state of mind, A creative way to rhyme without usin’ knives and guns” showcases Kanye’s commitment to shift the paradigm from the violence-prevalent narrative prevalent in hip-hop. This track becomes an ode to the nuclear family, extolling their virtues, forgiving their flaws, and declaring their importance over materialistic symbols – diamond rings and fancy things. “Family Business” is Kanye in his most vulnerable, symbolizing a uniquely melodious narration of life in an African-American household, replete with all its trials, tribulations, and most importantly, triumphs.

The New Workout Plan

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Blending satire and braggadocio, Kanye uses a workout tape metaphor to critique societal obsession with materialism and physical appearance. The lyrics “So, first of all, we gon’ work on the stomach / Nobody wants a little tight ass” and “And like now I shop every day on Rodeo Drive / I just want to say, thank you Kanye!” demonstrate his clever framing of societal expectations and the superficial criteria for success. The biting humor conceals a deeper commentary on the disparities between our perceived versus lived realities. Kanye’s audacious lyricism takes potshots at what society deems desirable, while reminding listeners of the emptiness of such pursuits. By calling out the superficiality, Kanye drops a beat, a bar, and a social critique, all in one go.

Never Let Me Down

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The song dives deep into themes of resilience and the pursuit of authenticity in a postmodern world influenced by racism and materialism. JAY-Z skillfully uses car metaphors as a critique of the fleeting success in the rap industry, while Kanye compares his experiences with racism to his mother’s involvement in the civil rights movement. J. Ivy, on his verse, pairs spiritual undertones with defiant self-expression. The track is punctuated by poignant lines like Kanye’s “Racism’s still alive, they just be concealin’ it,” and JAY-Z’s brutally honest, “Who else you know been hot this long?” Such uncompromising lyrics echo throughout ‘The College Dropout’, ensuring “Never Let Me Down” resonates on both personal and socio-political levels.


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Co-featuring GLC and Consequence, it’s a deep-dive into Kanye’s pre-fame struggles, his dreams of liberation, and his unfaltering hustle, all underscored by a soulful, nostalgic beat. West’s vivid wordplay provides an unfiltered view into his retail-job frustrations, racial discrimination and the astounding work ethic that fueled his grind, encapsulated in the hard-hitting line: “Lock yourself in a room doin’ five beats a day for three summers”. Kanye gives voice to the grind and the aspiration to transcend his circumstances, making “Spaceship” a deeply relatable anthem for the dream-chasers, and a testament to the tenacity and resilience it took for him to become the influential figure he is in hip-hop today.

We Don’t Care

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Kanye doesn’t sugarcoat the harsh realities; he flips the script to expose the grotesque beauty of survival. The vulnerability and the pure honesty in Kanye’s lyrics create a vivid image of marginalised lives, echoing with lines like, “We wasn’t s’posed to make it past 25, Joke’s on you we still alive”. This song acknowledges the paradox of the drug trade as a damaging but sometimes necessary element of ghetto economy, and in doing so, he challenges the system that offers “no tuition for having no ambition”. Kanye’s genius lies in his ability to deliver these crucial narratives wrapped in catchy hooks and soulful beats, proving that hip-hop can be a platform for profound messages rooted in lived realities.

Graduation Day


This interlude is preachin’ a ferocious dialogue between ‘Ye and a fictional school official, mad as hell that Kanye’s not toeing the line. The outrage and dismissiveness of the elders represent society’s response to anyone daring to deviate from their prescribed path. Kanye unapologetically embraces his outsider status declaring, “I’m about to break the rules, but don’t tell anybody.” He essentially deconstructs the stereotypical notion of success that’s forced on the youth, candidly expressing his fear of disappointing his mother, while asserting his unique life path. As the song ends, we’re left to ruminate on Kanye’s defiance and the struggle between conventional societal norms and individual self-expression.

I’ll Fly Away


Kanye flips the script on the pain and struggle, taking on an old spiritual hymn to link his flights of aspiration to the African-American historical experience. This ain’t just a song, it’s an inheritance, an echo of the hardship from old-time spirituals. The lyrics, “One glad morning, when this life is over, I’ll fly away, To a land where joy shall never end, I’ll fly away”, scream resilience, echoing a common theme of enduring through suffering and longing for liberation, physically or spiritually, prevalent in the African American culture. By injecting this hymn into the album, Kanye skillfully interweaves a sense of history into his own narrative, reminding us of the systemic hardships Black Americans have faced, and their sustained fight for freedom.

Workout Plan

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Yo, it schemes on the fixation with superficial appearances and affluence, poking at the aspirational motivations behind cherishing the so-called ‘workout plan’. It’s less of Ye’s lyrical genius and more his knack for humorous storytelling, almost a satire of conversations you might overhear in a salon or mall. Take this gem for instance, “Since I copped this new workout plan my shit is right / Rollin’ in Lexus, Acuras, everything, girl.” It ain’t about deep lyricism here, it’s all about the chuckles, and your boy Kanye ain’t missing a beat with these comic reliefs.

Get Em High


Flanked by lyrical heavyweights Talib Kweli and Common, Kanye deftly flips the script on naysayers with lines like “My teacher said I was a loser, I told her, ‘Why don’t you kill me?’ I give a fuck if you fail me, I’m gonna follow.” The track showcases Kanye’s audacious spirit and irrepressible hustle. Amid a haze of high stakes and higher aspirations, all three emcees deliver verses that juxtapose reality and aspiration, wit and grit. Common’s punchline – “I survive like Kanye, spitting through wires and fires, emcees retiring” – encapsulates the defiance and resilience at the heart of this joint, painting a vivid tableau of the struggles and triumphs inherent in the quest for hip-hop greatness.

Breathe In Breathe Out


Here, ‘Ye doesn’t stutter, dropping the pretentiousness to enter unapologetic debauchery as he commences the track: “Yeah, breathe in, breathe out/If ya iced up, pull ya sleeves out.” Kanye’s critique takes a deeper dive as the lyric: “But now I’m rappin ’bout money, hoes, and rims again” surfaces, revealing his inner war between societal critique and societal theory. With a dash of humor, storytelling, and wordplay, the track takes a satirical approach to popular rap themes of his era. It’s a complex piece, reflecting the dissonance of a man who knows the stakes yet can’t resist the lure of the game—a narrative thread that will come to define much of Kanye’s fascinating career arc.

School Spirit Skit 1


He brilliantly layers the skit with sardonically delivered lines that capture the futile struggle of following a routinized life of ‘get a degree, get a job, and retire.’ The varying themes of drug addiction, low-paying jobs despite education, and kissing up to the superiors paint an existential crisis that many young adults face in modern-day society. Sarcasm drips from lines like, “You know what college does for you? It makes you really smart, man” and “My degree keeps me satisfied,” where Kanye dissects the disillusionment of the ‘American Dream’. This ain’t your typical hip-hop track, this is Ye opening the stage for a conversation we were all avoiding.

School Spirit


He cleverly flips fraternities’ step routines into a rhythmic backdrop for his raw and rebellious lyrics. Kanye rewrites the narrative of success, challenging the traditional path through his rejection of a college degree. Loaded with wit, he raps, “Told ’em I finished school, and I started my own business / They say, ‘Oh, you graduated?’ / No, I decided I was finished.” This bold swipe at the cultural obsession of chasing degrees encapsulates Kanye’s brash dismissal of conventional pathways in search of his own unique destiny. Through his fearless lyrical exploration, “School Spirit” becomes not just a song, but a declaration of Kanye’s self-determination, encapsulating the raw spirit and audacity that would come to define his career.

School Spirit Skit 2


We hear this voice talkin’ about stacking up degrees like they’re the ultimate answer, while dismissing money-making and work. Kanye’s irony hits hard when he drops, “You know what’s gonna keep me warm? That’s right, those degrees.” It’s an audacious jab at a system that drills into us that success can only be found upon the ivory towers of academia when in reality, it’s the hustle, the grind, the street wisdom, and real-world experience that makes a man. When West mics this skit up, he’s challenging the status quo, shattering the illusion of traditional success, and layering his rebellious spirit onto ‘The College Dropout’. No lie, ‘Ye was a game-changer, y’all.

Lil Jimmy Skit


Over the soulful sounds of the album, he drops this barbed commentary through a fictional character, Lil Jimmy, who overvaluing his inherited degrees, fails to recognize the irony of his destitution. This skit cleverly hits on the philosophical question, “Is formal education a true measure of life’s value?” Unpacking the pivotal line, “I’m going to get super smart, so I too can die without money, but I’ll be the smartest dead guy!” we get a grim depiction of the paradoxical pursuit of education over survivability. In the midst of hip-hop’s bling era, Kanye West was seeking depth, channeling narratives of personal, societal, and structural dilemmas, leaving a powerful imprint on the genre’s landscape.

Two Words


The track stands as a testament to West’s genius for marrying social commentary with the nerve of the streets. Mos Def, Freeway, and the harmonic undertones of The Boys Choir of Harlem all churn in this lyrical blender. From the hard-hitting assertion “United States, no love, no breaks” to the haunting echo of “Still nowhere to go”, the song encapsulates the dichotomy of hope and hopelessness. It’s a commentary on racial profiling, poverty, and the ruthless hustle of the streets, all layered over a grimy, pulsating beat that refuses to be ignored. The song culminates with ye’s proclamation “Chi-town raised me, crazy…two words: ‘Fuck you, pay me’”, embodying the defiance, the struggle, and the unabashed audacity that is Kanye West.

Last Call


Teeming with gritty determination and defiance, Kanye delivers a lyrical chronicle of his struggle and climb to hip hop stardom. With the lines, “They expected that College Dropout to drop and then flop/ Then maybe he stop savin’ all the good beats for himself/ Roc-A-Fella’s only niggas that helped,” Kanye directly acknowledges the doubts and hurdles he faced, alongside the support he received from Roc-A-Fella. In signature Kanye style, he’s simultaneously self-assured and reflective, underscoring the perseverance and grit it required for him to achieve his breakout. “Last Call” serves as both a musical autobiography and an audacious declaration of his place in the hip-hop landscape.


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It’s a humorous skit about a school that manufactures Kanye West clones, underlining Kanye’s belief in individualism and criticizing the cookie-cutter nature of education systems. This intro tees up an album that’s a strong critique on the school of life and society’s expectations of conformity. It ain’t just about the beats with ‘Ye, it’s about shaking up the narrative too, and this intro did just that.

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