Lauded producer Kanye West has a king-sized chip on his shoulder about being passed over so many times as an MC. But with the breakout success of The College Dropout's first two singles ("Through the Wire" and "Slow Jamz"), it's a safe bet the chip has been whittled down to mere dandruff flakes. Still, don't expect West to give any of the current rap kingpins a run -- not yet, anyway.
As a producer, West's prowess is indisputable. His past work on albums by labelmates Jay-Z and Memphis Bleek and hip-hop luminaries Ludacris, Cam'ron and DMX showcased a wunderkind behind the sliders. Behind the mike, however, his skills are still pretty marginal.
But even with an average cadence and often clumsy wordplay, Dropout is tight, at least from a production standpoint. The cornerstone of West's sound, something that ?uestlove has dubbed "chipmunk soul" -- taking classic soul tracks, speeding them up and looping them -- is hotter than August. Even so, just like that whole country-grammur thing, the novelty gets played after a while, leaving West to rely on his rudimentary rhyme skills and keeping Dropout from being a classic.
Still, while he's no Jay Hova, you have to admire a cat that can drop couplets like "Y'all don't know my struggle/Y'all can't match my hustle" ("Spaceship") with any amount of conviction. Especially when you consider that the "struggle" he's referring to is working at the Gap. Hey, at least he's keeping it real. Mall is watchin', homie.