By Matthew Ruiz

With Not Fade Away, we take a look at the legacy of some of the greatest albums of the past few decades – some iconic, some lesser known – as they celebrate significant anniversaries. Today we look back on Kanye West’s debut album College Dropout, which turns 13 today.

In the 13 years since Kanye West released his debut LP, College Dropout, he has transcended the traditional notion of a recording artist, bombarding our consciousness through almost every form of media available. Even people who are only casually aware of pop music know the name Kanye West, and maybe even that he has declared himself “a God” and christened his latest album Yeezus.

The creation myth of College Dropout is well-documented. West wasn’t going to wait 10 years for Billboard to collect sound bites from everyone who touched it, recording the oral history of his own origin story on the album’s final track, “Last Call.” Early in the Bette Midler-sampling, nearly 13-minute interview track, he talks of his deal with Capitol Records that never was, killed in the zero-hour by an unnamed executive.

While it might be fun to ponder what a Capitol-backed Kanye West album might have sounded like, it’s more interesting to think about how the entire process may have influenced his career. It’s easy to think about Kanye being able to do anything he wants during an age in which he is praised for a song about infidelity that samples a song about lynching. But in 2003, that freedom was a pipe dream.

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