Picks and Pans Review: College Dropout

updated 02/23/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/23/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

Kanye West

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While College Dropout is Kanye West's freshman release, the Chicago native is hardly a rap rookie. As a producer, he was the beatmaster behind Jay-Z hits like "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)" and " '03 Bonnie & Clyde." More recently, West produced Ludacris's "Stand Up," Alicia Keys's "You Don't Know My Name" and Twista's "Slow Jamz." The latter also demonstrated West's skills as a rapper and is featured on this disc, which rarely measures up to the best work he has done for other artists. West isn't as dynamic an emcee as, say, Jay-Z or Ludacris (which is evident on guest performances by both those artists). And the CD is bogged down with silly skits, including a few that decry the merits of higher education. Still, Dropout showcases West's fresh production technique, involving creative use of old-school soul samples, such as the sped-up riffs from Chaka Khan's "Through the Fire" on "Through the Wire," which he recorded while his jaw was wired shut after a serious car accident: "There's been an accident like Geico/ They thought I was burnt up like Pepsi did Michael."

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