The College Dropout is the debut studio album by American rapper and producer Kanye West. It was released on February 10, 2004, by Def Jam Recordings and Roc-A-Fella Records. In the years leading up to release, West had received praise for his production work for rappers such as Jay-Z and Talib Kweli, but faced difficulty being accepted as an artist in his own right by figures in the music industry. Intent on pursuing a solo career, he signed a record deal with Roc-A-Fella and recorded the album over a period of four years, beginning in 1999. The production of The College Dropout was primarily handled by West and developed his "chipmunk soul" production style, which made use of sped-up, pitch shifted vocal samples from soul and R&B records, in addition to West's own drum programming, string accompaniments, and gospel choirs; the album also features contributions from Jay-Z, Mos Def, Jamie Foxx, Syleena Johnson, and Ludacris, among others. Diverging from the then-dominant gangster persona in hip hop, West's lyrics concern themes of family, self-consciousness, materialism, religion, racism, and higher education. The College Dropout debuted at number two on the US Billboard 200, selling 441,000 copies in its first week of sales. It was a large-scale commercial success, becoming West's best-selling album in the United States, with domestic sales of over 3.4 million copies by 2014 and was certified four-times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in 2020. The album was promoted with singles such as "Through the Wire", "Jesus Walks", "All Falls Down", and "Slow Jamz", the latter two of which peaked within the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100. A widespread critical success, The College Dropout was praised for West's production, humorous and emotional raps, and the music's balance of self-examination and mainstream sensibilities. The album earned the rapper several accolades, including nominations for Album of the Year and Best Rap Album at the 2005 Grammy Awards, winning for the latter. It has since been named by numerous publications as one of the greatest albums of all time, including Rolling Stone and NME, who ranked it at 74 and 273 respectively on their 500 Greatest Albums of All Time lists, and is credited for popularizing the chipmunk soul and conscious rap subgenres in the 2000s..
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