Made You Think Podcast

Jun 19, 2018
Yeezus Walks: The College Dropout by Kanye West
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This is a special one! In this episode of Made You Think, Neil and Nat discuss The College Dropout by Kanye West. The flow of the album is based on Kanye’s decision to drop off out of college. It starts with graduation, it discusses problems in university, growing up poor in Chicago, and more.

We cover a wide range of topics, including:

  • Antifragile marketing, or the art of turning negative things in sellable points
  • How to play in a rigged game
  • Kanye’s self-made singer and producer story
  • Consumerism as the new drug
  • Why people still believe in higher education
  • Why all breweries have at least one IPA

And much more. Please enjoy, and be sure to listen to The College Dropout by Kanye West!

Links from the Episode

Mentioned in the show

Books mentioned

People mentioned

Show Topics

0:00 – Kanye’s been a lot in the news lately because he is an interesting character, a provocateur. Kanye knows how to get media attention for his last albums by acting weird and insane in a very antifragile manner. Even Nassim Taleb mentioned him! Kanye grew up in Chicago and probably experienced some stories about being poor. Connections between the album and books and concepts from books discussed.

5:04 – He was a producer and produced some famous hip hop albums. Change in how producers are considered today, compared to when Kanye produced Jay Z’s Blueprint. Producer as a brand. Kanye is a “full-stack” artist, he produces and signs his own songs.

10:24 – While this album was in progress he had a car accident that injured his jaw. Appreciating rap from an outsider perspective. Interwoven comedy element in the album. Why he included a song about Christianity. Kanye’s soul signature.

13:41 – 1. “Intro (Skit)”. Impersonating a professor asking Kanye for a graduation speech/song for kids graduating. Sets the tone for the rest of the album.

14:33 – 2. “We Don’t Care” – Kanye responding to the request. Growing up poor in the slums of Chicago. Drug dealers as ideal of prestige and claiming other people’s kids on income tax. Success is living beyond 25. Sense of being a self-made singer. Fuck you for the game being rigged, but also fuck you for not playing it.

20:53 – 3. “Graduation Day”. His professor is really mad and tells him he is not graduating. Kanye invited unknown artists (at the moment) to sign together some songs.

22:36 – 4. “All Falls Down” (featuring Syleena Johnson). People in college who is not upper-middle class and is unsure what they are doing. The illusion of college as a ticket to upper-middle class. Parental pressure to go to college. “It’s nice to have white parents” argument.

27:41 – Consumerism. Buying stuff to come up with insecurity. Kanye and Antifragile. There’s nothing bad he can do to sell less albums. Starting beefs as strategies to up rappers popularity. Black people feeling continually under surveillance by internalizing the view of society. Reference to slaves’ promised land.

38:00 – Kanye’s uniqueness to escape the braggadocious rap era. Saying the things everybody is thinking, but sounds impolite if said by other than comedians or rappers.

40:16 – 5. “I’ll Fly Away”. Gospel cover.

40:50 – 6. “Spaceship” (featuring GLC and Consequence). Experiences working, from a black person perspective. Being the token blackie of a Gap store.  Working for the mob. Chicago state of mind. Dead end feelings.

43:11 – 7. “Jesus Walks”. This song was, at the time, was out of place because it talked about God. Layers of meanings. Doing the bad thing, being conscious about that, but willing to be OK with God. The need for an ideal of better life, more positive and constructive than a drug dealer. Challenging the radio stations to broadcast music outside the mainstream topics,

48:38 – #8 “Never Let Me Down” (featuring Jay-Z and J. Ivy). Poor Jay-Z verse. Civil right activists in Kanye’s family. Comparing the great injustices our grandparents had to deal with, with our current inability to vote. Racism still being alive, despite all the progress made.

52:17 – #9 “Get Em High” (featuring Talib Kweli and Common). Upbeat and funny song. Building self confidence and middle fingers up. Becoming famous and hitting up girls. First solo appearances, opening Talib Kweli’s shows. Name-dropping. Featuring guests as guest posting. Dancing for cash, or publishing under independent labels as a way to being antifragile from industry cycles.

59:07 – 10. “Workout Plan (Skit)”. Intro skit. Girls talking about losing weight workouts.

59:18 – 11. “The New Workout Plan”.

1:02:32 – 12. “Slow Jamz” (with Twista and Jamie Foxx). Bluesy soul song “for the ladies”. Tribute to big soul R&B musicians.

1:05:15 – 13. “Breathe in Breathe Out” (featuring Ludacris; co-produced by Brian “All Day” Miller). Probably a filler song, or a song that ties the artistic sides of the album. The need to do gangsta rap to widen the audience and give the album a push. Parallel with breweries, that need to have at least one IPA in their portfolio. Dichotomy of doing mainstream stuff to support the artistic stuff.

1:09:04 – 14. “School Spirit (Skit 1)”. How school screws you and wastes your time. Getting class after class, but not knowing anything and don’t make any money.

1:11:07 – 15. “School Spirit”. School hierarchy is not synced to the real world.

1:11:32 – 16. “School Spirit (Skit 1)”. Funny skit. Dying broke but covered by degrees. School getting more and more expensive, and more and more useless.Sentiment that everyone should be given an opportunity to move up vs effective paths to get people out of poverty. Option to move back home and not taking loans.

1:15:05 – Why people still believe in higher education and why it is a bubble like the housing one. Schools getting paid regardless of the graduates being employment situation. The problem of online certifications. Alternative signalling mechanisms. How to demonstrate competence in any field. Entrepreneurship and Marketing can’t be learnt on books.

1:23:21 – 18. “Two Words” (featuring Mos Def, Freeway and The Boys Choir of Harlem). The game is rigged. Reference to the ’70-’80 crack addiction in poor communities. Different treatment for drugs used by different ethnics. Why marijuana is being legalized (as more and more is used by white or rich people). Why Hemp was ostracized by the Paper industry.

1:31:58 – 19. “Through the Wire”. A song recorded while still recovering from a car accident where he could have died. Despite all the horrible things happening, he will not stop doing music. Turning a negative into a positive. 50 Cents playing up the story of being shot 9 times. Tragedy helps the triumph make possible, or at least, making a strong selling point. Eminem’s case.

1:35:00 – 20. “Family Business”. Coming up with a new rap style. Family gatherings.

1:36:22 – 21. “Last Call” (co-produced by Evidence; additional production by Porse). A summary of Kanye’s story. Record labels would not give Kanye a chance because he was not dressing as a typical gangsta rapper. Kanye being so sure to sign with Capitol Records and being dropped at the last minute. The need of one big shitty thing before everything else goes well.

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