10 Years Later, 10 Life Lessons We Learned From Kanye West's 'The College Dropout'

by James Teague

On February 10, 2004, the hip hop community was in for a very unexpected change. A 27-year-old rapper/producer from the South Side of Chicago, Illinois by the name Kanye West had released his debut album, The College Dropout.

The album showcased that the man had something to say and show to the world. Not too long before, he almost lost his life in a car accident, which then propelled him to prove his talents not only to those in his industry, but also to the world.

Aside from fighting the accepted stigmas about rapper/producers, he communicated that he didn't seek to be the typical street rapper. It's been 10 years since that album dropped, and even to this day, The College Dropout is played all the time.

Kanye may be dealing with different life issues these days, but throughout all the drama, he holds his own. Not everybody is a huge contemporary Kanye fan — many people really miss The College Dropout era Kanye. It really is one of the greatest albums of my generation. Check out some of the life lessons we can learn from The College Dropout:

If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.

Throughout the beginning of Kanye's career, and especially during the College Dropout era, there were many who didn't have faith in him to make it in the music world as a rapper. But, he never quit and capitalized on every chance he had. A lot of us feel as though we're being held back from reaching our potential, whether it's because of the doubters, who always have something to say about your endeavors or if it’s you, second-guessing yourself.

You only have one life to live and you do not want to waste it doing the things you want to do. When you put your mind to completing things that you truly want in life and don’t worry about what the critics have to say about your every move, then you, my friend, are living your life.

Every person has a story to tell.

College Dropout is example of how people should strive to tell their stories. When you think about it, we're all similar. We may have been born into different walks of life and walk totally different path than our peers, but we are all working toward the same goals: success and happiness. It's important to figure out how to tell our stories to the world.

Never ever forget your "day ones."

Each person has "day ones." They're the friends who have been by your side during the good times, bad times and ugly times — since day one. The ones who'll tell you what you need to hear rather than what you want to hear.

Kanye had a couple of day ones throughout the making of College Dropout. Heck, some of those "day ones" initially weren't so thrilled about him wanting to rap. Others were right behind him throughout his ascent to success. It took them some time, but eventually they were rallying for their guy to make a statement with his music.

It’s better to stand out than fit in.

One of the most memorable lines of the album is, "What if somebody from the Chi' that was ill got a deal on the hottest rap label around? But he wasn't talking about coke and birds, it was more like spoken word except he's really putting it down?"

Those words mean a lot considering that during the time period, most of the emerging rappers were talking about the streets, clubbing, women, cars and clothes. Kanye stood out with his music content and character.

Your relationship with God is important.

Kanye has made this clear in his various albums. One of the most standout tracks on College Dropout is "Jesus Walks." Now, there have been rappers who have referenced religion in their raps, however, Kanye did what no rapper had really done before.

On "Jesus Walks," he raps about how Jesus "walks" with people who come from different walks of life — from sinners to saints. Right before he goes into his final verse, he says, "I want to talk to God but I'm afraid because we ain't spoke in so long."

Later in his career, he makes more updated references to his religious status. Most people have some kind of actualized relationship with God, whether or not they are involved in religion. It’s important to know what your relationship (or lack thereof) with God is. It helps you orient how you feel about many other aspects of life.

Some will not see the same vision you see.

Kanye's vision for College Dropout wasn't common at the time, so many didn’t understand Kanye or believe his vision to be realistic. You can try to make others understand your aspirations, but not everybody will embrace your point of view. Some people won't understand why you want to be where you want to be.

There is no need to get frustrated because of this. You must remain strong and confident that you will make it far. Maybe this seems tough, but regardless of whether or not anyone believes in you, you must believe in yourself.

It's okay to gas yourself up every now and then.

Kanye has always been known for being arrogant and proud of his accomplishments. He vocalized it plenty of his tracks. His extreme self-confidence is part of why he's in his current position. Every now and then, it's okay to be extra confident. If no one believes in you, you must believe in yourself. It's the only way you'll be able to get people to support what you're doing.

It's okay to admit to yourself that you have a problem.

Whether it's dealing with self-consciousness or arrogance, Kanye doesn’t shun adversity. When we have problems in our lives, we too often try to play them off as minor issues. Sometimes, we need to just admit when we have problems. It makes life easier when we don’t have to pretend problems are smaller than they are.

Never care what the people think about you.

Nothing is more aggravating than when people share unsolicited opinions about your choices. Ignore these kinds of things. When you stop caring about what people think of you, life becomes so much easier. You must tell the people who have doubted you that the joke is on them. Like Kanye said, "We don't care what people say."

Racism still alive, they just be concealin' it.

This line from Kanye says it all. I mean, we saw the tragic proceedings of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman — there's no need to pretend that everything is okay. Unfortunately, racism still lives in 2014 and is debatably much worse than it was back in the day. Nowadays, people try to pass off their racism as "just jokes." Not okay.

Photo credit: College Dropout