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Sunday, Nov. 28, 2004

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Kanye West


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The term "old school" can be taken several ways on Kanye West's "The College Dropout," easily the overground hip-hop album of 2004. The once and future producer of Jay-Z, West obviously makes a lot of money so he doesn't have to convince anyone that his lack of higher education didn't hold him back. However, his joking advocacy of ghetto economics, while gentler on the mind than the usual hip-hop overkill, needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. "Ain't no student loans for sittin' at home," he claims, "so we forced to sell crack, rap and get a job."

Actually, West is a rather average rapper whose strong suit as a writer-performer is his sharp wit and personable image. You're less impressed by his flow than by the singularity of his mind, which is why the numerous guest shots by foul-mouthed MCs detract more than they usually do on this kind of record.

In the other sense of "old school," West has given new life to the kind of sample-based production that made his heroes Run DMC the first mainstream hip-hop act. In a world where The Neptunes and Timbaland were attempting to do more with less, West was creating tracks for Izzo, Alicia Keys and Ludacris using classic soul that sometimes made more of an impression than the artists who employed him. His mission is to fill your speakers and your headphones until they burst, and you can bet the dance floor will be overflowing when he sets up class in Tokyo.

Kanye West: Dec. 2, 7 p.m., Studio Coast, Shin Kiba, Tokyo. 7,500 yen. Three Vases, (03) 5464-9099.


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