Premier league rap producer makes his dazzling solo debut

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Kanye West – The College Dropout

The idea of a producer leaving the studio desk to enter the recording booth suggests ambition outstripping ability and falling heavily on its arse, but Kanye West has managed the transition quite brilliantly. The 26-year-old from Chicago, who has written for Ludacris, Alicia Keys and Jay-Z (whose The Blueprint album from 2001 he also produced) has delivered an accomplished solo debut that leavens the swagger and bling of major league rap with conscious poetics, aided by guests like Mos Def, Jay-Z, Ludacris and Common. Whether addressing the problems of black education (“All Falls Down”, “School Spirit”) or documenting his time in hospital, where he had his jaw wired shut after a car accident (“Through The Wire”), West’s rhymes are wry, witty, warm and unswervingly self-aware.