The College Dropout, confusingly, is an album best understood from the perspective of its final song, “Last Call.” “Last Call” is a toast to the release of The College Dropout through Roc-A-Fella Records. The main event is Kanye’s epic eight-minute speech which tracks his journey from a struggling Chicago producer to a best-selling Jay-Z-signed rapper. It seems to somehow come from the future and the past simultaneously, with so much detail it feels like it only could have been told in the moment with precise hindsight, which perfectly frames the experience that preceded it.
This experience is one continually marked by the self-reference put on such clear display on “Last Call”. Here, Kanye perfectly walks the line between critiquing and embracing stardom, materialism, and every other irony in his art making process, from the ridiculousness of the college system, to the rejection of religion and family in popular rap songs in favor of consumerism and money. Kanye points out he has dabbled in the latter more than a few times. The album sufficiently ends on “Family Business,” where Kanye wraps you in a warm blanket in which bliss from the surreal modern society he depicts feels real, and bars of family bonds and memories feel as comforting as the warm keys they’re delivered over.
But “Last Call” is what adds most of the facets to this masterpiece. The trials Kanye describes confirms the album’s true purpose to not necessarily critique, communicate, or affirm, but to simply exist. It’s existence is its accomplishment. Where “Last Call” ends is where the album starts, and we realize the space between the end of the speech and the release of the song could have been anything. The College Dropout is actually the least Kanye Kanye album, primarily describing the world rather than himself. But his persona is undeniably what makes the album so memorable, satirical, egotistical, and genuine. It’s a convoluted experience, yet a wonderful one.
“Last Call” is Kanye transitioning from recounting his struggles to depicting his celebration. The College Dropout is the struggle, the answer, the self-actualization, and the celebration. If you can’t take comfort in the same things Kanye does — his faith, his spirit, or his family– at least find it in his complete dedication to create.