Kanye West's 'The College Dropout': An Oral History

Kanye West poses for a portrait during the 2004 Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on December 8, 2004 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Frank Micelotta/Fox via Getty Images

In celebration of its upcoming 10-year anniversary, 26 collaborators share their stories behind the making of Kanye West's debut album.

"The College Dropout" is the story of and for the underdog, the underachiever. It still is, 10 years after its release (February 10, 2004).

Kanye West fought for recognition when he was 12 years old, and still thirsts for respect today. He survived a car accident that nearly killed him, but instead propelled him, and strengthened the necessity to jump on tables to prove his talents and fight stigmas that come with being a rapper/producer and a brutally honest, emotional backpacker.

Kanye's first studio album, "The College Dropout," continues to resonate in pop culture 10 years after its release, not only because of Kanye West but all of those who were a part of the creation. Everyone who contributed was an underdog as well, trying to prove themselves to their hometown, label executives, peers, and most importantly, themselves.

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Everyone involved – Kanye West, those he grew up with him in Chicago (GLC, Coodie, Chike, Really Doe, Olskool Ice-Gre, JB Marshall), those who he met at the latter end of the album's development to those who in the thick of it all – were so hungry to achieve something that they became one unit. One family, one machine, with the goal to kick down doors and brighten Kanye West's future. Even as everyone moved on to fulfill their own ambitions and dreams, "The College Dropout" was in the pit of each of them.

In celebration of Kanye West's "The College Dropout," here are the stories of 26 contributors – "The Good, The Bad, The Ugly" – who were involved in the making of the album, and more importantly, became instrumental to Kanye West's career.

Exclusive Kanye Videos: Never-Before-Seen 'College Dropout' Footage

The Players

88-Keys – Founder of Locksmith Music | Producer | Rapper

Common – Rapper

Consequence Rapper

Coodie & Chike – Directors | Founders of Creative Control

Damon Dash – Executive Producer | Co-Founder of Roc-A-Fella Records

Devo Springsteen – Cousin to Kanye West | Former roomate to John Legend | Producer | Songwriter

Ferris Bueller – Marketing

Freeway – Rapper

Gee Roberson – Co-Executive Producer | Manager | Co-CEO of Hip Hop Since 1978 | Co-CEO of Blueprint Group

GLC Rapper

JB Marshall – Manager | A&R Executive

J. Ivy – Poet

Joe "3H" Weinberger –Management | Former A&R, Capitol Records

John Legend – Singer | Songwriter

John Monopoly – Manager | Co-Founder of Hustle Period

Kyambo "Hip Hop" Joshua - Co-Executive Producer | Manager | Co-Co-CEO of Hip Hop Since 1978

Miri Ben-Ari – Violinist

No I.D. – Producer

Olskool Ice-Gre – Former G.O.O.D. Music A&R | Founder of Honest Management

Plain Pat - Producer | Songwriter | Fromer A&R, Island Def Jam

Really Doe – Rapper

Shalik Berry –  VP of A&R, Epic Records | Former A&R Coordinator, Island Def Jam

Syleena Johnson – Singer | Songwriter

Talib Kweli – Rapper

Tony Williams – Cousin to Kanye West | Singer | Songwriter

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

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