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.

How I Met Kanye West (Cont.)

88-Keys: "In 1999, we met at Baseline Studios where Roc-A-Fella recorded all the time. One evening, I met Kanye. I told him who I was, and he was shocked. He knew my stuff through Mos Def's albums. When he introduced himself I thought his name was pronounced Cayenne not Kanye. I was familiar with him as an artist, but not the name of songs he'd done. Within eight minutes of our conversation he told me was going to be a star. His Midwest accent was so thick I didn't know what he was saying. He spit a rap at that time, and we went back and forth rapping. His raps were really good, but I didn't really think 'star' from those raps or that moment. At that time, we both lived in Newark. We'd go to each other's apartments, going to the studio together for almost four years."

Olskool Ice-Gre: "In 2000, I cut him a check for a beat ["Paid"] that he produced for my band, Abstract Mindstate. We were the hottest local group at the time, Chicago's finest. We thought we couldn't afford him. The Go-Getters used to open up for Abstract Mindstate.

"He didn't know his way around the studio -- this was when he stayed in Jersey. He didn't know how to communicate to people what was in his head. He didn't know how to verbalize what he wanted them to do. I stepped in and gave the technical terms because I lived in the studio growing up. The song he recorded that night that happened was 'Two Words.' He was working with the Hezekiah Walker choir that night, but he ended up using the Boys Choir of Harlem. I got him through that session.

"He was like, 'How much do you get paid doing this promotion [with Coodie]? I like how you move in the studio. I'll pay you to stay with me and help me out while I do all this stuff… I know you're a star yourself but I'm about to be the biggest star in hip-hop and I need your help.'

"The ego MC in me was like, 'Are you serious -- you want me to be your personal assistant? And I'm a bigger artist than you in my city.' This was in my head. But then I thought about it, and I was close to everyone I dreamed of being close to. I said I would be his personal assistant but only if I ran his production company, Konman Productions. 'Deal.' We shook on it."

Consequence: "When we first met, through 88-Keys, I came to his crib in Newark. He opened the door and basically had a whole spiel. He said, ‘Yo! I'm about to get a record deal. I'm about to be the next Michael Jackson. I always loved you as a child. Let me produce your next record. Come be on my team.' I was like, Man, I just met this mother fucker and he already had 18 months of my life planned out.

My situation with Tribe [Called Quest] didn’t go exactly how I planned it. I had another deal with a producer and I got signed to Relativity when Fat Joe and Common were there. I was essentially doing it on my own, but then 88-Keys introduced me to Kanye. He wanted me on the records they were doing, and it eventually spawned into us working together. I would spend the nights at his crib and cook. I would make grape/lemonade Kool-Aid. He never lived in New York, so some of the things I was familiar with, I introduced him to. It became more than music.”

Miri Ben-Ari: "He saw me perform with Jay Z [in 2001]. When Kanye saw me playing in the studio, he was in awe. Kanye is a very musical person. I was his introduction to strings in the classical approach. He used to sit in the studio and watch me arrange for hours. He was thirsty; he wanted to learn."

J. Ivy: "Early ’02, I had a show in Philly. One of my guys, Coodie, had moved to New York. We used to do a lot of shows together. He used to do comedy. When I had my show in Philly, I hit him up. He was like, 'I'm at Kanye’s crib, come through.' I was with Tarrey Torae, my girlfriend and stage-mate at the time, my wife now. We did the show then drove up. When we walked in the door, Coodie, Olskool Ice-Gre, Consequence, and a couple people of other were there. You walk in the door and you hear, 'It’s J. Ivy. He's on Def Poetry. Tarrey Torae, vocalist, she got one of them strong voices.' He heard that and said, 'You sing? Get in the booth.' He put her right to work. She ended up three songs that night. She was the first one to sing 'All Falls Down.'"

Plain Pat: "First time I met ‘Ye was when I was with Ferris [Bueller]. ‘Ye was out with Consequence. But the first official time I met him was when I was working at Def Jam doing A&R Administration and I got assigned his project. Gee had me meet Kanye to go over his budget."

Joe "3H" Weinberger: "I met Kanye in New York City, in January 2001. We met at Right Track Studios in Midtown, because I bought one of his beats for one my earlier artists that was signed to Interscope. We were in the studio. I was super young, and he didn't really know anybody. We got kicked out the studio, so we went to the waiting room, because DJ Clue was working. He was like, 'I'm a rapper.' I was like, 'Really? I'm an A&R guy.' He played me two songs: 'I Want to Know,' and he played me a second one called 'Hey Mama.' I lost my shit. He said, 'I'm only doing beats to get in the game.' I saw in him what he saw, but not many others did, so we became fast friends. I said, 'I want to bring you to Capitol, if you don’t mind?' He was like, 'Lets do it.' We had a similar goal."

Ferris Bueller: "I remember dragging [Plain] Pat with me to Mos Def's birthday party at what is now Greenhouse, but it was hosted by Howie McDuffy. I remember seeing Kanye outside, standing with Consequence and Rhymefest. I went to give him a mixtape that me and Pat had done, and he was like, 'I already got that. It's in the truck.' Our relationship with Kanye really spawned. I was doing these mixtapes with Pat ('Behind the Beats'). I got real bored chasing ni—as for exclusives. I told Pat, 'I want to do something more [as] an experience. There's a story behind all these records. Let’s profile a producer and tell the story behind all these records.' I thought about doing it with 88-Keys and a bunch of other producers. Pat was like, 'Kanye?' [Kanye] was all for it. We went to get the songs and record the soundbites [for 'Behind The Beats With Kanye West'] at his spot in Hoboken. He talked about different records, and the most notable [story] is how the 'Get By' record came about. He was going to sell the beat to Mariah Carey, but Talib Kweli fucked with it."

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