Kanye West’s The College Dropout vs. Slum Village’s Fantastic, Vol. 2. Which Is Better?
One year ago, Ambrosia For Heads launched a debate among its readers seeking to answer one of Hip-Hop’s most hotly-contested questions: who is the greatest MC of all time? “Finding The GOAT MC” lasted between September 2014 and May 2015, engaging millions of readers and ultimately producing its winner, as determined by hundreds of thousands of voters. Now, “Finding The GOAT” returns to ask a new question: what is the greatest of all time Hip-Hop album?
“Finding The GOAT Album” will consider 120 albums from three individual eras (40 in each), with options for wild card and write-in candidates. You and your vote will decide which album goes forward, and which one leaves the conversation. While there will no doubt be conversation between family and friends (virtual and real), only votes cast in the voting tool below will be counted, so use the power of your click.
In the early 2000s, veteran Detroit, Michigan collective Slum Village would find some of their greatest commercial success right around the time they worked with Kanye West on “Selfish.” Before their major label deal, and in the intersection with ‘Ye, the group released their most celebrated album in Fantastic, Vol. 2. A student of S.V. co-founder J Dilla (p/k/a Jay Dee), Kanye West’s debut album The College Dropout would be the most exciting, and successful self-produced Rap albums in years. Both Slum and Ye blended purebred Hip-Hop sensibilities with a ton of trend-setting swagger, and enjoyed basking in the same pleasures (sex, luxury cars, clowning peers). Each album also is regarded for its production at least as much as for its rapping. When placed side by side, which album stands taller (Click one then click “vote”)?
The College Dropout by Kanye West
- First Round Winner (against Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday, 96% to 4%)
Kanye West hit the 2000s running at a breakneck speed. The Chicago, Illinois producer made hits for Jay Z, Beanie Sigel, and Talib Kweli. However, he wanted the world to know he could rap too. Reportedly passed over by both Rawkus and Cash Money Records, the Roc-A-Fella Records founders Jay Z and Damon Dash put earned faith in the hot hand. The College Dropout was the debut vehicle for an artist who would ultimately become the label’s biggest star. The debut album captured the confluence of Kanye. It was a sonic amusement park of true-school (or “backpack”) inspiration, as well as the champagne sounds of the Rap elite. With these two worlds colliding, Kanye West’s multi-platinum debut would inform the next dozen years that good music is really just about getting out one’s musical dreams.
More than just an idea, Kanye West represented a hunger story. Single “Through The Wire” told the story of West’s undying dream to make his mother proud. Even confronted with a near-death accident and a forever changed mandible, Mr. West could not be barred. The producer let the Chaka Khan vinyl croon, while he convincingly stated his higher plan. “Never Let Me Down” did the same, as Kanye owned the moment with his mentor, Jay. Not just his own rags-to-riches trajectory, Kanye emphatically used the moment to trace his lineage through facing racism to embracing leadership. Although he saw himself as an underdog, ‘Ye also identified with the top of the class. On one hand, he could joke about using his relationships to gain female companionship on “Get ‘Em High.” Meanwhile, on the menacing “Two Words,” West rhymed as though he’d always been an influencer, who shortsighted gatekeepers simply missed. That dichotomy of “I’ve told you so” and “Never give up” colored an album that unfolded with album cuts treated as singles. The artist was not a contradiction as much as a complexity. The same artist who could preach from the pulpit on “Jesus Walks” could set the mood in “Slow Jamz.” “Spaceship” was the inward struggle to make it, while “Family Business” was a touching tracking shot through the cookout reunion. College Dropout forecast the rest of the 2000s, in showing artists they could be many things at once. Most importantly, the album increased the musicality to mainstream Hip-Hop. From the samples, to the arrangements, to the dynamic subject matters, the temperamental kid from the Windy City breathed freshness all over the art form.
Album Number: 1
Released: February 10, 2004
Label: Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #2 (certified gold, April 2004; certified platinum, April 2004; certified 3x platinum, April 2015)
Song Guests: Jay Z, Mos Def, Freeway, Talib Kweli, Common, GLC, Twista, Jamie Foxx, Ludacris, J. Ivy, The Harlem Boys Choir, Consequence, Syleena Johnson, Thomassina Atkins, Miri Ben-Ari, Candis Brown, Terrence Hardy, Diamond Alabi Isama, Eric Johnson, Brandi Kuykenvall, James Knight, John Legend, Ken Lewis, Beverly A. McCargo, Lavel Meana, Kevin Shannon, Tiera Singleton, Keith Slattery, Tracie Spencer, Eugene Toale, Tarrey Torae, Aisha Tyler, Tony Williams, Josh Zandman, DeRay Davis, Riccarda Watkins, Sumeke Rainey
Song Producers: (self), Evidence, Brian Miller, Miri Ben-Ari, Ken Lewis
Fantastic, Vol. 2 by Slum Village
- First Round Winner (against Little Brother’s The Listening, 57% to 43%)
Following a largely underground debut in the mid 1990s (Fan-tas-Tic, Vol. 1), Detroit, Michigan’s Slum Village plugged away on a proper follow-up. Signed to major label A&M Records, Jay Dee (l/k/a J Dilla), T3, and Baatin worked intensely on an album that balanced their explosive, far-reaching sound, with lyrics that could quench the mind as well as the id pleasure principles. A&M would eventually part ways with the Villa sometime before the turn of the millennium, a dynamic that would recur with the group and its members over the next 15 years. No matter, the trio pushed on, signed to fledgling label GoodLife, and released the contents of an album that felt carefully constructed, with the reach of a major budget. A&M’s nearsightedness would ultimately afford S.V. an organic, completely self-reliant push into the mainstream. The group that had won over the ears of A Tribe Called Quest and Pete Rock in the 1990s, would now do the same with the rest of the world. In a year that Eminem would skyrocket up the charts, Slum Village played reconnaissance, proving that the Motor City was a driving engine of Hip-Hop creativity and possibility.
On video single “Climax”, the trio made a steamy song about threesomes that was not censored for mass appeal. Much of Fantastic, Vol. 2 is sultry, without ever compromising its bravado. Songs like “Tell Me,” “2U 4U,” and “Go Ladies” dealt with relationships, of all kinds. As they had on the first album, S.V. were masters of sequencing songs about sex, Hip-Hop, stunting, loss, and bravado right alongside one another. The album’s subjects and sounds sprayed like buckshot, in a way that was more interestingly unpredictable than ever disjointed. “Players” was a dreamy diatribe against wack posturing, that took on a life of its own, despite not being a single. “I Don’t Know” was a brilliant needle-drop style hybrid of Hip-Hop and dusty Soul. Out of all of this, Jay Dee proved to be in the company of giants. Like the class a decade before him (Large Professor, Pete Rock, DJ Premier, RZA), Dilla established himself with a ride range, and a pocket all of his own. He had pulsating basslines, clever sample manipulation, and far-reaching sources. With Jay’s sound, T3 and Baatin fell right into the grooves. Five years after the producer had been gathering credits with Tribe, Pharcyde, and De La Soul, Fantastic Vol. 2 was the musical master showing that he may have still been hoarding his joints for the home team.
Album Number: 2
Released: June 13, 2000
Label: Barak Entertainment/Goodvibe Recordings
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): N/A
Song Guests: Q-Tip, Pete Rock, D’Angelo, Kurupt, Busta Rhymes, Common, DJ Jazzy Jeff
Song Producers: (self), Pete Rock, D’Angelo
So what’s the better album? Make sure you vote above.