Kanye West's Ex-manager Speaks on How 2pac Inspired 'The College Dropout'
As Tupac Shakur said, "I'm not saying I'll change the world, but I guarantee I'll spark the mind that will change the world.".
In addition to influencing generations of artists (Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, and J. Cole among others) and leaving his own indelible mark behind, Kanye West's The College Dropout also fulfills Pac's prophecy.
During an interview with Complex, Kyambo "Hip Hop" Joshua, a former Roc-A-Fella Records A&R and Kanye's first manager, explains how 2Pac influenced Ye's pivotal 2004 debut album.
“I know exactly when he found the name of his album, The College Dropout,” Hip Hop said. “I was with him. We were watching the Tupac documentary, Resurrection, in the movie theater. When we left the movie theater, everything clicked for him. That’s when he started to really formulate the Kanye West y’all know right now.”
This album was not only Kanye West's introduction to his "Benz and a backpack" persona - which would influence everyone from Drake to Kid Cudi to Childish Gambino to Chance The Rapper - but it also kicked off a series of education-themed albums including Late Registration in 2005 and Graduation in 2007.
Therefore, 2Pac's influence is all over Kanye's rise to fame, helping to mold the sound that made him a bona fide celebrity.
“That’s when it clicked for him that you can emotionally touch people just by being honest, by being direct, by being relatable,” Hip Hop added. “That’s when he was like, ‘OK, I’m going to be the college dropout. That’s what I am. I don’t go to college, I’m going to chase my dream,’ and all of that. Then Graduation and Late Registration, and it was like a whole scheme to it.”
Throughout his career, Kanye West has continued to draw influences from Tupac Shakur. Announcing his partnership with adidas on Hot 97's The Angie Martinez Show in 2013, the Chicago rapper said he would be "the 2Pac of products."
During an interview with 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen the following year, the Chicago rapper revealed that he had studied Pac interview transcripts.
“Some different friends of mine have been showing me these interviews that Tupac did and how they’re very simple and to the point,” he said. “I watched them, and one of the things that Tupac kept saying is that he wanted thugs to be recognized. Now JAY-Z is a multi-hundred-millionaire who came from the streets, so Tupac’s mission, in a way, has been realized.”
However, he did clarify that “my mission is very different from Tupac’s” and “I’m not Tupac.”
After Kanye West admitted in his Drink Champs interview last November that the backpacker identity he presented on The College Dropout (and that colored later albums to some degree) was a front, more light was shed on the album.
“I’m sorry to all the backpack community,” he said. “Due to the fact that I was from the streets but I never killed anybody, it was just easier for me to pose like a backpacker, but I actually really love street n-ggas. And I don’t really listen to backpack music like that; I listen to Cash Money, JAY-Z, Lil Baby.”
Kanye’s remarks were criticized by “backpack rap” torchbearer and former collaborator Talib Kweli, who called him a “poser.”