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The College Dropout is the debut studio album by American rapper Kanye West, released on February 10, 2004 by Roc-A-Fella Records. Prior to the album, West had received praise for his production work for rappers such as Jay-Z and Talib Kweli, but faced difficulty being accepted as an artist in his own right by figures in the music industry. Nonetheless, intent on pursuing a solo career, it was several years before he finally received a record deal from Roc-A-Fella, and the album was recorded over a period of four years, beginning in 1999.
The album's production was primarily handled by West and developed his "chipmunk soul" production style, which made use of sped-up, pitch shifted vocal samples from soul and R&B records, in addition to West's own drum programming, string accompaniments, and gospel choirs; it also features contributions from Jay-Z, Mos Def, Jamie Foxx, Syleena Johnson, and Ludacris, among others. Diverging from the then-dominant gangster persona in hip hop, West's lyrics concern themes of family, self-consciousness, materialism, religion, racism, and higher education.
The album was promoted with singles such as "Through the Wire", "Jesus Walks", "All Falls Down", and "Slow Jamz", the latter two of which peaked within the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100. The College Dropout debuted at number two on the US Billboard 200, selling 441,000 copies in its first week of sales. It was a massive commercial success and received widespread acclaim from critics, earning West several accolades including a Grammy Award for Best Rap Album at the 47th Grammy Awards. It is West's best-selling album in the United States, with domestic sales of over 3.4 million copies. It has been named by Time, Rolling Stone, and other publications as one of the greatest albums of all time.