The College Dropout

Music review by
Kathi Kamen Goldmark, Common Sense Media
The College Dropout Music Poster Image
Popular with kids
Packs edgy emotional wallop; best for older teens.

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 19 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this music.

Positive Messages

The "n" word is all over the place, though not on the edited version. But the social message is complex and worthwhile.


Violent imagery with an anti-violence message.


There's explicit sexuality.


Very strong language.


Some brand names mentioned.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drug references.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this exceptional CD contains every explicit word there is, but you can buy the edited version. Also, Kanye West's lyrics are dismissive about higher education.

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bythetruthstrikes April 9, 2008
Parent of a 11-year-old Written byjsharpe October 24, 2009
very bad
Kid, 11 years old May 11, 2020

great album, 13+

17+ is dumb. this album is great and the only thing to be worried about is some cussing. like graduation is worse and it's a 13+ rating.
Kid, 12 years old November 10, 2019

What's the story?

There's a lot of explicit music around that's meant to amuse, titillate, and/or offend. But THE COLLEGE DROPOUT, the debut offering from veteran rap producer Kanye West, is a different story. Here's an artist using strong imagery to make an intelligent and emotional statement about his world, with unflinching honesty, cynicism, and humor. This CD is unusual in that the "censored" version is better than the explicit original. The careful editing doesn't dilute the narrative flow of the lyrics; if anything, the messages are more powerful without the distraction of "those" words.

Is it any good?

Exquisite cameo performances by Jay-Z, Common, Mos Def, Twista, and especially the Harlem Boys Choir add to the mix. Buy the edited version, listen with your teens, and talk about everything under the sun. Kanye West delivers songs and skits that are musically interesting and also take on racism, the American educational system, and other contemporary political and social issues. The writing and performances are about as subtle as a sledgehammer, but the intensity works.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about racism, sexism, class politics, and staying in school.

Music details

  • Artist: Kanye West
  • Release date: February 10, 2004
  • Label: Roc-A-Fella
  • Genre: Rap
  • Parental advisory: Yes
  • Edited version available: Yes
  • Last updated: July 15, 2015

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