During his college musical days, Kanye West was in tune with his well-known mascot, the Dropout Bear. Back on his most beautiful clothes of the time.
If there is a brand image attached to the character of Kanye West, it is the Dropout Bear. But yes, you know, it’s this cute little bear that appears on the covers of his first three studio albums. This little bear character created by Sam Hansen appears for the first time on the cover of The College Dropout (2004), then on Late Registration (2005) and finally on the final album of the rapper’s college trilogy, Graduation (2005). And since this classic of US rap is celebrating its fifteenth anniversary in stores today, we decided to pay tribute to this iconic, ultra-stylish and always well-dressed mascot that is the Dropout Bear.
For the record, this teddy bear symbolizes the dissident personality of Kanye West. To understand what all this means, it is necessary to do a little flashback. At the start of his career (you know this if you’ve seen the Jeen-Yuhs documentary on Netflix), the Chicago rapper was far from unanimous. Considered an excellent producer, he struggled to gain acceptance as a rapper. This for the simple and good reason that his rapological stories and his productions were light years away from the testosterone gangsta rap trends of the time.
Kanye West’s Dropout Bear: a mascot always well dressed
Well, it was the same thing in terms of clothing: at the time, Kanye West did not dress like anyone. His thing was old-fashioned Ralph Lauren sweaters. As a good visionary he was, he wore them long before the brand established itself in hip-hop culture. ” Ralph Lauren was boring before I wore him« (Ralph Lauren was boring before I wore it), he raps in his 2009 verse to the Rhymefest track “Brand New.”
It’s a fact, artistically, Kanye West has always been ahead of his time. That’s why despite his detractors, he remained faithful to his artistic vision. He voluntarily dropped out of school to devote himself full-time to fulfilling his dreams of glory. The bet was risky, but Ye never doubted and let the magic happen. This until becoming a superstar and reaching the heights of world rap. A state of mind skilfully illustrated by the famous Dropout Bear featured on the covers of his first three albums.
On The College Dropout, we see the bear resting wryly on a bench. The meaning is easy to find. At that time, he compared the benches of the traditional school to the music industry. However, as he is not recognized at his fair value by his peers, he prefers to stand apart and stay on the sidelines. What he wants is to make his own choices, and not be guided by what society dictates to him. This is why at that time, the artist and his ursid alter ego remained undermined in Ralph Lauren whatever the cost.
On the second album Late Registration, Kanye decides to give the music industry a second chance. That’s why the album cover takes him to the gates of Princeton University, one of the most prestigious schools in the United States. That’s why he’s dressed in jeans, a striped tie, an Ivy League varsity jacket and a Vuitton backpack. This is the school outfit par excellence to fit into the mold of its big schools. In the end, when he walks through the empty lecture halls of the establishment and goes to get lost in his library in search of knowledge, he leaves looking crestfallen, definitively convinced that the traditional school system will never allow him to touch the sky.
Things will definitely change in Graduation, the final album of his school trilogy. By following the path he forged for himself, Kanye West reached the pinnacle of his career. Thanks to his music, his personified teddy bear has now graduated with a bachelor’s degree in hip-hop music from the fictional, celestial school Universe City. Understand by this that if he has succeeded where others have failed, it is because he has remained faithful to his original creative vision. With his diploma in his pocket after a journey strewn with pitfalls, the bear cub is finally projected into the atmosphere towards a radiant future. As if to show the rest of the game that above him, there is only the sun.
Definitely megalomaniac, the bear displays its success with a much more dazzling and luxurious style than usual. No more stuck-up high school style, hello bling-blings, varsity jacket, jeans, designer sneakers, shuter-shade glasses, shiny jackets and gold crucifix. It’s over, Kanye West will never be the same again.
His diploma in hand, the Dropout Bear has definitely disappeared from Kanye West’s projects. As if this chapter of his life was definitively closed and he had nothing more to prove. The furry beast briefly reappeared in 2020 in the imagery of Kids See Ghostshis joint project with Kid Cudi, but since then, nothing.
Still, many fans have continued the legacy of the Dropout Bear by featuring him in the various styles the rapper has sported throughout his career. Which one do you prefer: the bear from The College Dropout, Late Registration, Graduation, 808 & Heartbreak, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Yeezus, The Life of Pablo, Ye, Jesus is King or Donda?
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Kanye West: throwback to the college style of the Dropout Bear
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