Producer No I.D. recalls Kanye West's gangsta rap days

Kanye West

Rapper Kanye West attends Givenchy's Fall/Winter 2014-2015 men's fashion show in Paris Jan. 17, 2014 (FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/Getty Images )

Long before he was demanding respect for inventing leather jogging pants, Kanye West was an unknown gangsta rapper in Chicago rhyming about the streets, according to producer No I.D.

West’s long-time collaborator discussed those gangsta rap days in Billboard magazine’s oral history of West’s “The College Dropout,” which is celebrating its 10-year anniversary next week (I remember knowing within 20 seconds of listening to the first song on "The College Dropout" that I was going to love the album. Man I miss the old Kanye). No I.D. said West dropped the gangsta rap persona due to the 2002 car accident that nearly took his life.

“One key moment that I can pinpoint to when I felt like he had the idea that led to ('College Dropout') was the first time I talked to him after the accident. He was kind of a gangsta rapper,” No I.D. told Billboard. “...His goal was to be (as) tough as possible. Some of it was over compensation for the fact that he wasn't a street guy at all and he felt like people wouldn't respect him it if it was not tough. The gangsta rap came when he was in the group, The Go-Getters. The group were street, so he tried to keep up with them.

“I remember when I first talked to him after the accident, and his mouth was all messed up. He was like, 'I figured it out. … I’m going to rap about this accident. I'm going to use a song and change the direction. I'm going conscious with my music.’ “

The article is long -- most oral history stories are -- but it will remind you of the good ol’ days. You know, back when Kanye was considered a music hero rather than villain and was releasing songs that made you cheer for him, including “Through the Wire,” and feel for him, including “Mama.”

Did I mention I miss the old Kanye?

lgomez@tribune.com | Twitter @TribLuis

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