West as a bear on the cover of The College Dropout

Given his cultural prevalence these days, it might seem like Kanye West has been around and in the public eye forever. Not true: The rapper didn’t release his first album, The College Dropout, until 2004, though he had been making beats for other rappers since the early ‘00s. Some of those beats came to light over the weekend, as podcaster, art dealer, and producer Jensen Karp dug up two discs of West beats Interscope sent to him for consideration during his stint as the unfortunately named rapper Hot Karl. Karp says he believes the discs represent the oldest West beats ever released and notes that, while the tracks don’t “necessarily sound like ‘Kanye’ now,” he thinks “this collection of early Kanye beats shows you where he came from.” Only one of those two discs is up on YouTube so far, but at about 70 minutes long, it’s more than enough to get a taste of what West had going on even then.

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