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Kanye West's Lost 2001 Beat Tape Has Resurfaced

Kanye West 2001 Large

Back in 2001 when they thought pink polos would hurt the Roc, Kanye West was almost completely unknown--a young hard-working producer with big dreams, shopping around his beat tape in a cutthroat rap marketplace. Early in his career, West came to be known for his soul-inflected approach. String interludes and classic drum sounds filled his MPC to the brim, and vocal lines were laid atop nearly ever track, many times sped up and distorted--a high-pitched and captivating tether to hip-hop's past.

Since his career's early days, West has gravitated away form his early sound, and in the process divided fans (and former fans). "I miss the old Kanye sound" is a frequent refrain heard in hip-hop circles, and it's an understandable one to be sure (see: the "Bound 2" accolades). Now, a bit of that Old Kanye has resurfaced in the form of a beat tape, allegedly from 2001.

The tape was uploaded to Youtube Sunday after being reportedly rediscovered in Jensen Karp's garage. Karp attests to the following:

“I was stumbling through my garage, searching through old storage bins, when I came across some old beat CDs from my days as a signed Interscope rapper. I was shocked to find that two of them, both given to me in ‘01, had the name Kanye West on them. These two CDs, which I believe are the oldest Kanye beats ever released.

I think this collection of early Kanye beats shows you where he came from, even if it doesn’t necessarily sound like ‘Kanye’ now. He kept at it and became the incredible producer he is today. I remember he even had to leave the studio sessions early, so he could make the last train back to his mom’s house. He’s come a long way, and I’m proud to have been around, even if for just a second at the start.”

The 70-minute tape is a brilliant reminder of West's creative approach to hip-hop, and features plenty of classic samples that fans of other great producers' work will recognize. (J Dilla heads take notice at 6:30). Pull your favorite backpack out of the closet and listen to the full tape below.