Hip-hop's college dropout shuns world of guns and gangsters and wins best album of 2004

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The debut solo work of the hip-hop star Kanye West has been named the best album of 2004. The College Dropout, which sold more than 300,000 copies and earned him three Mobo awards, topped the annual Poll of Polls compiled by the music retailer HMV.

The debut solo work of the hip-hop star Kanye West has been named the best album of 2004. The College Dropout, which sold more than 300,000 copies and earned him three Mobo awards, topped the annual Poll of Polls compiled by the music retailer HMV.

West, who was inspired to write the album following a near-fatal car crash, already has a reputation as one of hip-hop's best producers, with albums by Alicia Keys and Jay-Z to his name.

This year's top three albums were all debuts, with self-titled albums from Scissor Sisters and Franz Ferdinand second and third respectively. Both bands have had an exceptional year, bursting into the mainstream. The Scissor Sisters from New York won a gig of the year award for this year's V Festival performance.

Glasgow-based Franz Ferdinand's debut album won this year's Mercury Music Prize, which traditionally rewards creative and original work rather than commercial success.

The Streets' A Grand Don't Come For Free and Abattoir Blues/Lyre Of Orpheus from Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds made up the top five.

Enthusiastically received by both music fans and critics, West's The College Dropout contains many autobiographical references - he left art school, then dropped out of an English degree in order to pursue a career in production. "Through The Wire" - the first song to be taken as a single from the album - refers directly to the car crash.

His style avoids the traditional "gangster rap" subject areas such as crime, money and women. The son of an activist, his hip-hop incorporates politicised stream-of-consciousness.

Genarro Castaldo of HMV said: "Kanye West's album scored very highly with everyone - he consistently appeared in everyone's top 10. He makes accessible urban soul music, and is critically acclaimed by the urban community. At the moment he is still something of an acquired taste, but he may well prove to be next year's big crossover success."

Earlier this year West said of his success: "The world was ready for my style when I came out. There was a long wait for something different. I know that if I were to die tonight, they would put my face on every cover and say that I changed hip-hop."

HMV takes the end-of-year lists from every music magazine, newspaper and guide in the UK and turns them into a definitive critics' list.

Other albums to feature in the chart include Dizzee Rascal's Showtime, which was sixth, followed by Van Lear Rose by the 70-year-old country singer Loretta Lynn.

Brian Wilson was in eighth place with Smile, the album that took 37 years to see the light of day. Killers and Sufjan Stevens made up the rest of the top 10.

The Libertines, Kings Of Leon, Morrissey and U2 all made the top 20, as did a posthumous offering from Elliott Smith, From a Basement on the Hill.

Last year's HMV Poll of Polls was won by Outkast for their album Speakerboxx/The Love Below. They beat stiff competition from The Darkness, the White Stripes and Dizzee Rascal.

THE HMV TOP 20

1 Kanye West, The College Dropout

2 Scissor Sisters, Scissor Sisters

3 Franz Ferdinand, Franz Ferdinand

4 The Streets, A Grand Don't Come For Free

5 Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Abattoir Blues/Lyre Of Orpheus

6 Dizzee Rascal, Showtime

7 Loretta Lynn, Van Lear Rose

8 Brian Wilson, Smile

9 Killers, Hot Fuss

10 Sufjan Stevens, Seven Swans

11 The Libertines, The Libertines

12 Kings of Leon, Aha Shake Heartbreak

13 Tom Waits, Real Gone

14 U2, How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb

15 Mark Lanegan Band, Bubblegum

16 Devendra Banhart, Rejoicing In The Hands

17 The Futureheads, The Futureheads

18 Elliott Smith, From A Basement On The Hill

19 Morrissey, You Are The Quarry

20 Wilco, A Ghost Is Born

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