Confirmed: Kanye West has always had the vision.
Talib Kweli sat down with N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN recently for the Drink Champs podcast and broke down the first time he met Kanye. It's well worth a listen.
So "four or five years" before College Dropout was released Kanye had already perfected Jesus Walks, the single for that album, as well as Hey Mama from Late Registration. Talib says this was all before he had a deal - and Kanye already knew the names of his first two albums and which songs would be on each.
Talib also shared that when Kanye walked through the door of his studio for the first time to meet Mos Def, he had no idea who Kanye West was. But, after hearing the four beats Kanye had brought with him to play Mos, all four ended up on his Quality album.
The rest is history.