Kanye West Young, Skinny and Awesome (VIDEO)

7/17/2014 2:44 PM PDT

Kanye West's Freestyle Rap Before He Was Famous -- 1996 Video UNEARTHED

Kanye West is by all rights one of the best rappers ever at the ripe age of 37 ... but turns out he was just as good when he was half that age.

A skinny 19-year-old Kanye showed up to the opening of Fat Beats records back in '96. 

Kanye just grabbed the mic and shocked everyone in the room ... kind of like what he did with Taylor Swift at the VMAs, only this was awesome.

You gotta hear it.  It's pretty amazing.