Being the son of a photojournalist and an English teacher, Kanye Omari West was properly raised in Chicago after his birth on June 8, 1977 in Atlanta, Georgia. It was probably due to the influence of his parents, Ray and Donda West, that he gradually showed interest in poetry as well as visual arts. As he discovered a new attraction to music in his early teens, the boy started to spend most of the time harmonizing his rhyming skills with experimental beats produced through his keyboard. Under the guidance of the renowned Chicago producer, NO I.D., he afterwards uniquely created his own style which relies on the use of sped up vocal loops and sweeping strings. A promising chance to break into music industry approached in 1998 when Jermaine Dupri used one of Kanye’s beats on his album entitled “Life in 1472.” The unusual rhythm satisfyingly caught the attention of the hip-hop community, marking his initial success.
Looking upon his early attainment, Kanye decided to quit his study at Columbia College with the desire to pursue career as a music producer. Throughout 1999 and 2000, he had been involved in the album productions of some well-known singers, such as Trina & Tamara, Harlem World, The Madd Rapper and Lil’ Kim. However, it was not until the following year that he came into popularity as he took part in Jay-Z’s album, “The Blueprint.” Inserting his beat-making style which has become his trademark in the hit tracks like “Takeover”, “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” and “Never Change”, he instantly became one of the most wanted producers when the album reached the top position of the Billboard Hot 200. This huge achievement apparently did not satisfy him for he then looked forward to develop another career as a performer. Nevertheless, the process was not easy since he had to face rejection from many record companies due to his appearance and overall style.
Supported by Kyambo “Hip-Hop” Joshua and G. Roberson who were the heads of a production and management company named Hip-Hop Since 1978, Kanye finally was signed to Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella as a recording artist. Unfortunately, before he could move further to complete the materials for his debut album, a tragic incident happened to him on October 23, 2002. Almost losing his life in a car crash, he was brought to the hospital with a broken jaw. Since it was fractured in three places, his mouth had to be wired shut for a period of time. Despite sinking in deep trauma, he utilized the awful experience as the inspiration for “Through the Wire”. Featuring a sample of Chaka Khan’s classic track “Through The Fire” (1984), this song was put together with other 20 tracks which formed “The College Dropout.” In the meantime, he kept giving contribution as a producer in Talib Kweli’s “Get By”, Ludacris’ “Stand Up”, Jay-Z’s ” ’03 Bonnie & Clyde”, and Alicia Keys’ “You Don’t Know My Name”.
After a frequent delay, “The College Dropout” made its way to touch the market on February 10, 2004. The result was beyond Kanye’s expectation as this first album sold for 440,000 copies in its first week, garnering two times Platinum plus huge praise from both critics and fans. Furthermore, it quickly went to the second rank of Billboard 200 while its three singles, namely “Through The Wire”, “Jesus Walks” and “All Falls Down” gloriously entered the top 20 of Billboard Hot 100 chart. This achievement led him to collect 10 nominations at the 47th annual Grammy Awards held in early 2005. He later won three of them in the category of Best Rap Album for “The College Dropout”, Best Rap Song for “Jesus Walks”, and Best R&B Song in the songwriting credit on Keys’ “You Don’t Know My Name.” Still in the same year, he also scored another success through his collaboration with Twista and Jamie Foxx in “Slow Jamz.” The single became a huge hit across the country, rocketing to the top spot of Billboard Hot 100.
On August 30, 2005, Kanye returned with “Late Registration.” Selling more than 900,000 copies a week after its launch, this sophomore album featured an impressive list of celebrated artists, including Brandy, The Game, Jay-Z and Adam Levine of Maroon 5. Reuniting with Foxx, he teamed up with the actor in the track “Gold Digger” which effortlessly reached number one on Billboard Hot 100 while the album itself gained the same position on Billboard 200.
Extremely popular and adored as either a music producer or rapper, he was also known to be the owner of an apparel line called Pastel Clothing and a record label, G.O.O.D Music, which had already signed some artists, like Common, Keisha Cole, Farnsworth Bentley, GLC, and Consequence. Additionally, the company was the one that released “Get Lifted”, the Platinum selling debut album of John Legend.
Besides his involvement in music, Kanye has been noticed for his acrid criticisms, especially those he made during the year of 2005. When he showed up on the Philadelphia bill of Live 8 held on July 2, 2005, this African American rapper revealed his opinion of the cause of AIDS. He commented AIDS was created by the U.S. government with the purpose to exterminate Africans in Africa while slammed the politicians for “riding home in their Benzs and Bentleys while poor Africans starve.” Moreover, during one of MTV interviews, he also expressed his tolerance on homosexuality, saying that America, including hip-hop community, has put discrimination toward the homosexuals.
Much to everyone’s shock, he caused more controversy through his statement at a benefit concert for Hurricane Katrina relief aired by NBC on September 2. Not only did he criticize the U.S. government’s handling of the looters concerning the disaster, but he also accused George W. Bush of being ignorant to black people. Although it was later censored, his utterance managed to spread across the East Coast. After some pro and contra, Kanye ultimately explained his action several days later. “I wasn’t trying to particularly diss anybody like that,” he said in earnest.
Aside from the controversy he had driven, the Chicago rapper kept scoring great in some prestigious music events, nabbing nominations while also brought home particular awards. Walking away with Best Rapper award, he got from the 3rd annual VIBE Awards held November 2005. He went on joining Shakira, Maroon 5’s Adam Levine and Fall Out Boy as the lineup for MTV’s 14th annual New Year’s Eve broadcast. At the beginning of 2006, he nabbed double nominations at BRIT Awards and earned four nominations, including Best Song and Album categories, at the 37th annual NAACP Image Awards. Also becoming one of the many nominees for the 2006 Soul Train Awards, he was later nominated for 8 Grammys before winning three of them; Best Rap Solo Performance for “Gold Digger”, Best Rap Song for “Diamonds From Sierra Leone”, and Best Rap Album for “Late Registration,” at the 48th annual Grammy Awards held February 8, 2006.
Not wanting to get the awards without further achievement, Kanye prepared his third major release which is titled “Graduation” in 2007. The album which was released on September 11, 2007 was said by his mother Donda West to be his “best album ever-musically as well as lyrically.” For this record he had opened his hands for the collaboration from Coldplay’s Chris Martin, John Mayer, Jessica Simpson and Beyonce Knowles. Due to the release date that was in coincidence to 50 Cent’s “Curtis”, a chart battle was generated with both singers “really up for it.” Kanye enjoyed the success of his second single titled “Stronger” that sampled on Daft Punk’s “Harder Better Faster Stronger”. It peaked at #5 in Billboard Hot 100 and made it into #1 in U.K. Singles chart.
However, Kanye was not so lucky at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards since he lost in all the five categories he was nominated in. He suggested that his race had to do with his being overlooked for opening the show in favor of Britney Spears. However, he won four Grammys later that year, including Best Rap Album for “Graduation” and Best Rap Solo Performance for “Stronger” from “Graduation”.
In November 2007, Kanye experienced a low in his life with the death of his mother, Dr. Donda West, due to complications from cosmetic surgery involving a tummy tuck and breast reduction procedure. While the authorities were investigating Dr. Jan Adams, the doctor who performed surgery on Donda, many mainstream stations started to play his hit single “Hey Mama,” taken from album “Late Registration,” which was meant as a tribute to his mother. Kanye channeled his grief on the studio, writing for his next album.
Kanye debuted new song “Love Lockdown” at the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards, introducing it as the lead single of his album “808s & Heartbreak”. The album, released in November 2008, was also supported by “Heartless”. Upon its release, “808s & Heartbreak” entered at number one, selling more than 450,000 copies in the first week.
Known as a hot head and his personal dissatisfaction of MTV, Kanye hurt another artist’s feeling during the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. Taylor Swift was accepting her award for Best Female Video for “You Belong with Me” when Kanye went on stage and grabbed the microphone to proclaim that Beyonce Knowles’ video for “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)”, nominated for the same award, was “one of the best videos of all time.” Kanye received many criticisms for this including from Beyonce. He later issued an apology to Swift, saying he did not realize the extend of his actions.
Kanye began recording his fifth studio album in the first half of 2010 in Honolulu, Hawaii. “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” was released on November 22, 2010, featuring such hits as “Power”, “Runway” and “Monsters”. Although still occupied with the promotional efforts for the album, Kanye took the time to collaborate with one of the biggest rappers at that time, Jay-Z, for another full album, “Watch the Throne”, which was released via Def Jam in August 2011. The album debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart, with first-week sales of 436,000 copies in the U.S. With the album, Kanye and Jay-Z embarked “Watch the Throne Tour” between October 2011 and June 2012.
Kanye made another collaborative album, this time with G.O.O.D Music artists such as Big Sean, Common, Kid Cudi, John Legend and Pusha T. The album was titled “Cruel Summer” and was released on September 14, 2012 with singles like “Mercy”, “Cold” and “Clique”. The compilation album debuted at number two on the U.S. Billboard 200, selling 205,000 copies in its first week.
In the following year, he returned with a solo album titled “Yeezus”. Sessions for the LP started earlier in the year. It eventually arrived in June 2013 to rave reviews from critics. It debuted at No. 1 on Billboard 200, giving him his sixth consecutive No. 1 album on the list despite posting his lowest first-week sales.
In late 2013, Kanye stated that he had started working on and recording his next studio album that he originally planned to release in mid-2014. However his own new music didn’t come out until December 2014, when he dropped the Paul McCartney-assisted “Only One”. In early 2015, he reunited with the former The Beatles and Rihanna for “FourFiveSeconds” that was later reported would lead Rihanna’s own new album.
That year, Kanye also released “All Day” and “Wolves” but the promised album, which he’d announced as “So Help Me God” before retitling it to “Swish”, never arrived.
In January 2016, he said that the album was finally done and he’d release it on February 11. According to a tracklist he shared on Twitter, “Wolves” featuring Vic Mensa and Sia Furler was the only song he shared in 2015 that would appear on the record. Around the same time, he changed the album’s title again to “Waves”. The title caused a feud with Wiz Khalifa and their mutual ex, Amber Rose. After they squashed their beef, Kanye said just days before the album was slated to hit the stores that he’d no longer call it “Waves”. In fact, he hadn’t decided a new name for it.
After changing the title of the album to “The Life of Pablo”, Kanye finally released the album exclusively on Tidal on February 14. The effort debuted at No. 1 on Billboard 200 and received positive reviews from music critics. “The Life of Pablo” became the first streaming-only album to go platinum in addition to being named one of the best albums in 2016 by multiple publications.
Kanye released the lead single off the effort, “Famous”, in April 2016. The song caused some controversies though, as it featured a reference to his interruption of Taylor’s 2009 VMA acceptance speech. After Kanye stated that he had obtained Taylor’s approval over the lyric, she denied the claim and denounced the lyric as “misogynistic” in a statement. A music video for the track was released in June.
In support of the album, Kanye embarked on a North American tour in August. He had to postpone several dates of his shows in October after his wife, Kim Kardashian, was robbed during Paris Fashion Week. The rapper then canceled the remaining 21 dates of his tour following an onstage meltdown in November. He was later admitted to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles after he reportedly started behaving “erratically.” He was released a week after that. Following this episode, Kanye took an eleven-month break from the public.
Kanye came back to social media months after welcoming his third child with Kim, Chicago West, in January 2018. Since then, he had been making headlines. In addition to revealing his plan to write a philosophy book entitled “Break the Simulation”, he announced that he would release two new albums, a seven-track solo album entitled “Love Everyone” and a collaborative album with Kid Cudi. Both albums are going to be released in June.
After that, he released two songs entitled “Lift Yourself” and “Ye vs. the People” featuring T.I. Kanye then revealed on April 28 that the cover of his solo album would feature Jan Adams, the surgeon that performed a surgery that led to his late mother’s death. Besides working on his own album, Kanye lent his voice for Travis Scott (II)’s track “Watch” off the latter’s forthcoming album “Astroworld”.
But Kanye didn’t only make good headlines after his social media return. He faced backlash after showing his support for Donald Trump as well as saying that “slavery was a choice.” Responding to the backlash surrounding his slavery comments, Kanye wrote on Twitter, “Once again I am being attacked for presenting new ideas.”
Ignoring all the backlash over his controversial comments, Kanye continued working on his eighth studio album “Ye” and several other albums that he produced, including Pusha T’s “Daytona”. The release of “Daytona” was met with controversy since Kanye paid $85,000 to use a photograph of the late Whitney Houston’s bathroom for the album’s artwork. Despite the controversy, the album was well-received by critics.
In the following week, on June 1, Kanye released “Ye” before following it up with his collaborative album with Kid Cudi, “Kids See Ghosts”. While his solo album debuted atop Billboard 200, his joint effort launched at No. 2 on the weekly chart. The rapper didn’t stop producing music after the release of the efforts, unveiling a Lil Pump collaboration titled “I Love It” at the 2018 Pornhub Awards, which he directed. Arriving at No. 6 on Billboard’s Hot 100, the track was later included on Pump’s second studio album “Harverd Dropout”.
Later in September, Kanye announced that he would be releasing a new album titled “Yandhi”. The album was supposed to make its way out on September 29, but he decided to postpone its release and went to Uganda to re-produce the album in a dome-shaped studio. Kanye then announced that the album would be released on November 23, but once again, he postponed the album with no new release date set.
Instead, Kanye started his own Sunday Service that included soul variations of songs performed by him and other musicians. The service initially was only held in Los Angeles, but as time went on, he started taking the service to other cities, and even brought it all the way to South Africa. As Kanye was busy with the weekly service, he also recorded his ninth studio album “Jesus Is King”. The record was initially set to be released on September 29, but it eventually hit the stores on October 21 following a couple of postponements. Accompanying the release of the album was an experimental concert short film of the same name.
“Jesus Is King” received mixed reviews from music critics, but it still debuted atop Billboard 200. This gave Kanye his ninth consecutive album to debut atop the chart, tying him with a record held by fellow rapper Eminem.
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