Kanye West, Kanye West Biography and Profile

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Kanye West Early Life

Kanye West (Kanye Omari West), Grammy Award-winning American rapper, singer, songwriter, record producer, entrepreneur, fashion designer. West is among the most critically acclaimed musicians of the 21st century, was born June 8, 1977, Atlanta, Georgia. Kanye West began making beats and rapping in the early 90s in his hometown of Chicago, Illinois, when he formed the rap group Go Getters with Chicago natives GLC and Really Doe. He later gained nationwide popularity through his work in New York, where he began producing tracks for artists such as Jay-Z, Twista, Mase, Talib Kweli and Alicia Keys.

West’s style of production often utilizes pitched-up vocal samples, usually from soul songs, with his own drums and instruments. The first major label song he produced was The Truth by Beanie Sigel, and his first major release featuring his trademark vocal sampling style was This Can’t Be Life, a track from Jay-Z’s The Dynasty: Roc La Familia. West said he sped up the drum beat of Dr. Dre’s Xxplosive to use as a replacement for his drums on This Can’t Be Life.

West has said that Wu-Tang Clan producer RZA influenced him in his style, and has said on numerous occasions that Wu-Tang rappers Ghostface Killah and Ol’ Dirty Bastard were some of his all-time favorites. Said by Kanye West: “Wu-Tang? Me and my friends talk about this all the time… We think Wu-Tang had one of the biggest impacts as far as a movement. From slang to style of dress, skits, the samples. Similar to the [production] style I use, RZA has been doing that.”

In 2004 (after being pushed aside by many record companies who felt he wasn’t a marketable hip hop artist), he managed to release his debut solo album, The College Dropout on Roc-A-Fella Records. The album received critical acclaim, including 10 Grammy nominations and the awards for Album of the Year and Best Rap Album, as well as defining the style for which West would become known: “wordplay” and heavy sampling of 70s soul and RnB tracks.

Kanye Omari West Biography and Profile

Kanye West (Kanye Omari West) was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on June 8, 1977. Kanye West is a star. His music has jumped from sensation to staple in the rap industry, while his personality, his philosophies, and his willingness to speak out for what he believes in regularly place him at the center of controversy. Raised by a single mother who was an English professor in Chicago, West admits he came from “the wrong side of the mall” rather than the wrong side of the tracks. His name, his style, and the way he conducts his business are unique. His thoughtful reflections in interviews reveal a complex man few have taken the time to understand. This biography looks at that multifaceted star, exploring his career as singer and producer, but also looking at the forces that prepared him to chase his dreams–and chase off anyone who stood in his way.

His father, Ray, was a photojournalist for the Atlanta Journal newspaper and was also politically active in the Black Panthers; he later became a Christian counselor. West’s mother, Donda, was a teacher who became a professor of English at Chicago State University, and eventually, her son’s manager before she died at the age of 58 from heart disease after cosmetic surgery in 2007. Her passing would profoundly affect West musically as well as personally.

Ray and Donda divorced amicably when West was three. After that he was raised on Chicago’s middle-class South Shore neighborhood by his mother, and spent summers with his father. At the age of 10, West moved for a year with Donda to China, where she taught as part of a university-exchange program; he was the only foreigner in his class. After returning to Chicago, West was drawn to the South Side’s hip-hop scene, and he befriended the DJ and producer No I.D., who became his mentor. West graduated from Polaris High School and won a scholarship to study at Chicago’s American Academy of Art — but dropped out of college altogether to pursue music, an act that would inform the title of his first solo album years later.

Kanye West signature style, dubbed “chipmunk soul”

After spending time producing for local artists, West developed a signature style, dubbed “chipmunk soul,” characterized by sped-up soul samples. He then moved to New York in 2001. Here he got his big break handling the production for the Jay Z track “This Can’t Be Life,” which appeared on the 2000 album Dynasty: Roc La Familia. The following year he cemented his burgeoning reputation by producing four songs on Jay Z’s The Blueprint, widely regarded as one of the greatest rap albums of all time. From there, West went on to produce for other stellar talents, including the rappers Mos Def, Talib Kweli and Ludacris, and the singers Alicia Keys and Beyoncé.

But West was not content to be a backroom player. He wanted to be the headline act. But he initially struggled to be taken seriously as a rapper — he lacked the “gangsta” credentials that were prerequisite at the time: he was an arty middle-class kid who wore pink polo shirts and Gucci loafers. He pleaded with Roc-A-Fella records to let him rap, but as co-founder Jay Z later told Time magazine: “We all grew up street guys who had to do whatever we had to do to get by. Then there’s Kanye, who to my knowledge has never hustled a day in his life. I didn’t see how it could work.” West got a similar response from other labels. “I’d leave meetings crying all the time,” he recalled.

With reluctance Damon Dash signed West to Roc-A-Fella in 2002, but he did so mostly to retain him as a producer. That October, as West was driving home from a recording session in a California studio, he was involved in a head-on car collision that left him with a shattered jaw. He wrote and recorded a song about the experience, “Through the Wire,” with his jaw still wired shut following reconstructive surgery. He then wrote much of the rest of his debut album while recuperating in LA. But once the album was complete, it was leaked online. In response, West decided to make it better: he revised and rewrote songs and refined the production, adding stronger drums, gospel choirs and strings (he paid for orchestras out of his own pocket).

The College Dropout broke gangsta-rap mold

The album was finally released in February 2004 — it sold 2.6 million copies and made West a star. Titled The College Dropout, it broke the gangsta-rap mold, with themes including consumerism (he was critical of it back then), racism, higher education and his religious beliefs. On the single “Jesus Walks” he rapped: “They say you can rap about anything except for Jesus/That means guns, sex, lies, videotapes/But if I talk about God, my record won’t get played.” The College Dropout peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 200 chart, and West received 10 Grammy nominations, winning three awards including Best Rap Song for “Jesus Walks” and Best Rap Album. Shortly after the album was released, West founded his record label, GOOD music — an acronym for Getting Out Our Dreams — in conjunction with Sony BMG. He would put out music by John Legend, Big Sean, Common, Pusha-T and more.

Kanye West, the restless bourgeois-creative

West spent a year and $2 million on his sophomore album, hiring an orchestra and working with the composer Jon Brion, who had never worked with a rapper before. West, the restless bourgeois-creative, wanted to “see how far he could expand” hip hop, he told the New York Times. The results were spectacular, yielding another three Grammy wins — Best Rap Album again, plus Best Rap Song for “Diamonds from Sierra Leone,” and Best Rap Solo Performance for “Gold Digger.” Late Registration debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 200 — a feat West would repeat with every subsequent solo album release.

“On Late Registration, the Louis Vuitton Don doesn’t just set out to create pop music — he wants to be pop music,” wrote Rob Sheffield in Rolling Stone’s five-star review of the album. “So he steps up his lyrical game, shows off his epic production skills, reaches higher, pushes harder, and claims the whole world of music as hip hop turf.”

In September 2005, a month after Late Registration’s release, West appeared on an NBC broadcast to raise funds for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. He caused a national media storm — his first, but by no means his last — when he opined live on air that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” articulating widespread criticism of the president for not visiting the devastated city of New Orleans right away. Bush was deeply stung by West’s comment, later calling it a “disgusting moment.” Of the two men, West probably lost less sleep: he would later say that dissing Taylor Swift in 2009 was “bigger than the Bush moment.”

Education

After attending The American Academy of Art, a Chicago art school, West attended Chicago State University but eventually dropped out due to poor grades and in order to continue working on his music career. While attending school, West produced for local artists, including on rapper Grav’s debut album Down to Earth. He later gained fame by producing hit singles for major hip hop/R&B artists, including Jay-Z, Talib Kweli, Cam’ron, Paul Wall, Common, Mobb Deep, Jermaine Dupri, Scarface, The Game, Alicia Keys, Janet Jackson and John Legend among others. He also “ghost-produced” for his once mentor Deric Angelettie according to his song Last Call and the credits of Nas’ Poppa Was a Playa.

Kanye West Songs

Kanye West (Kanye Omari West) variety of musical genres including Late Registration (2005), Graduation (2007), and the polarizing but influential 808s & Heartbreak (2008). Released in 2010, West’s fifth album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was the most critically acclaimed album of the 2010s, being hailed by critics as the best album of the decade. He has since succeeded the album with Yeezus (2013), The Life of Pablo (2016), Ye (2018), and the Christian album Jesus Is King (2019), as well as full-length collaborations Watch the Throne (2011) and Kids See Ghosts (2018) with Jay-Z and Kid Cudi respectively.

Kanye West ‘Graduation’ Album

After touring with U2 in 2005-06, West was inspired to make hip hop more anthemic, to be performed in stadiums and arenas. He began to draw influence from both rock ‘n’ roll (the Stones, Led Zeppelin, the Killers) and house music (which originated in his hometown of Chicago). This led to his third album, Graduation, on September 11, 2007. It dropped the same day as 50 Cent’s album Curtis, in what was hyped as a battle for hip-hop’s soul — the erudite showman versus the bullet-scarred street thug. But with Graduation’s groundbreaking (for hip-hop) palette of layered electronic synthesizers, and sloganeering wordplay — “I’m like the fly Malcolm X/Buy any jeans necessary,” he smirked on “Good Morning” — there could only be one winner. West’s album sold 957,000 copies in its first six days, going straight to No. 1.

With the music industry beginning to wring its hands about the effect of the internet on its profit margins, West simply embraced the change with his video for the single “Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” for which he hired the comedian Zach Galifianakis to lip-sync along to the lyrics on an alternate version, creating a viral sensation on YouTube.

Tragedy

Kanye West was on top of the world, hailed as the artist who had killed gangsta rap. And then, in November 2007, tragedy struck. His beloved mother, Donda, died from a heart attack following cosmetic surgery. During his first concert following the funeral, he dedicated a performance of “Hey Mama” to her. Months later, West broke up with his fiancée, Alexis Phifer. His next album, 808s & Heartbreak, released 12 months after his mom died, was shot through with grief, pain and alienation. West even abandoned rapping altogether, preferring to sing through an Auto-Tune vocal processor, which lent his voice a robotic tone — a technique now ubiquitous in hip hop. He classified the new album as “pop art” (not to be confused with the visual art movement) and announced: “Hip hop is over for me.” (It wasn’t — he won two Grammys for guest raps he made that year, on Estelle’s “American Boy” and TI’s “Swagga Like Us.”)

The fragility of West’s state of mind was called into question at the MTV Video Music Awards the following year. At the ceremony in Radio City Music Hall in New York, he invaded the stage during Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech for the Best Female Video award (for “You Belong to Me”) to protest that Beyoncé should have won instead.

The reverberations from that moment are still being felt. West apologized, then retracted his apology in a New York Times interview in 2013. By 2015 they had become friends and were even spotted at dinner together. Then in 2016 Kanye rapped on his song “Famous”: “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex/Why? I made that b**** famous.” Swift hit back from the stage at the 2016 Grammy Awards — this time uninterrupted — with the words: “I want to say to all the young women out there: There will be people along the way who will try to undercut your success or take credit for your accomplishments… Don’t let those people sidetrack you.”

West’s sixth album, Yeezus

Anyone listening to West’s sixth album, Yeezus, which came out in June 2013, would hear little evidence that the rapper was living an idyllic existence. Sonically the album was abrasive, raw and almost entirely melody-free — West had enlisted the producer Rick Rubin to make wholesale changes just days before the release. Lyrically, West sounded paranoid and narcissistic to the point of bathos, especially on “I Am a God,” which contained the immortal line “Hurry up with my damn croissants.”

West claimed the album was an “attack on the commercial,” and certainly it contained little that was radio-friendly — barring the magnificent glam-rock-inspired single, “Black Skinhead” (the first of only two singles from the album). Yeezus remains the only West album to have sold fewer than 1 million copies in the US. Yet it was critically well received — not least by the rock legend Lou Reed, who told Rolling Stone that “Each track is like making a movie… The guy really, really, really is talented.”

Kanye West in Fahion

After the Swift debacle, West took a break from music to focus on fashion. He had already been collaborating with labels including A Bathing Ape and Nike on limited-edition sneakers since 2006. He even reportedly interned at Gap in 2009, and later Fendi, to gain experience. He launched his first collection in Paris in 2011 — but it was widely panned. “You can’t just dump some fox fur on a runway and call it luxury,” sniffed Long Nguyen, style director of Flaunt magazine. West gave a wounded-sounding speech at the show’s after-party. “Please be easy,” he said. “Please give me a chance to grow.” After his second collection a year later received a lukewarm reception, West announced he would no longer be showing in Paris.

He collaborated with the French label APC on a capsule collection in 2013 and signed a $10 million deal with Adidas, launching his first apparel collection Yeezy Season 1, with the brand in October 2015. The line has had a mixed reception — although his Season 5 collection in February 2017 won praise from Anna Wintour. “I liked it a lot,” she told the New York Post. “A little bit more focus than sometimes we’ve seen from him.”

Kanye West, Kim Kardashian Marriage

In 2012 West released a compilation album, Cruel Summer, showcasing artists on his GOOD Music label. But that year the headlines were more concerned over his relationship with the reality-TV star Kim Kardashian, which began in April. They got engaged in October 21, 2013, after West proposed at the AT&T baseball stadium in San Francisco, and they married on May 24, 2014, in the historic Fort di Belvedere in Italy. Andrea Bocelli sang as Kardashian walked down the aisle, in front of guests that included the designer Rachel Roy, the tennis champion Serena Williams, the film director Steve McQueen and music stars John Legend, Q-Tip, Rick Rubin, Tyga and Lana Del Rey. The couple have three children: daughter North (born June 15, 2013) son Saint (born December 5, 2015) and another daughter (born via surrogate January 15, 2018). The couple welcomed their fourth child, son Psalm, via surrogate in May 2019.

Kanye West, Paul McCartney, Rihanna Work Together

At the start of 2015 West became the only rapper in history to record with Paul McCartney, releasing a single, “Four Five Seconds,” with the Beatles legend and Rihanna. But a month later came another award-show disruption, this time at the Grammys, where West objected to Beck winning the Best Album award. “Beck needs to respect artistry, and he should have given his award to Beyoncé,” West said after the ceremony. Months later he retracted his statement in an interview with The Sunday Times newspaper in England. “I was inaccurate with the concept of a gentleman who plays 14 instruments not respecting artistry,” he said.

In March, West was announced as a co-owner of the music-streaming service Tidal, along with various other artists including Beyoncé, Jay Z, Rihanna, Madonna, Chris Martin and Nicki Minaj. In June he headlined the Glastonbury festival in the UK, despite a petition of 135,000 signatures asking for him to be removed from the bill.
‘The Life of Pablo’

There was more controversy in the run-up to his seventh album, The Life of Pablo. Before its release on February 14, 2016, West hit the headlines for a series of controversial tweets – including one that proclaimed Bill Cosby, on trial for drugging and raping women, to be innocent. He started a beef with the rapper Wiz Khalifa, whom he mistakenly believed to have criticized his wife, Kim Kardashian (“I am your OG and I will be respected as such,” West tweeted.). He also apologized to Michael Jordan for appearing to diss the basketball legend in his lyrics. And then the day after his album came out, West bizarrely urged his followers to lobby Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to invest $1 billion into West’s “ideas.” He also claimed to be $53 million in debt.

The album itself was another change of direction, and another triumph. It covered a much broader sonic sweep than Yeezus, incorporating a vast array of sounds, styles and influences, from trap to gospel to Auto-Tune crooning, to avant-pop, classic soul and dancehall. Guest vocalists included Frank Ocean, Chance the Rapper, Rihanna, Desiigner and Kid Cudi. It became West’s sixth solo album in succession to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart.

‘Ye’ Song and Kanye West Bipolar

On May 31, West held an exclusive listening party in Jackson Hole for industry insiders and select celebrities, like Chris Rock and Jonah Hill, to debut his new studio effort, Ye. The seven-track album, which included contributions from Kid Cudi and Minaj, touched on issues ranging from the sexual assault accusations facing Russell Simmons, to the Tristan Thompson-Khloé Kardashian cheating saga, to the rapper’s own controversial comments about slavery and being bipolar.

West expanded on the bipolar topic in a subsequent interview, confirming that he had recently been diagnosed. Echoing his track’s lyrics about how it is his “superpower,” he insisted that the condition fueled his creativity, but also admitted that it led to unfortunate consequences. “Think about people who have mental issues that are not Kanye West … think about somebody that does exactly what I did at TMZ but they just do it at work,” he said. “Then Tuesday morning they come back and they lost their job.”

On June 12, it was revealed that Ye had debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200; it marked West’s eighth consecutive chart-topping album, matching the record held by the Beatles and Eminem. Additionally, all seven tracks from Ye had cracked the Top 40, with “Yikes” charting highest, at No. 8.

‘Jesus Is King,’ ‘Jesus Is Born’

Meanwhile, the artist continued working on a new album. Titled Yandhi, with a planned release date of September 29, 2018, the album was pushed back to November 23, before being delayed indefinitely. In August 2019, it was announced that another studio project, Jesus Is King, would be released on September 27, though that date also passed with no sign of the promised album. The gospel-tinged Jesus Is King was finally unveiled on October 25, the same day as a 35-minute IMAX film of the same title that documented one of the artist’s Sunday Service sessions.

At the Hollywood Bowl in November, West debuted Nebuchadnezzar, an opera featuring Sunday Service-style choir singing with its creator reading Bible passages from off to the side of the stage. He followed with Mary, an opera based on the nativity story, before releasing the 19-track gospel album Jesus Is Born on Christmas Day.

Kanye West Honors Kobe Bryant

Kanye West was a noted Kobe Bryant fan. The duo connected on multiple occasions, and Ye was even in the building for Kobe’s last game ever back in 2016. With society in mourning following Bryant and his daughter’s shocking deaths, West hosted a post-Grammys Sunday Service at midnight in Burbank Calif. early Monday (Jan. 27 2020) to begin the healing process.

Snippets from the Service have made their way onto social media. Kirk Franklin looked to be in attendance delivering a moving spoken word, while Chance The Rapper popped up to perform his verse on “Ultralight Beam.” Kanye even freestyled a tribute verse in honor of his fallen friend.

“Kobe, We love you brother,” West wrote in a post dedicated to Bryant. “We’re praying for your family and appreciate the life you’ve lived and all the inspiration you gave.” The accompanying photo was from a 2010 studio session where the Laker legend actually helped Kanye finish off his verse on the “Power (Remix).”

Kanye West Biography and Profile

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