Kanye West is a well-known American rapper, record producer, entrepreneur, and fashion designer from Chicago. Kanye West started as a  hip-hop beatmaker and soon became a worldwide hitmaker. His work as a producer for artists such as Jay-Z led to a major-label recording contract. This contract led Kanye to have a successful solo career that resulted in a string of chart-topping, multi-platinum albums and nearly two-dozen Grammy Awards. 


Kanye West was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on June 8, 1977. when Kanye was three, his parents divorced. Kanye was raised in Southside Chicago by his mother, Donda West, an English professor, and spent summers with his father, an award-winning photographer who became a church counselor.

West was raised in a middle-class environment, attending Polaris School for Individual Education in suburban Oak Lawn, Illinois, after living in Chicago. Kanye West’s childhood home is in the South Shore community of Chicago. South Shore is a densely populated lakefront neighborhood.


As Kanye entered adulthood, he graduated from Polaris High School. He then went on to complete one year of art school at Chicago State University. However, Kanye dropped out of college. Kanye explained his reasoning for dropping out. He stated in an interview with Ebony magazine, “I dropped out of school because I wasn’t learning fast enough… I learned from real-life better.” During this time, Kanye considered  “real life” to be rapping and working with local artists. West felt it was time to pursue his music career full time, so he moved to New York in 2001.

"But hopefully, with God's blessing, there should be no way for me to lose really..."

Kanye’s career as a producer began to grow, and his beats were enhancing his musical reputation in New York. Kanye was hired to produce songs for rapper Jay-Z in his 2001 album The Blueprint. The album sales exceeded Kanye’s expectations. The album sales were over 420,000 in the first week alone. After, this Kanye had many well-known rappers interest in his producing talents. Although, Kanye was doing well, making a name for himself he wanted to known as more than just a producer.  West wanted to be a rapper as well. While making his money as a producer to stars, West began working on his own demo and began promoting at recording sessions. Despite his solid reputation as a producer, no one returned his calls. 


Kanye was still in a solid pursuit to become respected in the industry as a rapper. However, one night would change his life forever. In October 2002,  West was on his way home from a recording session in Los Angels when he fell asleep at the wheel. Kanye was in a head-on car collision that left him with his jaw wired shut. For most artists,  this traumatic experience would be devastating. While recording his debut album, Kanye capitalized on the accident. In an interview, Kanye stated, “I feel like the album was my medicine. It would take my mind away from the pain— away from the dental appointments, from my teeth killing me, from my mouth being wired shut, from the fact that I looked like I just fought Mike Tyson… I nearly died. That’s the best thing that can happen to a rapper.” Thus, Kanye returned to the recording studio with his jaw wired shut. This accident inspired Kanye to create his hit single  “Through the Wire,” which sparked his rap career and was the first track of his debut album, “The College Dropout.”


Once Kanye Dropped his debut album, “The College Dropout,” his career as a rapper skyrocketed.  West earned ten nominations at the 47th annual Grammy Awards in early 2005. The College Dropout won the Best Rap Album award, “Jesus Walks” won Best Rap Song, and a songwriting credit on “You Don’t Know My Name” for the Best R&B Song award was shared with Alicia Keys and Harold Lilly. 


 The College Dropout represented a bold new counterpoint to the digital production style that Timbaland had started in the early 2000s, and this, in turn, helped hip-hop evolve beyond the “Bling Era” lifestyle seen by artists like 50 Cent.

The College Dropout became a commercial success, becoming West’s best-selling album in the United States, with sales of over 3.4 million copies by 2014, and was certified four-times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in 2020.

On August 30, 2005, Kanye West’s sophomore album, Late Registration, expanded his production style from his previous album. Kanye teamed with producer Jon Brion and created sounds never before heard in hip-hop. The album featured some of Kanye’s best material to date, including hit singles “Diamonds” and “Gold Digger.”  


Kanye West produced his third studio album, Graduation, released on September 11, 2007, through Def Jam Recordings and Roc-A-Fella Records. This album became one of the year’s most memorable albums.  This album was released when  50 Cent’s third album, Curtis, was steeped in the traditions of gangsta rap. However, Kanye’s futuristic hybrid music style, 50cent, stood no chance.   A competition between the pair spurred on by 50 Cent’s assertion that he would easily outsell Kanye.

In the end, Kanye won as Graduation sold nearly one million albums to Curtis’ 691,000. Perhaps more importantly, Kanye’s success cemented hip-hop’s shift away from the gangsta rap that dominated during the 90s, ushering in an eclectic brand of hip-hop that would embrace styles as diverse as house and rock music. Hip-hop was moving forward fast, and Kanye West would remain a driving force for change in the years to come.


Close to 2 years after the death of his mother, Donda West, and a failed marriage to Alexis Phifer, Kanye West had released the album (arguably one of his worst) 808’s & Heartbreaks. This album was described as an “unexpected piece of his turmoiled soul” and this seemed to be the direction Kanye’s life was going. His personal troubles became public in 2009 at the MTV Music Awards when he drunkenly interrupted Taylor Swift receiving her award to say that Beyoncé had one of the best music videos of all time. This, to some, was the peak of Kanye’s mental downward spiral. This would lead to Kanye canceling his 808’s & Heartbreaks tour with Lady Gaga. This, along with the fatigue from overworking, Kanye went into a “self-imposed exile in Oahu, Hawaii at Avex Recording Studios” 


After his release of 808’s & Heartbreaks, many rap connoisseurs questioned whether Kanye was pop or hip-hop. 808’s was tainted with synthesizers and singing rather than the real bar for bar rapping they were used to. Kanye West took the elements of all of his past albums and created his beautiful dark, twisted fantasy.

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is an album with many different themes, all surrounding the troubles of fame: love, sex, power, wealth, escaping, and self-actualization. If his beats did not convey these themes to the listener, then his words indeed did. His words speak volumes on this album as they spew out his pain. Each song addresses one of these 4 different themes in its own unique way. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was not simply a bravado of Kanye’s master skills, but it also influenced the way rap music would be produced and the way in which producers sampled music



Throughout Kanye’s career, he has become a quadruple threat: producer, rapper, songwriter, and record executive. Kanye has successfully produced ten studio albums and is currently working on his 11th, titled Donda 2.  Kanye West officially changed his name to Ye and is now one of America’s wealthiest and most influential black men.  Kanye West formally became a billionaire last year. The rapper turned to fashion, and athletic shoe mogul is now worth $6.6 billion. 


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