Kanye Omari West was raised in the middle-class background of the Chicago city by his highly educated mother Donda West. He had a knack for creativity and poetry from a very young age. He started rapping from the age of 7 and soon confessed to his mother that he wanted to take recording music more formally. When he was 20, he decided to drop out of college and pursue music professionally. His mother supported him in his endeavors. He started as a small time producer until he met Jay-Z and produced his ‘The Blueprint’ for him. Since that time West started getting recognition and he worked with talented people like Ludacris, Janet Jackson, Alicia Keys, etc. But West’s main aspiration was to become a rapper and it was not until the year 2002 that he was given his first opportunity to record his solo album. From then onwards there was no looking back fort West and he gave to the entertainment industry best hip-hop music in the form of ‘The College Dropout, ‘Late Registration’, ‘Graduation’, ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’, etc. His music has always been appreciated by music critics for its innovation and the risk that West takes with its creativity. He has always been in the news, whether it is for the numerous awards he has won or for the controversies that he has caused over the years.
Childhood & Early Life
Kanye West was born on 8 June 1977 in Atlanta, Georgia to Dr. Donda C. Williams West and Ray West. His father was one of the former Black Panthers and the first ever black photojournalist at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. His mother was an English Professor at the Clark Atlanta University and also the Chair of English Department at the Chicago State University. His parents divorced when he was only 3 years old and he moved in with his mother to Chicago, Illinois.
West was raised in a humble way and belonged to a middle-class background. He did his schooling from the Polaris High School in Illinois. He shifted to Nanjing, China at the age of 10 when his mother was asked to teach at the Nanjing University as a part of an exchange program. He was creative from an early age. He wrote his first poetry at the age of 5. He started to rap at the young age of 5 and composing his own music by the time he was in the seventh grade.
West started to get more and more involved in the hip-hop scene of the city and when he was 17, he wrote a rap song called ‘Green Eggs and Ham’. He persuaded his mother to pay him money so that he can start recording in the studio. Although his mother did not want this for him, she started accompanying him to a small basement studio in the city. There west met ‘The Godfather of Chicago Hip Hop’, No I.D. He soon became West’s mentor.
In 1997, West was offered a scholarship from the Chicago’s American Academy of Art and he took upon it to learn the art of painting and then took the transfer to the Chicago State University to pursue English literature. At the age of 20, he decided to drop out of the college to pursue his dream to become a rapper and a musician, full time. This greatly upset his mother.
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From mid 90’s until the early 2000, West was involved in small time music production projects. He made music for the local artists and was also a ghost producer for Deric ‘D-Dot’ Angelettie. West got the much awaited opportunity in 2000 when he became the producer for artists on Roc-A-Fella Records. He produced hit singles for famous singers like: Common, Ludacris, Cam’Ron, etc. it was in 2001, world renowned rapper and entertainment business tycoon Jay-Z asked West to produce many tracks of his hit album ‘The Blueprint’.
Around this time he continued to produce tracks for singers and rappers like: Alicia Keys, Janet Jackson, etc. Subsequently he became a successful producer but his heart’s true desire was to become a rapper. It became a very challenging situation for him to get acceptance as a rapper and crack a record deal. In 2002, Kanye got the breakthrough in his music career. He met with an accident while coming back from a long recording session in L.A., as he fell asleep at the wheel. While he was in the hospital, he wrote down the song ‘Through the Wire’, which was 3 weeks later recorded by Roc-A-Fella Records and became a part of his debut album ‘Death’.
In 2004, West came up with his second album ‘The College Dropout’, which became an instant hit with music lovers. It sold 441,000 copies in its first week. It secured the number two on the Billboard 200. It has a number called ‘Slow Jamz’ that featured Twista and Jamie Foxx alongside West. It was voted as the top album of the year by two big music publications. Another track from the album called ‘Jesus Walks’ showcased West’s emotions about faith and Christianity.
In 2005, West collaborated with American film score composer Jon Brion, who co-executively produced many tracks on the album, to work on West’s new album ‘Late Registration’. He hired a string orchestra for the album and afforded the cost with all the money he made out of ‘The College Dropout’. It sold 2.3 million copies in United States. In the same year, west announced that he will release his Pastelle Clothing line in 2006 but it was cancelled in 2009.
In 2007, West released his third studio album ‘Graduation’. He released it at the same time 50 Cent’s ‘Curtis’ came out. But, ‘Graduation’ out sold ‘Curtis’ by a huge margin and secured number one position at the US Billboard 200. It sold about 957,000 copies in its very first week. The track called ‘Stronger’ became West’s biggest hit single.
In 2008, West released his fourth studio album ‘808s & Heartbreak’. The album topped the Billboard charts and sold 450,000 copies during its first few weeks. The inspiration of this album came from the sad demise of West’s mother Donna West and break-up with his fiance, Alexis Phifer. The album is said to have inspired the hip hop music and other rappers to take more creative risks with their productions. In the same year west announced to open 10 Fatburger restaurants in Chicago. The first one was opened in Orland Park in 2008.
In 2009, West teamed up with Nike to release his own shoes. He named them ‘Air Yeezys’ and released another version of it in the year 2012. In the same year, he came out with his new shoe line for Louis Vuitton and released it during the Paris Fashion Week. West also designed shoes for Bape and Giuseppe Zanotti.
In 2010, West’s fifth studio album ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ was released and it topped the Billboard charts in its first few weeks itself. It was considered as a genius work by the music critics. It got rave reviews from all over the world and included hits like ‘All of the Lights’, ‘Power’, ‘Monster’, ‘Runaway’, etc. This album became platinum in the States.
In 2013, West came out with his sixth album ‘Yeezus’ and took a more non commercial approach in making it. He collaborated with talents like: Chicago Drill, Dancehall, Acid House and Industrial Music in the making of this album. The album was released in the month of June and has received rave reviews from the music critics
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On February 14, 2016, Kanye West released his seventh album titled 'The Life of Pablo'.
He came up with his eighth album 'Ye' on June 1, 2018. In August 2018, he released he non-album single "XTCY".
In January 2019, Kanye West started his weekly "Sunday Service" orchestration. It included soul variations West's songs and songs by other celebrities.
Awards & Achievements
For his album ‘The College Dropout’, West grabbed 10 Grammy nominations, including Album of the Year and Best Rap Album. He won a Grammy for the Best Rap Album category. His album was certified as triple platinum in the United States.
Family & Personal Life
In November 2007, West’s mother Donda West died of a heart disease right after she underwent a plastic surgery procedure. She was 58 years old at the time. This left West in turmoil, as he was extremely close to his mother; she had released her memoir before her death called ‘Raising Kanye: Life Lessons from the Mother of a Hip-Hop Superstar’.
Kanye West was in on-and-off relationship relationship with designer Alexis Phifer for four years before getting engaged to her in August 2006. The engagement lasted 18 month before the pair called it quits in 2008.
He was in a relationship with model Amber Rose from 2008 to 2010.
In April 2012, West began dating Kim Kardashian. They got engaged in October 2013 and married on May 24, 2014, at Fort di Belvedere in Florence, Italy.
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West and Kim Kardashian have three children: daughters North West (born June 2013) and Chicago West (born January 2018 of a surrogate pregnancy) and son Saint West (born December 2015).
In January 2019, Kim Kardashian announced that they are expecting their fouth child, a son, via surrogate.
When West dropped out of the college in 1996, his mother became very upset with him but later on with his success as a musician she confessed that not everybody has to go through formal education to prove themselves.
After a near death experience in 2002, West recorded his first solo ‘Through the Wire’ at the studio with his jaw still wired shut.
In 2004, when West lost the category of the Best New Artist to Gretchen Wilson at the American Music Awards, he claimed that he will never come to the music awards ever again. But later on he apologized for his attitude.
West is one of the rare entertainers to make it to the cover of the Time Magazine. He was named as one of the 100 most influential people of the year 2005 in the magazine.
West co-hosted the ‘Concert for Hurricane Relief’ televised show and he strayed from his script and announced out of blue that ‘George Bush doesn't care for black people’. These seven words became the national headline and George Bush called it the most disgraceful moment in his Presidency.
In 2009, at MTV VMAs, while Taylor Swift gave her acceptance speech for the Best Female Video Award, Kanye West jumped in between and said that ‘Beyonce’s Single Ladies is the best video of all times’. This act of West was highly criticized and artists like Kelly Clarkson, even President Obama criticized his antics. Later, west made a personal phone call to Taylor and apologized.