Kanye West (Ye) is an American rapper, songwriter, record producer, and fashion designer. The Grammy award winner at the beginning of his career rose to fame as a producer. He produced several artists to release their singles.
‘The College Dropout’ which was released in 2004 was West’s debut studio album when he switched to a solo rapper. Through the success of the album, he started his own record label ‘GOOD MUSIC’ in 2004.
The influential hip hop artist since then became a household name in the music industry, releasing several singles, albums and awards. He owns various businesses out of the music landscape.
As a fashion designer, he has worked together with Nike, Louis Vuitton, The Gap and A.P.C on clothing and footwear. His clothing line, ‘Yeezy’ also collaborated with Adidas. He was married to Kim Kardashian but unfortunately the two divorced in 2022 with four children.
Early Life and Education
Kanye West was born Kanye Omari West (now Ye) in June 8, 1977 in Atlanta, Georgia to Ray West (father) and Donda West (mother). Ye’s father was the first black photojournalist for The Atlanta newspaper and former Black Panther, later he became a christian counselor.
Donda West, Kanye’s mother was a professor of English at English at Clark Atlanta University. She also Chaired the English Department at Chicago State University, retired and became West’s manager before passing away in 2007.
At age three, he moved with his mother to Chicago, Illinois after his parents divorced. He attended Polaris School for Individual Education in Oak Lawn, Illinois. At the age of 5, West’s interest in arts and poetry was strong as he started writing his own poems. Sonde West admired her son’s taste for arts and music when he was in grade 3, where he started rapping and making musical compositions which he sold to artists in seventh grade.
West’s mother had the opportunity to teach in Nanjing University as a Fulbright hence they had to relocate to Nanjing, China when he was 10 years old.
At age thirteen, he got explored more into his music talent and wrote a rap song “Green Eggs and Ham” and convinced his mother to pay for him to record the song in a studio. He took the inspiration from the title of a best selling children’s book by Dr. Seuss.
Through this, he became friends with producer and DJ No I.D. Their bond became stronger and it was from him West learnt how to play the game and sample at age 15.
West received a scholarship to study in American Academy of Arts, Chicago in 1997 after he graduated from high school. After a short period, he was transferred to Chicago State University to study English. At age 20, he dropped out of college to focus on his music career. Although her mother was displeased with his decision, she also felt not all career goals needed college education.
Ye started his musical career as a producer where he created beats for local artists in his area in the mid 1990s. He had a unique style which he was recognized for, he was speeding up vocal samples from classic soul records.
He produced 8 songs on the 1996 ‘Down to Earth’ album of a Chicago rapper Grav, if was his first official production at age 9. In the late 1990s, he formed, became a member and producer of a Chicago rap group, Go-Getters (made up of GLC, Timmy G, Really Doe, and Arrowstar and himself).
They released their first and only album, ‘World Record Holders’ in 1999. He was the first person signed by Gee Roberson and Kyambo Kyambo “Hip Hop” Joshuato to ‘Hip Hop Since 1978’ in 1998. West produced several records for many popular artists and music groups for years.
He produced the third song on Foxy Brown’s second album ‘Chyna Doll’. Three songs on Harlem World’s first and only album ‘The Movement’ were produced by him in collaboration with Jermaine Dupri and the production duo trackmasters.
West co-produced the ninth song on ‘World Party’, the last Goodie Mob album to feature the rap group’s four founding members. He also produced six songs for Tell ‘Em Why U Madd, an album that was released by D-Dot under the alias of The Madd Rapper.
Kanye West got his big break through when he started working for Roc-A-Fella and worked on Jay-Z’s 2001 ‘Blueprint’ album. The Blueprint is widely recognized greatest hop albums. Under Roc-A-Fella, West produced music for other artists on the label, including Beanie Sigel, Freeway, and Cam’ron. He also crafted hit songs for Ludacris, Alicia Keys, and Janet Jackson.
West wasn’t fully satisfied although he was successful as a producer, he wanted to fulfill his dreams as a rapper. He was rejected so many times by record labels including Capitol.
To prevent desperate West from joining a different label, Damon Dash signed West to Roc-A-Fella. On October 23, 2002, West had a car accident while driving home from a California recording studio after working late. He had a fractured jaw and had to undergone surgery, the other driver who was also involved broke both legs.
Ye got inspired by the accident; 2 weeks after being admitted at the hospital, he recorded a song ‘Through the Wire’ at the Record Plant Studios with his jaw still in bad shape. That was his breakthrough. The song describes his experience after the accident and helped him build the foundation towards his first album. ‘Through the Wire’ was first available on West’s ‘Get Well Soon’ mixtape released on December, 2002. During that same period, he disclosed that he was working on an album, ‘The College Dropout’.
‘The College Dropout’
While recovering from his car accident, he recorded the remaining songs of the albums. Unfortunately for him, the album was leaked online months before the official release date. As a result of that, he decided to revise the original album and took some of the songs out. He remixed and remastered ‘The College Dropout’ album before releasing it but due to the massive work he was doing on the album, he postponed the release date thrice from its first date in August, 2003.
The College Dropout was a masterpiece by West when it was released by Roc-A-Fella in February 2004. It took the number two spot on the Billboard 200. The album was voted the top album of the year by two major publications and has continued to be recognized among the great hip hop works and debut albums by artists. It also got West 10 Grammy nominations, including Album of the Year and Best Rap Album. In a short period, he founded his record label, ‘GOOD Music’ that same year he released the album.
He invested $2M dollars in crafting his second album which took his over a year to get it done. West hired a string orchestra and worked with American film score composer Jon Brion as the album’s co-executive producer for ‘Late Registration’. The album became a success and sold over 2.3 million units in the U.S. alone by the end of 2005. According to industry observers, the regarded the album as the only successful major album release of the fall season which had been plagued by steadily declining CD sales.
After years of touring the world with U2 on their Vertigo Tour, he got inspired to make anthemic rap songs that can be performed in large arenas. As a result, he introduced the synthesizer into his hip pop production, utilized slower tempos and experimented with electronic music and influenced by music of the 1980s. He also drew inspiration from listening to arena rock songs which gave birth to his ‘Generation’ album.
His third album, ‘Generation’ attracted massive publicity when its release date crashed with that of 50 Cent’s album ‘Curtis’. It was referred to as a battle for sales since they both released their albums on same. ‘Graduation’ came on top by outselling ‘Curtis’ and shooting at number on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart and sold 957,000 copies in its first week.
Mother Death, ‘808s & Heartbreak’ and VMAs Feud
Kanye West lost his mother, Donda West in November, 2007. She died of complication from cosmetic surgery involving abdominoplasty and breast reduction. Her death affected his several aspects of his life and months after, he ended his engagement with his fiancée Alexis Phifer.
Not long after his mother’s death, he released his next album, ‘808s & Heartbreak’ on November, 2008. Despite the criticism against its release, the album had an effect on hip hop music and encouraged other rappers to take more creative risks with their productions.
A controversial indicate happened during 2009 MTV Video Music Awards where West climbed the stage and grabbed the microphone from Taylor Swift during her acceptance speech for “Best Female Video”. He disclosed that Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies’ which was in the same category was the best video.
‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’
West took a break from music scene after the previous incident and ventured into fashion. Along side, he was writing and recording songs for his next album. He released his fifth album, ‘The Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ on November 2010 which many regard as his best after the break.
In 2011, he embarked on a festival tour to celebrate the release of his album, ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ performing and headlining numerous festivals.
He also released a collaborative album ‘Watch the Throne’ with Jay-Z in August 2011. And dropped a compilation album Cruel Summer, a collection of tracks by artists from his record label ‘GOOD Music’.
West sixth album ‘Yeezus’ was released on June 18, 2013 and it became his sixth consecutive number one debut, with his lowest solo opening week sales.
He embarked on a solo tour to promote the album with support From Kendrick Lamar.
West also co-produced, ‘FourFiveSeconds’ single with Rihana and McCartney which was released in January, 2015. In March 2015, he dropped ‘All Day’ which featured Theophilus London, Allan Kingdom and Paul McCartney.
Adidas announced the commencement of their official apparel collaboration with Kanye West in December 2013. In February, 2015, the clothing collaboration ‘Yeezy Season 1’ was official premiered including Yeezy Boost sneakers.
Another set of his clothing line, ‘Yeezy Season 2’ was premiered in September 2015 at New York Fashion Week. He subsequently released other seasons (3-6).
West introduced his first shoe line in January 2009 designed by Louis Vuitton. He also collaborated with M/M Paris for series of silk scarves.
He collaborated with Nike to release his own shoe, ‘Air Yeezys’ in 2009 and an upgrade in 2012. On October 1, 2011, he premiered his women’s fashion label, ‘DW Kanye West’ at Paris Fashion Week.
In partnership with his ex-wife, Kim, they launched a clothing line for children, ‘Kids Supply’. In May 2021, West signed a 10-year deal, linking Yeezy with GAP.
‘The Life of Pablo’
Kanye West’s seventh album went through several bane changes before it was released. Also, few weeks to the release of the album, he was in involved in various twitter controversies which lead to changes in the tracks as well.
Initially, he named the album SWISH, then to Waves and finally, ‘The Life of Pablo’ which was premiered on February 11, 2016 along aside the outdooring of his Yeezy Season 3 clothing line.
He later made changes to the track list on the album before it official release on February 14 exclusively on Tidel during a performance on SNL.
In August 2016, he decided to embark on the ‘Saint Pablo Tour’ to promote the album. Unfortunately, West postponed several dates of the tours following the Paris robbery of his wife’s items.
He later cancelled the remaining 21 dates on his tour following a week of no-shows, curtailed concerts and rants about politics. West went on a break from social media, publicity and was hospitalized for a temporary psychosis stemming from sleep deprivation and extreme dehydration at UCLA Medical Center.
Kanye West released his eighth album, ‘Ye’ on June 1, 2018. A week after, he released a collaborative album ‘Kids See Ghost’ with Kid Cudi. He also completed work on Nas’ album ‘Nasir’ and Teyana Taylor’s ‘K.T.S.E.
West also announced in September that he would be changing his stage name to “Ye”.
‘Jesus is King’, ‘Donda’ and ‘Donda 2’
Ye started his gospel group, ‘Sunday Service’ which saw the attendance of several celebrities including the Kardashians, Charlie Wilson and Kid Cudi.
Alongside, he was working on his ninth album which birthed ‘Jesus is King’, a Christian hip hop album. It was released on October 25, 2019. The album was the first to ever to top Billboard 200, Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, Top Rap Albums, Top Christian Albums and Top Gospel Albums at the same time.
On December 25, 2019, he released ‘Jesus Is Born’ with his Sunday Service’, which some of his old songs he reworked on.
‘Donda’, West’s tenth album was released on August 29, 2021 after several delays and listening parties. He also released a deluxe edition of ‘Donda’ to streaming services on November 14, 2021.
On January 27, 2022, he announced a release date for a sequel to Donda, Donda 2. And on February 22, 2022, he released ‘Donda 2’, his eleventh studio album.
Family and other relationship
West and Kim Kardashian got engaged in October 2013 and married in May 24, 2014. They have four children: North West, Saint West, Chicago West and Psalm West.
In February 2021, Kim official filed for a divorce and after several situation, she was legally declared single on March 2, 2022.
He dated designer Alexis Phifer in 2002, got engaged in August 2006 and went their separated ways on 2008.
In January 2022, actress Julia Fox disclosed in an Interview essay that she was dating West. But after two months the two split up on good terms.
Kanye West legally changed his original birth name (Kanye Omari West) to ‘Ye’ with no middle name or last name. The name was granted and official on October 17, 2021.
According to Forbes, Kanye West is worth $2 billion as at September 2022.