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Kanye West


Kanye West

Kanye West © Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam

Known To His Parents As:

Kanye Omari West


June 8, 1977 in Atlanta, GA.

Interesting Facts:

  • Kanye moved to Chicago at age 3.
  • Kanye financed the shooting of his "Through The Wire" video out of his own pocket, and submitted the video to BET and MTV himself.

In His Own Words:

"Please don't download, because I want to get a pool in my second home." (Addressing internet bootleggers.)

College Dropout or Early Graduate?:

When Kanye West referred to himself as a college dropout on his similarly-titled debut album, he wasn't trying to be funny. After a brief stint at Chicago State University, and Columbia College (a local art school in Chicago), West decided he was finished with college. To the bewilderment of his mom Donda West, Kanye dropped college to pick up a career in hip-hop.

Searching For A Unique Sound:

West's early production was mainly for burgeoning hometown artists. However, his first notable collaboration was "Turn It Out" with Jermaine Dupri and Nas, featured on JD's Life In 1472 movie soundtrack. The song relied on a sample-free, straight-laced sonic--the antithesis of West's diced drum-programming and sample-heavy tunes of late. Kanye honed his production skills under the auspices of Derrick "D-Dot" Angeletti (aka Madd Rapper), whom he allegedly 'ghost-produced' for.

The Blueprint:

Kanye West is often credited with revitalizing Jay-Z's career because of his contributions on the rapper's 2001 masterpiece The Blueprint. Not only did West lace the beats to Jay-Z's ubiquitous anthem "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)" and the introspective "Never Change," Kanye was also responsible for the now legendary lyrical shots fired at Nas and Prodigy (of Mobb Deep), "Takeover." As an in-house producer for Jay-Z's Roc-A-Fella records, West also crafted beats for other ROC artists including Beanie Sigel.

The Gift And The Curse:

Though, Kanye had also picked up some emceeing skills around the same time he began producing, it was a struggle for him to be taken seriously as a rapper. Record companies were not ready for a rapper whose past did not reek of dirty drug-dealing stories and bullet holes. After a series of meetings with Capitol Records, West was denied an artist deal. In a desperate attempt to keep their gifted producer from defecting to another label, Roc-A-Fella reluctantly signed Kanye West.

Through The Fire:

Everything changed on October 22, 2003 when West found himself in a life-threatening auto accident. Due to the severe damage from that crash, his mouth was wired shut, presumably closing the chapter on Kanye's emceeing dreams. Two weeks later, however, he sneaked out of his hospital bed and recorded "Through The Wire," where he rapped with his mouth still wired shut. The song would later become the first single from The College Dropout, West's critically acclaimed debut album.

Late Registration:

In late 2005, West followed up his well-received debut with Late Registration, which was co-produced by Jon Brion. While Brion helped add dense layers of instrumentation and adept musicianship to the album's soundscape, Kanye's social commentary and witty (albeit unsophisticated) lyricism made the album an enjoyable musical ride.

"George Bush Does Not Care About Black People"

Following the hurricane Katrina debacle, West deviated from a scripted teleprompter to announce on NBC that "George Bush does not care about Black people." Touted by a mix of praise and controversy, West would go on to win three awards at the 2006 Grammy's, a repeat of his 2005 feat and a confirmation of his undeniable mass appeal.

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