Kanye Omari West (born June 8, 1977) is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, record producer, entrepreneur and fashion designer. His musical career has been marked by dramatic changes in styles, incorporating an eclectic range of influences including soul, baroque pop, electro, indie rock, synth-pop, industrial and gospel. Over the course of his career, West has been responsible for cultural movements and progressions within mainstream hip hop and popular music at large.
Born in Atlanta and raised in Chicago, West first became known as a producer for Roc-A-Fella Records in the early 2000s, producing hit singles for recording artists such as Jay-Z, Ludacris and Alicia Keys. Intent on pursuing a solo career as a rapper, West released his debut album The College Dropout in 2004 to widespread critical and commercial success, and founded the record label GOOD Music. He went on to experiment with a variety of musical genres on subsequent acclaimed studio albums, including Late Registration (2005), Graduation (2007), and the polarizing but influential 808s & Heartbreak (2008). He released his fifth album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy in 2010 to further rave reviews, and has since succeeded it with Yeezus (2013) , The Life of Pablo (2016) and Ye (2018), as well as full-length collaborations Watch the Throne (2011) and Kids See Ghosts (2018) with Jay-Z and Kid Cudi respectively.
West’s outspoken views and life outside of music have received significant media attention. He has been a frequent source of controversy for his conduct at award shows, on social media, and in other public settings, as well as his comments on the music and fashion industries, U.S. politics, and race. His marriage to television personality Kim Kardashian has also been a source of substantial media attention. As a fashion designer, he has collaborated with Nike, Louis Vuitton, and A.P.C. on both clothing and footwear, and have most prominently resulted in the Yeezy collaboration with Adidas beginning in 2013. He is the founder and head of the creative content company Donda.
West is among the most critically acclaimed musicians of the 21st century and one of the best-selling music artists of all time with over 135 million records sold worldwide. He has won a total of 21 Grammy Awards, making him one of the most awarded artists of all time and the most Grammy-awarded artist of his generation. Three of his albums have been included and ranked on Rolling Stone’s 2012 update of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” list and he ties with Bob Dylan for having topped the annual Pazz & Jop critic poll the most number of times ever, with four number-one albums each. Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2005 and 2015.
Kanye Omari West was born on June 8, 1977, in Atlanta, Georgia. After his parents divorced when he was three years old he moved with his mother to Chicago, Illinois. His father, Ray West, is a former Black Panther and was one of the first black photojournalists at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Ray West was later a Christian counselor, and in 2006, opened the Good Water Store and Café in Lexington Park, Maryland with startup capital from his son. West’s mother, Dr. Donda C. (Williams) West, was a professor of English at Clark Atlanta University, and the Chair of the English Department at Chicago State University, before retiring to serve as his manager. West was raised in a middle-class background, attending Polaris High School in suburban Oak Lawn, Illinois, after living in Chicago. At the age of 10, West moved with his mother to Nanjing, China, where she was teaching at Nanjing University as part of an exchange program. According to his mother, West was the only foreigner in his class, but settled in well and quickly picked up the language, although he has since forgotten most of it. When asked about his grades in high school, West replied, “I got A’s and B’s. And I’m not even front-in’.”
West demonstrated an affinity for the arts at an early age; he began writing poetry when he was five years old. His mother recalled that she first took notice of West’s passion for drawing and music when he was in the third grade. West started rapping in the third grade and began making musical compositions in the seventh grade, eventually selling them to other artists. At age thirteen, West wrote a rap song called “Green Eggs and Ham” and persuaded his mother to pay for time in a recording studio. Accompanying him to the studio and despite discovering it being “a little basement studio” where a microphone hung from the ceiling by a wire clothes hanger, West’s mother nonetheless supported and encouraged him. West crossed paths with producer/DJ No I.D., with whom he quickly formed a close friendship. No I.D. soon became West’s mentor, and it was from him that West learned how to sample and program beats after he received his first sampler at age 15. After graduating from high school, West received a scholarship to attend Chicago’s American Academy of Art in 1997 and began taking painting classes, but shortly after transferred to Chicago State University to study English. He soon realized that his busy class schedule was detrimental to his musical work, and at 20 he dropped out of college to pursue his musical dreams. This action greatly displeased his mother, who was also a professor at the university. She later commented, “It was drummed into my head that college is the ticket to a good life… but some career goals don’t require college. For Kanye to make an album called College Dropout it was more about having the guts to embrace who you are, rather than following the path society has carved out for you.”
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