Kanye West

Also Credited As:

Kanye Omari West
Kanye West

Biography

One of the most divisive figures in the music industry, Kanye West blurred the line between ego and artistry with his critically acclaimed albums, groundbreaking music videos, and over the top public persona. West began his career as a music producer, collaborating with high-profile talents such as Jay-Z and Janet Jackson before making his mark as an award-winning rapper. West's musical repertoire was a culmination of real life tragedies - …
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Job Title

Actor, Music

Born

Kanye Omari West on June 8, 1977 in Atlanta, Georgia, USA

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About

One of the most divisive figures in the music industry, Kanye West blurred the line between ego and artistry with his critically acclaimed albums, groundbreaking music videos, and over the top public persona. West began his career as a music producer, collaborating with high-profile talents such as Jay-Z and Janet Jackson before making his mark as an award-winning rapper. West's musical repertoire was a culmination of real life tragedies - from a debilitating car crash in 2002 to his mother's untimely death in 2007 - which he turned into emotional and intellectual lyrics that punctuated albums such as The College Dropout (2004) and Graduation (2007). His light-speed rap delivery, auto-tuned hooks, and pulse-pounding beats made him one of the most exciting and innovative artists of any genre. However, West's public outbursts and outlandish, arrogant behavior, including a notorious stunt at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards where he rudely interrupted Taylor Swift's acceptance speech, also turned off even his most loyal fans. Facing public scrutiny, West took time out of the limelight and reemerged a year later, more humbled by fame and with a new album that solidified his status as an envelope-pushing artist who was truly ahead of his time.

Kanye Omari West was born on June 8, 1977 in Atlanta, GA to Ray West, a former Black Panther-turned-Christian counselor, and Donda West, an English professor. His parents divorced when West was three, and he moved to Chicago, IL with his mother, who became Chair of the English Department at Chicago State University. The future star also lived in China for a year with his mother when he was 10, attended Polaris High School in Oak Lawn, IL, and took art classes at the American Academy of Art in Chicago. West enrolled at Chicago State University, but ended up dropping out to pursue a fulltime music career. He began producing for local artists, including Chicago rapper Grav's debut album, Down to Earth (1996), before gaining prominence in the hip-hop community in 2000 through his work with Roc-a-Fella Records and rapper Jay-Z. West helped produce Jay-Z's landmark album, The Blueprint, which was unfortunately released on Sept. 11, 2001, and featured the hip-hop hits "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)" and "Heart of the City" ("Ain't No Love)." He also collaborated with chart-topping singers, including Janet Jackson, Alicia Keys and John Legend.

Just when it seemed West's career was on the fast track, he was involved in a near fatal car accident on Oct. 23, 2002. West fell asleep behind the wheel while driving home from a Los Angeles recording studio. He crashed into another vehicle and sustained injuries that resulted in multiple stitches and a metal plate placed in his jaw. While his jaw was wired shut, West recorded "Through the Wire," a song inspired by his crash which sampled Chaka Khan's 1985 ballad "Through the Fire." He chose it as the lead single for his breakthrough debut album, The College Dropout, released on Roc-a-Fella Records. Mixing confessional lyrics with innovative beats and instrumentation, Dropout was certified triple platinum while music critics hailed it for putting a new spin on the hip-hop genre. The album also featured the hits "All Falls Down" and "Slow Jamz," a collaboration with rapper Twista and actor-singer Jamie Foxx. West's follow-up album, Late Registration, bypassed the sophomore curse and exceeded the commercial success of its predecessor. His eclectic approach to music-fused rap, electronic, and rock into the hit "Gold Digger" (another collaboration with Foxx) and the tribute song "Hey Mama." At the 2006 Grammy Awards, Late Registration was nominated for Album of the Year and won Best Rap Album. The rapper also picked up a nomination for Record of the Year for "Gold Digger" and won Best Rap Solo Performance and Best Rap Song for "Diamonds from Sierra Leone."

West completed his "college" trilogy in 2007 with the release of Graduation and once again redefined hip-hop both not only with his music, but also with his personal style. The rapper took inspiration from avant-garde fashion, Japanese anime, and '80s new wave, and turned urban street style into high art. His love for haute couture and flamboyant fashion even sparked questions about his sexuality. West responded by saying he was secure in his manhood and that his appreciation for style did not mean he was gay. That same year, however, was also marked by tragedy. On November 17, West's mother Donda died of coronary artery disease and complications from cosmetic surgery involving liposuction and breast augmentation. Even though she was reportedly advised by her physician not to undergo cosmetic surgery because she had a health condition that made her at risk for a heart attack, Donda went to Dr. Jan Adams for the cosmetic procedures. Adams was allegedly under investigation by the medical board and had several malpractice lawsuits prior to operating on West's mother, who died a day after her surgery. Adams appeared on "Larry King Live" (CNN, 1985- ) following her death, but walked off the set before the interview began. Adams stated he did not give an interview out of respect for West's family and gave up his medical license in 2009. West spoke out for the first time about his mother's death during a December 2008 press conference. "It was like losing an arm and a leg and trying to walk through that," he said. The rapper also dedicated performances of "Hey Mama" to his beloved mother during his 2008 "Glow in the Dark Tour."

West sparked controversy several times throughout his career, mostly for his brutally outspoken and eccentric public behavior. In September 2005, during a televised benefit event for Hurricane Katrina relief, West uttered the comment, "George Bush doesn't care about black people," instead of reading the script off the prompter. In January 2006, he posed on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in the image of Jesus Christ wearing a crown of thorns, angering religious groups. West frequently boasted of his musical greatness in his songs, but he also made it known to the world that he deserved all accolades that came his way, going so far as to criticize award shows when he did not win awards he was up for.

West's most famous outburst heard 'round the world transpired on Sept. 13, 2009 during the MTV VMAs in New York City. Country darling Taylor Swift was accepting her trophy for Best Female Video when a seemingly intoxicated West rushed to the stage, grabbed the microphone from her hand, and proclaimed that Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" should have won because, in his words, it was "one of the best videos of all time." Stunned and embarrassed, Swift awkwardly walked off stage while audiences booed West for his inappropriate behavior. Audiences and fellow celebrities criticized the rapper, including President Barack Obama, who later made an off-the-record comment about West, calling him a "jackass." West made a barrage of apologies to Swift, MTV, and Beyonce in the days following the VMAs, including several posts on his Twitter site and in an interview on the short-lived "The Jay Leno Show" (NBC, 2009-2010). Two days after the incident, Swift appeared on "The View" (ABC, 1997- ), where she reportedly received a phone call from West backstage, offering his apology.

The Swift controversy turned the public's attention away from West's music and branded him a bully. The rapper refrained from touring in support of his album 808s and Heartbreak (2008) and took time away from the spotlight. He focused on other projects, including his television-acting debut in 2010 on the animated series "The Cleveland Show" (Fox, 2009- ), where he voiced the character of Kenny West. Shortly after, West began working on a new album in Honolulu, HI, titled Dark Twisted Fantasy. He released the first single "Power" in June 2010, followed by the eye-popping music video, an apocalyptic, moving-mosaic directed by the artist Marco Brambilla. While the jury was still out on whether MTV viewers had forgiven him, West made a triumphant return to the VMA stage in September 2010 with a performance of "Runaway" that closed the show. That same year, he made his directing debut in the film short "Runaway," a 40-minute clip that accompanied his album Dark Twisted Fantasy. The following year, he released Watch the Throne in collaboration with fellow rapper, Jay-Z, which resulted in a joint world tour and the Grammy-winning single, "Otis." That same year, West debuted his women's fashion label, DW Kanye West, at Paris Fashion Week, where critics blasted his oversized hoods, over-abundance of fur and odd-looking shoes. Meanwhile, West was in the tabloid news for his affair with celebutante Kim Kardashian, with whom he had been close friends for several years. The pair started dating in early 2012, when Kardashian was still trying to legally end her brief marriage to NBA player Kris Humphries. Naturally, the romance raised a few eyebrows, particularly when she expressed her enthusiasm for being the inspiration for West's new song, "Perfect Bitch." The couple's daughter, North West, was born June 15. 2013, three days prior to the release of West's industrial-influenced album Yeezus. West and Kardashian announced their engagement on October 21, 2013.

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