Kanye West Biography
West released his debut album The College Dropout in 2004, his second album Late Registration in 2005, his third album Graduation in 2007, and his fourth album 808s & Heartbreak in 2008. His four albums have received numerous awards, including a cumulative twelve Grammys, and critical acclaim. All have been very commercially successful, with 808s & Heartbreak becoming his third consecutive #1 album in the U.S. upon release. West also runs his own record label GOOD Music, home to artists such John Legend, Common and Kid Cudi. West's mascot and trademark is "Dropout Bear," a teddy bear which has appeared on the covers of four of his five albums as well as various single covers and music videos. About.com ranked Kanye West #8 on their "Top 50 Hip-Hop Producers" list. On May 16, 2008, Kanye West was crowned by MTV as the year's #1 "Hottest MC in the Game."
Life and career
Kanye West was born in Atlanta, Georgia, where he lived with his parents. When he was three years old, his parents divorced, and he and his mother moved to Chicago, Illinois. His father was Ray West, a former Black Panther who was one of the first black photojournalists at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and is now a Christian counselor. West's mother, Dr. Donda 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 West's manager. He was raised in a middle-class background, attending Polaris High School in suburban Oak Lawn, Illinois after living in Chicago. West credits his feminine nature to being raised by his mother. When asked about his grades in high school, West replied, "I got A's and B's. And I'm not even frontin'".
West attended art classes at the American Academy of Art in Chicago, and also enrolled at Chicago State University, but dropped out to focus on his music career. While attending school, West produced for local artists. He later gained fame by producing hit singles for major hip hop/R&B artists, including Jay-Z, Talib Kweli, Cam'ron, Paul Wall, Common, Mobb Deep, Jermaine Dupri, Scarface, The Game, Alicia Keys, Janet Jackson, John Legend among others. He also "ghost-produced" for his mentor Deric Angelettie, according to his song "Last Call" and the credits of Nas' "Poppa Was a Playa".
Kanye West's first career productions came on Chicago rapper Grav's 1996 debut album Down to Earth. West produced eight tracks on the album. While the album didn't attract much attention and would be the only album released by Grav, West would soon be producing for higher profile artists. In 1998-1999 he produced for well known artists such as Jermaine Dupri, Foxy Brown, Goodie Mob, and the group Harlem World.
West got his big break in the year 2000 however when he began to produce for artists on Roc-a-Fella Records. Perhaps his first very well known production was the Jay-Z song "This Can't Be Life" off of the album The Dynasty: Roc La Familia. West would later state that to create the beat for "This Can't Be Life" he sped up the drum beat from Dr. Dre's song "Xplosive".
After producing for Jay-Z earlier, West’s sound was featured heavily on Jay-Z's critically acclaimed album The Blueprint, released on September 11, 2001. His work was featured on the lead single "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)," "Heart of the City (Ain't No Love)" and a diss track against Nas and Mobb Deep named "Takeover"; West has worked with Mobb Deep and Nas since the track's release.
After meeting great commercial success and critical acclaim for his productions on The Blueprint, West became a sought after producer in the hip-hop industry, even before he became known as a rapper and solo artist. In the years 2002-2003 he would produce for artists such as Nas, Scarface, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, T.I., Ludacris, and DMX. He also continued producing for Roc-a-Fella Records artists and contribued four tracks to Jay-Z's follow up album to The Blueprint, The Blueprint²: The Gift & the Curse.
After great successes as a producer, West now looked to pursue a career as a rapper and solo artist, but struggled to find a way to get a record deal. Jay-Z admitted that Roc-A-Fella was initially reluctant to support West as a rapper, claiming that he saw him as a producer first and foremost. Multiple record companies felt he was not as marketable as rappers who portray the "street image" prominent in hip hop culture.
The College Dropout (2002–04)
On October 23, 2002, West was involved in a near fatal car crash while driving home from the recording studio. The crash provided inspiration for West's first single, "Through the Wire". West's faith is apparent in many of his songs, such as "Jesus Walks", which became a staple at his benefit performances, such as the Live 8 concert. These songs were featured on West's debut album, The College Dropout, which was released on Roc-A-Fella Records in February 2004, and went on to receive critical acclaim. The album also defined the style for which West would become known, including wordplay and sampling. The album was eventually certified triple platinum. Guest appearances included Jay-Z, Ludacris, GLC, Consequence, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Common, and Syleena Johnson. The album also featured the singles, "All Falls Down" and "The New Workout Plan", as well as Twista's number one single, "Slow Jamz". During 2003 West also co-produced songs for British singer Javine Hylton, even appearing in the music video to Real Things playing the love interest of Javine.
West was involved in a financial dispute over Royce Da 5'9"'s song "Heartbeat", produced by West and released on Build & Destroy: The Lost Sessions. West maintains that Royce never paid for the beat, but recorded to it and released it; hearing him on the beat, the original customers decided not to buy it from West. After the disagreement, West vowed to never work with Royce again. Other Kanye West-produced hit singles during the period The College Dropout was released included "I Changed My Mind" by Keyshia Cole, "Overnight Celebrity" by Twista and "Talk About Our Love" by Brandy.
Late Registration (2005)
Taking a more eclectic route, West collaborated with American film score composer Jon Brion to construct his second album, Late Registration, which was released on August 30, 2005. Like its predecessor, the sophomore effort garnered universal acclaim from music critics. Late Registration topped countless critic polls and was revered as the best album of the year by numerous publications, including USA Today, Spin, and Time. Rolling Stone awarded the album the highest position on their end of the year record list and hailed it as a "sweepingly generous, absurdly virtuosic hip-hop classic." The record earned the number one spot on the Village Voice's Pazz & Jop critics' poll of 2005 for the second consecutive year. Late Registration was also a commercial success, selling over 860,000 copies in its first week alone and topping the Billboard 200. Grossing over 2.3 million units sold in the United States alone by year's end, Late Registration was considered by industry observers as the sole majorly successful album release of the fall of 2005, a season that was plagued by steadily declining CD sales. The sophomore album earned eight Grammy Award nominations including Album of the Year and Record of the Year for the song "Gold Digger". The album is certified triple platinum.
On August 22, 2005, the MTV special All Eyes On Kanye West aired, in which West spoke out against homophobia in hip-hop. He claimed that hip-hop has always been about "speaking your mind and about breaking down barriers, but everyone in hip-hop discriminates against gay people." He then reflected on a personal experience. He said that he had a "turning point" when he realized one of his cousins was gay. He said regarding this experience: "This is my cousin. I love him and I've been discriminating against gays." He drew comparison between African Americans' struggle for civil rights and today's gay rights movement. The following year, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, West further expounded his experiences with and views on the relationship between the black and gay communities.
In September 2005, West announced that he would release his Pastelle Clothing line in spring 2006: "Now that I have a Grammy under my belt and Late Registration is finished, I am ready to launch my clothing line next spring." The current status of this project is unknown. In that year, West produced the hit singles "Go" by Common and "Dreams" by The Game.
In 2007, it was announced that West would be starring in a series directed by Larry Charles. He has been working on the pilot episode for the past two years with Larry Charles and Rick Rubin. He also had this to say on January 14: "I wouldn't do something as cliché as a reality show. At least give me the credit for being more creative than that. It's a situational half-hour comedy. It's fictional, and loosely based on my life. " West also collaborated with Japanese hip-hop group Teriyaki Boyz to produce the single "I Still Love H.E.R.," a reference to Common's 1994 single "I Used to Love H.E.R.". Further to this, during a radio appearance in early 2007, West, like many of his peers, recorded an impromptu freestyle to the popular song "Throw Some D's." The song that to all other rappers was about automobile rims, was used by West to comically refer to D-cup breasts. Because of the unexpected success of the song, West went on to make a video for the freestyle, in which he is seen playing his 'Old Ass Cousin'.
West was also featured in a new song called "Classic (Better Than I've Ever Been)". It was believed to be a single for, Graduation, because he is featured on the track, but Nike quickly explained that it was for the Nike Air Force 1's anniversary. It was meant only to be an exclusive track for the company.
On March 25, 2007, he and his father Ray West supported World Water Day by having a "Walk for Water" rally. After a two-year break, West has returned to being a fashion columnist in lifestyle magazine Complex. On July 7, 2007, West performed with The Police and John Mayer at the American leg of Live Earth. West hosted the August 17 edition of British comedy- variety show The Friday Night Project.
In July 2007, West changed the release date of Graduation, his third album, from September 18, 2007, to the same release date as 50 Cent's album Curtis, September 11, 2007. 50 Cent later claimed that if Graduation were to sell more records than Curtis, he would stop releasing solo albums. However, 50 Cent would later dispel his comments. The album has been certified double platinum. Guest appearances included T-Pain, Mos Def, and Lil Wayne.
“ When I heard that thing about the debate, I thought that was the stupidest thing. When my albums drops and 50's album drops, you're gonna get a lot of good music at the same time. ”
On August 26, 2007, West appeared as himself on the HBO television show Entourage which he used as a platform to premier his new single "Good Life" during the end credits. On September 9, 2007, West performed at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards, losing in every category he was nominated for; he gave an angry speech immediately afterward. (see "Controversies" section)
Following the MTV stint, West was nominated in eight Grammy Award categories for the 50th annual Grammy Awards. He won four of them, including Best Rap Album for Graduation and Best Rap Solo Performance for "Stronger" from Graduation. During the four-hour televised Grammy Awards ceremony, West also performed two songs: "Stronger" (with Daft Punk) and "Hey Mama" (in honor of his recently deceased mother).
Glow in the Dark Tour, 808s & Heartbreak (2008–09)
West kicked off the Glow In The Dark Tour in Seattle at the Key Arena on April 16. The tour was originally scheduled to end in June in Cincinnati but was extended into August. Over the course of the tour West was joined by a varying group of opening acts, including Lupe Fiasco, Rihanna, N.E.R.D., DJ Craze, and Gnarls Barkley. On June 15, West was scheduled to perform a late night set at the Bonnaroo Music Festival. His performance started almost two hours late and ran for half of its alloted time, angering many fans in the audience. West later wrote an outraged entry on his blog, blaming the festival organizers as well as Pearl Jam's preceding set, which ran longer than expected.
On September 7, West debuted a new song "Love Lockdown" at the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards. "Love Lockdown" features no rapping and only singing using an auto-tune device. This song appears on West's fourth studio album, 808s & Heartbreak. The new album was expected to be released on December 16, but West announced on his blog on September 24, 2008, that he had finished the album and would be releasing it sometime in November, earlier than previously scheduled. In early October, West made a surprise appearance at a T.I. concert in Los Angeles, where he stated that 808s & Heartbreak was scheduled to be released on November 25, though it was actually released on the 24th, and that the second single is "Heartless". The album was another number one album for West, even though the first week numbers fell well short of Graduation with 450,145 sold.
Along with Alicia Keys, Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Leona Lewis, and others, West performed at the American Music Awards ceremony on November 23. That same night he won two AMA awards, including Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Album for Graduation and Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Male Artist. West performed at the Democratic National Convention in Denver in August 2008, along with Wyclef Jean and N.E.R.D. in support of Barack Obama. On January 20, 2009, Kanye West performed at the Youth Inaugural Ball hosted by MTV for Obama's inauguration.
On February 17, 2009, West was named one of Top 10 Most Stylish Men in America by GQ. The next day, February 18, 2009, West won International Male Solo Artist at The Brit Awards 2009. West was not in attendance but accepted his award with a video speech, saying "Barack is the 'Best Interracial Male' but I'm proud to be the Best International Male in the world.
In April 2009, Kanye West recorded a song called "Hurricane" with 30 Seconds to Mars to appear on their album This Is War, but was not released due to legal issues with both record companies. 30 Seconds to Mars frontman Jared Leto has said that it will be released at some point.
Good Ass Job (2010-present)
On May 2, 2010, West made his very first animated television guest appearance, on Fox's new animated television series, The Cleveland Show (a spin-off of Family Guy). West voiced "Kenny West", a rival of Cleveland Brown's son. In his first episode he has a rap battle with Cleveland's son. The producers stated working with West was a very good experience and a reason they chose him was because they knew he was a fan of Family Guy.
Recently, West has reportedly been in Hawaii, working on his new album. Drake and G.O.O.D. Music artist Big Sean, both frequent collaborators, have confirmed it is in progress, implying that they are working on the project; Big Sean confirmed that the album's working title is Good Ass Job, which West had previously claimed would be his fourth album, before the release of 808's & Heartbreak. West has cited Maya Angelou, Gil Scott-Heron and Nina Simone as his musical inspirations for this album. Further, rumors have surfaced that producer Pete Rock is in Hawaii working on the project as well; it is also possible that DJ Premier is involved. More recently it has been reported that outside production will come from RZA and Q-Tip, and that the new album will be released in June. More recently, however, an attendee at the Island Def Jam Grammy U. event on Wednesday, May 12, reported that the album will not be released until at least September 14, 2010. The album is said to feature production from Q-Tip, RZA, and Pete Rock.
On May 28, the Dwele-assisted first single from the album, entitled "Power", leaked to the Internet.