Kanye West

Kanye West Biography.com

Music Producer, Rapper, Songwriter, Singer(1977–)
Rapper and producer Kanye West is well known for his Grammy-winning music, successful fashion line and controversial antics.


Kanye Omari West was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on June 8, 1977. He left college to pursue a musical career, producing tracks for Jay-Z while polishing his demo. He released The College Dropout in 2004. It sold 2.6 million copies and won Best Rap Album. His follow-up releases have been equally successful and West has become a celebrity famous for his outrageous and entertaining antics and marriage to reality television star Kim Kardashian.

Early Career

Rapper, record producer and singer Kanye Omari West was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on June 8, 1977. His parents divorced when he was three. He was raised on Chicago's South Side by his mother, an English professor, and spent summers with his father, an award-winning photographer who became a church counselor.

West graduated from Polaris High School and completed one year of art school at Chicago State University. After spending time rapping and working with local artists, West moved to New York in 2001 to pursue his music career full time. Respected rapper Jay-Z hired him to produce songs for his album The Blueprint, which sold more than 420,000 copies in the first week alone. West went on to produce for a handful of stars including rapper Ludacris and singer Beyonce.

While serving as producer to the stars, West cut his own demo and began shopping it around. He signed a deal with Roc-A-Fella Records, Jay-Z's label, in 2002 and began recording in the studio.

In October of that year, West fell asleep while driving home from a recording session and was involved in a serious head-on car collision that left him with a fractured jaw.

Breakout Success

The tragic accident almost cost West his life, but he channeled the experience into his music. With his jaw wired shut, he returned to the recording studio to complete his debut release The College Dropout, which featured the single "Through the Wire," inspired by the car accident. The album, which was released in 2004, sold 2.6 million copies and was his breakout success. 

While he rose to the top of the music industry as a solo artist, West continued to produce for other artists including Twista, Janet Jackson, Brandy and Common. He also started his own label, GOOD Music (an acronym for "Getting Out Our Dreams), with Sony BMG, and released John Legend's Get Lifted (2004) and Common's Be (2005). 

In 2005, West won an impressive 10 Grammy nominations and wins for Best Rap Album for The College Dropout, Best Rap Song for "Jesus Walks," and an R&B songwriting Grammy for "You Don't Know," which he shared with Alicia Keys and Harold Lilly. 

He matched the success of his debut with subsequent hit albums Late Registration (2005) and Graduation (2007). West won Best Rap Song Grammys for his hits "Diamonds from Sierra Leone," the lead single from Late Registration, and "Good Life" from Graduation. For his hit "Gold Digger" from Late Registration he took home the Best Rap Solo Performance award in 2005. His collaboration with Common on "Southside" earned West the Grammy for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group in 2007.

Personal Loss & Prolific Career

While his career had taken off, West suffered a devastating personal loss when his mother, Donda West, died after suffering complications from cosmetic surgery on November 10, 2007. During his first concert following the funeral, he dedicated a performance of "Hey Mama" to his mother.

After his tragic loss and a breakup with his fiancee Alex Phifer, West put out his next album, 808s & Heartbreak, in 2008. The recording reached the top of the charts and featured several hits, including "Heartless" and "Amazing." That same year, West earned two Grammys for his work with other artists. His duet with Estelle, "American Boy," won for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration, and his work with Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, and T.I. netted the honor for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group.

In 2009, West made headlines, but not for his music. During MTV's Video Music Awards, the controversial and outspoken artist stormed the stage while pop star Taylor Swift was accepting the award for Best Female Video. West took the mic and implied that the winner should have been Beyoncé's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)," which was nominated in the same category, but lost to Swift's "You Belong With Me." 

"Yo, Taylor, I'm really happy for you and I'm gonna let you finish," West said. "But Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time. One of the best videos of all time!"

The incident sparked criticism and West eventually contacted Swift to personally apologize. Meanwhile, West continued to release chart-topping new music. In 2010, he debuted My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which included collaborations with Nicki Minaj and Kid Cudi and debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart. The following year, West teamed up with Jay-Z for the top-selling album Watch the Throne, which also debuted at number one on the Billboard 200.

In 2013, West released his critically acclaimed hit album Yeezus. He debuted the songs "New Slaves" and "Black Skinhead" on Saturday Night Live. As part of the album promotion, West projected a video of his performance of "New Slaves," which critiques the country's criminal justice system and compares being a celebrity to being a slave, on the walls of 66 buildings in 10 cities. He also headlined a solo tour in support of the smash hit album. 

In 2014, West released the track, "Only One," featuring Paul McCartney, as a tribute to West's daughter North. The following year, he released the folk-pop-soul influenced hit single "FourFiveSeconds," featuring West, McCartney and Rihanna.

In 2016, West released his seventh studio album The Life of Pablo, which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, and began the Saint Pablo Tour to support the album in August of that year. 

Other Ventures & Personal Life

In addition to his musical achievements, West has made a name for himself in fashion. In 2009, he debuted a line of shoes he designed for Louis Vuitton. In 2012, he founded DONDA, a creative content company named after his mother, and three years later he debuted a fashion sneaker, Yeezy Boots, for Adidas, as well as his Yeezy Season clothing line. In March of that year, West was announced as a co-owner of Tidal, the music streaming service, along with various other artists including Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Rihanna, Madonna, Chris Martin and Nicki Minaj, among others. 

In addition to his business ventures, West has been involved in various philanthropic efforts including Donda's House, an organization named after his mother which he founded with Rhymefest to support arts education for at-risk youth. 

In his personal life, West and designer Alexis Phifer began dating in 2002. He proposed in August 2006, but the engagement ended 18 months later. West had also been romantically linked to model Amber Rose. In early 2012, West began dating reality television star Kim Kardashian, and announced that December that he and Kardashian were expecting their first child together.

On June 15, 2013, West became a father for the first time. He and Kardashian welcomed a daughter, North. On October 21, 2013, West proposed to Kardashian at the AT&T baseball stadium in San Francisco, and the couple became engaged.

After an interview that West had with Britain's BBC in September of 2013, talk show host Jimmy Kimmel made a parody of the scenario, mocking West. In response, West released a tirade of tweets attacking Kimmel. The tweets were deleted shortly after being posted. Kimmel also announced that he spoke to West on the phone afterwards, with West telling Kimmel that his life would be much better if he apologized. West later appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, where the two cleared the air about their ongoing feud.

The following May, West and Kardashian married in true celebrity style. The couple held their rehearsal dinner at Versailles, once the home to French royalty, located outside of Paris. On May 24, 2014, the pair moved their celebration to Florence, Italy, for their official ceremony. They exchanged their vows at Forte di Belvedere, a historic fortress, in front of family and friends. Andrea Bocelli sang as Kardashian walked down the aisle and other attendees included designer Rachel Roy and director Steve McQueen.

In 2015, during the 10th season of Kardashian's reality series Keeping Up with the Kardashians, she documented her and West's desire to get pregnant again, and her struggles with fertility issues. In May of that year, Kardashian revealed in a teaser for her reality show that she was pregnant with her and West's second child. The couple welcomed a son, Saint, in December 2015.

In November 2016, while on his Saint Pablo Tour, West made headlines again when he interrupted a concert to rant about politics, his support of president-elect Donald Trump, the music industry and Beyoncé and Jay-Z. A few days later, he was late for another concert, performed only two songs and again spoke about politics. Following these incidents, West was hospitalized and treated for exhaustion at the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles and his concert tour was cancelled. 

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