Kanye Omari West (pronounced /?k??nje?/; born June 8, 1977) is an American rapper, record producer, author, and singer. He 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 first three albums (and his fourth to a lesser extent) have received numerous awards 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. West's mascot and trademark is "Dropout Bear," a teddy bear which has appeared on the covers of three of his four albums as well as various single covers and music videos.
West gained fame by producing for Roc-A-Fella Records, where he eventually achieved recognition for his work on Jay-Z's album, The Blueprint as well as hit singles for musical artists including Alicia Keys, Ludacris, and Janet Jackson. His style of production originally utilized pitched-up vocal samples from soul songs incorporated with his own drums and instruments. However, subsequent albums saw him broadening his musical palette and expressing influences ranging from '70s R&B, to synth-pop, and classical music.
Life and career
Kanye West was born in Atlanta, Georgia, where he lived with both of 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 took some art classes at the American Academy of Art, a Chicago art school, and also enrolled at Chicago State University, but dropped out due to poor grades and a primary interest in working 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".
West’s sound is 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. West soon became a major name in hip hop production following the release of the album, 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 pushed him aside because he was not the stereotypical hip hop artist. Companies felt he was not as marketable as rappers who portray the "street image" prominent in hip hop culture.
The College Dropout (2002–2004)
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.
On September 2, 2005, during a benefit concert for Hurricane Katrina relief on NBC, A Concert for Hurricane Relief, West was a featured speaker. Controversy arose when West was presenting, as he deviated from the prepared script. The actor Mike Myers, with whom West was paired to present, spoke next and continued to read the script. Once it was West's turn to speak again, he said "George Bush doesn't care about black people." At this point, telethon producer Rick Kaplan cut off the microphone and then cut away to Chris Tucker, who was unaware of the cut for a few seconds. Still, West's comment reached much of the United States.
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.
Awards and controversy (2006)
In January 2006, West again sparked controversy when he appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone in the image of Jesus wearing a crown of thorns. In 2006 he told Playboy, "I throw up historical subjects in a way that makes kids want to learn about them," West claimed, "I'm definitely in the history books already."
After the 2006 Grammy nominations were released, West said he would "really have a problem" if he didn't win the Album of the Year because of the comments, saying "I don't care what I do, I don't care how much I stunt — you can never take away from the amount of work I put into it. I don't want to hear all of that politically correct stuff." West won several Grammy awards, including Best Rap Album, but did not win the Album of the Year Award. The award instead went to U2's How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. Coincidentally, in November 2006, West was the opening act for U2 during the fifth leg of their Vertigo Tour in Australia and New Zealand.
On August 5, 2006, West headlined the second day of the Lollapalooza music festival in his hometown of Chicago. Later that month, People magazine reported that West became engaged to his girlfriend Alexis while spending two weeks overseas with her.
On November 2, 2006, when "Touch the Sky" failed to win Best Video at the MTV Europe Music Awards, West went onto the stage as the award was being presented to Justice and Simian for "We Are Your Friends" and argued that he should have won the award instead. Hundreds of news outlets worldwide criticized the outburst. On November 7, 2006, West apologized for this outburst publicly during his performance as support act for U2 for their Vertigo concert in Brisbane, Australia. He later spoofed the incident in the season premiere of Saturday Night Live's 33rd season (hosted by basketball player LeBron James) in a sketch where West appears on BET's 106th and Park St. and shows several instances of West at award shows (and backstage at SNL's Studio 8H) ranting about how he should have won (or in the case of the SNL incident, how he should have been chosen to host the episode).
In December 2006, Robert "Evel" Knievel sued West for trademark infringement in West's video for "Touch the Sky." Knievel took issue with a "sexually-charged video" in which West takes on the persona of "Evel Kanyevel" and attempts flying a rocket over a canyon. The suit filed in federal court claims infringement on his trademarked name and likeness. Knievel also claims the "vulgar and offensive" images depicted in the video damage his reputation. The suit seeks damages and to stop distribution of the video. Knievel eventually settled the suit in November 2007, just days before his death.
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." West's version became extremely popular because of the different stance he took. 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 May 2007, West split from long-time model girlfriend Alexis Rainey.
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, & 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. In September 2007, West suggested that his race had to do with his being overlooked for opening the MTV Video Music Awards in favor of Britney Spears; he claimed, "Maybe my skin’s not right." On September 9, 2007, West performed at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards. On that night, he lost all 5 awards that he was nominated for, including Best Male Artist and Video of the Year. After the show, he was visibly upset that he had lost at the VMAs 2 years in a row, stating that he would not come back to MTV ever again. He also appeared on several radio stations saying that when he made the song "Stronger" that it was his dream to open the VMAs with it. He has also stated that Britney Spears hasn't had a hit in a long period of time and that MTV exploited her for ratings.
Following the MTV stint, West was nominated in 8 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 and 808s & Heartbreak (2008–present)
Kanye West and designer Alexis Phifer ended their 18-month engagement in 2008. The couple had been dating on and off since 2002, with West eventually proposing in August 2006. According to a friend, the couple's relationship had been straining, significantly influenced by the sheer amount of time and attention West was dedicating to his current concert tour. "It's always sad when things like this end, and we remain friends," Phifer told People.
On April 16, West kicked off the Glow In The Dark Tour in Seattle at the Key Arena. 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 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.
On September 11, 2008, West and his road manager/bodyguard Don Crowley were arrested at Los Angeles International Airport and booked on charges of felony vandalism after an altercation with the paparazzi in which West and Crowley broke the photographers' cameras. West was later released from the Los Angeles Police Department's Pacific Division station in Culver City on $20,000 bail bond. On September 26, 2008 the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office said it would not file felony counts against West over the incident. Instead the case file was forwarded to the city attorney's office who charged West with one count of misdemeanor vandalism, one count of grand theft and one count of battery and his manager with three counts of each on March 18, 2009. West and Crowley are expected to be arraigned on April 14, 2009. West was arrested again on November 14, 2008 at a hotel near Gateshead after another scuffle involving a photographer outside a nightclub in Newcastle Upon Tyne. He was later released "with no further action", according to a police spokesperson.
On November 23, West performed at the American Music Awards ceremony along with Alicia Keys, Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Leona Lewis, and others. That same night he won two AMA awards, including Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Album for Graduation and Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Male Artist. Kanye 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 President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration.
On February 17, 2009, West was named one of Top 10 Most Stylish Men in America by GQ Magazine.
On 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 fall of 2009, Kanye West is set to make his very first animated television guest appearance, on Fox's new animated television series, The Cleveland Show (a spin-off of Family Guy), West is set to voice "Kenny West", a rival of Cleveland Brown'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.
On September 13, 2009, during the MTV Video Music Awards, while Taylor Swift was accepting her award for Best Female Video award, West went on stage and grabbed the microphone to proclaim that Beyoncé's video for "Single Ladies", nominated for the same award, was "one of the best videos of all time." He handed the mic back to an apparently distraught Swift who was unable to finish her acceptance speech during the live broadcast after West received a negative reaction from the audience. It was reported later that he was removed from the remainder of the show for his actions. West later apologized on his blog as well as the Jay Leno Show.
Musical style and influence
At the start of his career, Kanye West's production style often utilized pitched-up vocal samples, usually from soul songs, with his own drums and instruments. The first major label song he produced was The Truth by Beanie Sigel, and his first major release featuring his trademark vocal sampling style was "This Can't Be Life", a track from Jay-Z’s The Dynasty: Roc La Familia. West said he sped up the drum beat of Dr. Dre's "Xxplosive" to use as a replacement for his drums on "This Can't Be Life".
West has said that Wu-Tang Clan producer RZA influenced him in his style, and has said on numerous occasions that Wu-Tang rappers Ghostface Killah and Ol' Dirty Bastard were some of his all-time favorites. Said by Kanye West:
|“||Wu-Tang? Me and my friends talk about this all the time... We think Wu-Tang had one of the biggest impacts as far as a movement. From slang to style of dress, skits, the samples. Similar to the [production] style I use, RZA has been doing that.||”|
RZA himself has spoken quite positively of the comparisons:
|“||All good. I got super respect for Kanye. He came up to me about a year or two ago. He gave me mad praising and blessings... For people to say Wu-Tang inspire Kanye, Kanye is one of the biggest artists in the world. That goes back to what we say: 'Wu-Tang is forever.' Kanye is going to inspire people to be like him." After hearing his work on The Blueprint, RZA claimed that a torch-passing had occured between him and West, saying, "The shoes gotta be filled. If you ain't gonna do it, somebody else is gonna do it. That's how I feel about rap today."||”|
Following the critical and commercial success of his debut The College Dropout, West went on to experiment with his production style for subsequent albums. Late Registration — during which he collaborated with film composer Jon Brion — saw West take on a more "cinematic" approach to hip-hop sound, combining his signature sampling style with horn riffs, piano loops, string arrangements, and various other orchestra to produce rich, multi-layered instrumentation. His style evolved even further during the conception of Graduation, for which he made heavy use of synth-based beats and futuristic sound effects while distancing himself from soul samples, opting for a more eclectic variety of interpolations lifted from artists ranging from Elton John and Michael Jackson to Daft Punk and Public Enemy.
Alongside his pursuit as a producer and later a rapper, West has additionally displayed an escalating interest in singing over the course of his career. The first signs could be found within The College Dropout, which retained "Spaceship", a track that featured a chorus delivered by West in a melodic, half-rapped, half-sung style — a manner not too different from and occasionally used by his favorite rappers Ghostface and ODB. In mid-2008, while guest starring on multiple other artists' singles, West first began singing verses both with the auto-tune effect on Young Jeezy's "Put On" and without on Fonzworth Bentley's "Everybody". It eventually culminated with the release of the lead single, "Love Lockdown", from West's fourth album 808s & Heartbreak. The song stands as the first solo single by West to feature virtually no rapping whatsoever, instead sang entirely using the auto-tune effect.
While his use of sampling has lessened overtime, West's production continues to distinctively express lush, intricate string arrangements. This characteristic arose from him listening to the English trip hop group Portishead, whose 1998 live album Roseland NYC Live, with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra inspired him to incorporate string sections into his hip hop production. Though he was unable to afford live instruments beyond violin riffs provided by Israeli violinist Miri Ben-Ari around the time of his debut album, its subsequent commercial success allowed him to hire his very own eleven-piece string orchestra. For a time, West stood as the sole current pop star to tour with a string section.
West has stated on several occasions that outside of work, he favours listening to rock music over hip-hop. He cites Franz Ferdinand, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and The Killers as some of his most favorite musical groups. Additionally, on Graduation, West drew inspiration from arena rock bands such as U2, The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin for melody and chord progression. Both a fan and supporter of indie culture, West uses his official website to promote obscure indie rock bands, posting up music videos and mp3s on a daily basis. This musical affinity is mutual, as West has collaborated with indie artists such as Santigold and Lykke Li while his songs have gone on to be covered countless times by a myriad of rock bands.
In August 2008, Kanye West revealed plans to open 10 Fatburger restaurants in the Chicago area, with the first coming in September 2008 in Orland Park. The second will follow in January 2009, while a third location is yet to be revealed, although they are in the process of finalizing the lease. His company, KW Foods LLC, has bought the rights to the chain in Chicago. West is planning to launch his fashion career, applying for internships with major European fashion houses. He is due to release his own clothing line called Past Tell in 2009.
West has also collaborated with Nike to release his own shoe named the Air Yeezys.
On January 22, 2009, during Paris Fashion Week, Kanye West introduced his first shoe line designed for Louis Vuitton. The line is to be in stores by summertime.
Kanye West started the "Kanye West Foundation" in Chicago, IL in 2003. On August 24, 2007, West hosted the inaugural benefit concert to launch the foundation's partnership with Strong American Schools. It is focused on helping Latino and African American children stay in school and to get a proper education through grade school, high school, and college. The foundation also helps children to stay in high school by finding a path through music. West has contributed over 500,000 dollars to his foundation. The foundation has also been called the "Donda West Foundation".
Kanye West has appeared and participated in many fundraisers, benefit concerts, and has done community work for Hurricane Katrina relief, the Kanye West Foundation, the Millions More Movement, 100 Black Men of America, a Live Earth concert benefit, World Water Day rally and march, Nike runs, and a MTV special with Kanye West helping young Iraq War veterans who struggle through debt and PTSD a second chance after returning home.
West became a producer of The 1 Second Film, a non-profit collaborative art project, in February 2009.
On November 10, 2007, West's mother, Donda West, died of complications from cosmetic surgery involving abdominoplasty and breast augmentation. TMZ reported that Beverly Hills physician Andre Aboolian had advised Donda West not to have surgery because of a health condition that placed her at risk for a heart attack. Aboolian referred her to another internist. Donda never met with the doctor recommended by Aboolian and had the procedures performed by a third doctor, Jan Adams.
Dr. Jan Adams sent condolences to Donda West's family but declined to publicly discuss the procedure because of confidentiality. He had previously been under scrutiny by the medical board. Dr. Adams appeared on Larry King Live on November 20, 2007 but left before speaking. Two days later, he appeared again, with his attorney, stating he was there to "defend himself." He said that the recently released autopsy results "spoke for themselves." The final coroner's report January 10, 2008 concluded that Donda West died of "coronary artery disease and multiple post-operative factors due to or as a consequence of liposuction and mammoplasty."
The funeral and burial for West's mother, Donda West, was held in Oklahoma City on November 20, 2007. West held his first concert following the funeral at The O2 in London on November 22. He dedicated a performance of "Hey Mama", as well as a cover of Journey's "Don't Stop Believing", to his mother, and has done so on all other dates of his Glow in the Dark tour.[dated info]
At a December 2008 press conference in New Zealand, West spoke about his mother's death for the first time. "It was like losing an arm and a leg and trying to walk through that," he told reporters.
Awards and nominations
Biography from Wikipedia