Kanye Omari West (born June 8, 1977 in Atlanta, Georgia) is a Grammy award winning rapper, producer, author, designer and singer.
He began making beats and rapping in the early 90s in Chicago, IL, United States when he formed the rap group Go Getters with Chicago natives GLC and Really Doe. He later gained nationwide popularity in New York when he began producing tracks for artists such as Jay-Z, Twista, Mase, Talib Kweli and Alicia Keys.
West’s style of production often utilizes 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.”
In 2004 (after being pushed aside by many record companies who felt he wasn't a marketable hip hop artist), he managed to release his debut solo album, The College Dropout on Roc-A-Fella Records. The album received critical acclaim, defining the style for which West would become known: "wordplay" and heavy sampling of 70s soul and RnB tracks. He is also known for his politically-charged rhymes and controversial behavior both inside and outside the realms of music.
He has since released five more albums, all of which have received numerous awards, high commercial success and critical acclaim. Late Registration (2005); Graduation (2007); 808s & Heartbreak (2008); My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010); Yeezus (2013).
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, West's fifth studio album, was released in November 2010 to rave reviews from critics, many of whom described it as his best work that solidified his comeback. In stark contrast to his previous effort, which featured a minimalist sound, Dark Fantasy adopts a maximalist philosophy and deals with themes of celebrity and excess. The record included the international hit All of the Lights, and Billboard hits Power, Monster, and Runaway, the latter of which accompanied a 35-minute film of the same name. During this time, West initiated the free music program G.O.O.D. Fridays through his website, offering a free download of previously unreleased songs each Friday of the week, a portion of which were included on the album. Dark Fantasy went on to go platinum in the United States, but its omission as a contender for Album of the Year at the 54th Grammy Awards was viewed as a "snub" by several media outlets.
Following a headlining set at Coachella 2011 that was described by The Hollywood Reporter as "one of greatest hip-hop sets of all time," West released the collaborative album Watch the Throne with Jay-Z. By employing a sales strategy that released the album digitally weeks before its physical counterpart, Watch the Throne became one of the few major label albums in the Internet age to avoid a leak. Niggas in Paris became the record's highest charting single, peaking at number five on the Billboard Hot 100. In 2012, West released the compilation album Cruel Summer, a collection of tracks by artists from West's record label GOOD Music. Cruel Summer produced four singles, two of which charted within the top twenty of the Hot 100: Mercy and Clique. West also directed a film of the same name that premiered at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival in custom pyramid-shaped screening pavilion featuring seven screens.
Sessions for West's sixth solo effort begin to take shape in early 2013 in his own personal loft's living room at a Paris hotel. Determined to "undermine the commercial," he once again brought together close collaborators and attempted to incorporate Chicago drill, dancehall, acid house, and industrial music. Primarily inspired by architecture, West's perfectionist tendencies led him to contact producer Rick Rubin fifteen days shy of its due date to strip down the record's sound in favor of a more minimalist approach. Initial promotion of his sixth album included worldwide video projections of the album's music and live television performances.
Yeezus, West's sixth album, was released June 18, 2013 to rave reviews from critics. It became the rapper's sixth consecutive number one debut. Def Jam issued "Black Skinhead" to radio in July 2013 as the album's lead single. On September 6, 2013, Kanye West announced he would be headlining his first solo tour in five years, to support Yeezus, with fellow American rapper Kendrick Lamar, accompanying him along the way.
In November 2013, West stated that he was working on and recording his next studio album. The album is being produced by Rick Rubin and Q-Tip. In April 2014, he appeared in Future's new single titled I Won. Kanye released the first single from the album on December 31, 2014 entitled Only One. All Day the second single from Kanye's new album was released on March 2, 2015. West had originally stated the album would be called 'So Help Me God' but in May, 2015, changed the album title to 'SWISH'.
West was born in Atlanta, Georgia. When he was three years old (as mentioned in Hey Mama) his parents divorced, and he moved with his mother to Chicago, Illinois. His father, Ray West, was a former Black Panther; one of the first black photojournalists at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution; and is now a Christian counselor. Kanye’s late mother, Dr. Donda West, worked as a Professor of English at Clark Atlanta University, and the Chair of the English Department at Chicago State University before retiring to serve as Kanye’s manager. He was later raised in an upper middle class background, attending Polaris High School in suburban Oak Lawn, Illinois after living in Chicago.
After attending The American Academy of Art, a Chicago art school, West attended Chicago State University but eventually dropped out due to poor grades and in order to continue working on his music career. While attending school, West produced for local artists, including on rapper Grav’s debut album Down to Earth. 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 and John Legend among others. He also “ghost-produced” for his once mentor Deric Angelettie according to his song Last Call and the credits of Nas’ Poppa Was a Playa.
Kanye is married to Kim Kardashian. They have one child together named North.