Kanye West (born 8.6.1977)
Kanye West is American hip-hop artist whose debut album, The College Dropout propelled him to international stardom and critical acclaim.
Kanye West: Childhood & Early Work
Kanye West was born in Atlanta, Georgia and was three years old when his parents divorced. He moved to Chicago, Illinois with his mother. Kanye's father, Ray, was a member of the Black Panther movement, as well as being one of the first black photojournalists for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. His mother, Donda, was Professor of English at Clark Atlanta University and Chair of the English Department at Chicago State University. She retired in order to become Kanye's manager.
Kanye enrolled at Chicago State University, but dropped out to focus on his music. He produced music for a number of local acts and later gained notoriety producing hit singles for artists including Jay-Z, Talib Kweli, Cam'ron, Alicia Keys, Janet Jackson and John Legend. His first major label work was on The Truth by Beanie Sigel and his trademark vocal sampling sound first emerged on Jay-Z's 'This Can't Be Life.'
Kanye West: Breakthrough
Kanye's work was featured heavily on The Blueprint, Jay-Z's 2001 album and he quickly became an important figure in hip-hop production. However, a number of record labels turned down the opportunity to work with him as an artist in his own right, as he did not fit easily into existing hip hop categories or stereotypes.
West's debut album, The College Dropout was eventually released on Jay-Z's Roc-A-Fella Records in 2004. The album has been certified triple platinum and included guest appearances from Jay-Z, Talib Kweli, Mos Def and Common. During this time, he also provided the beats for Brandy's single 'Talk About Our Love.'
In 2005, Kanye West released his second album Late Registration. The album, which sold over 860,000 copies in its first week, featured the singles 'Diamonds From Sierra Leone' and 'Gold Digger'. The former featured a sample of Shirley Bassey's 'Diamonds Are Forever' vocal and the latter featured Jamie Foxx, on a reinterpretation of a Ray Charles song. Late Registration earned West eight Grammy nominations and has been certified triple platinum. Around this time, Kanye produced 'Go' by Common and 'Dreams' by The Game.
In November 2006, Kanye West interrupted the presentation of the Best Video award at the MTV Europe award, arguing that his 'Touch The Sky' should have won the prize. The outburst saw him heavily criticised in many media outlets. West apologized for the outburst when he supported U2 in Brisbane, Australia. To further the controversy surrounding West, Robert 'Evel' Knievel is suing West, who impersonates Knievel in the video. Knievel claims that the video is vulgar and offensive and damages his reputation.
In 2007, Kanye West performed with John Mayer and The Police at the American leg of the Live Earth event. A month later, he also hosted the British entertainment program, The Friday Night Project.
The release date of Kanye's third album, Graduation, was moved to 11.9.2007, the same date as the release of 50 Cent's Curtis. 50 Cent reportedly stated that if his album sold less than Kanye's, he would quit making solo records. Graduation, which features guest appearances from T-Pain, Mos Def and Lil' Wayne, has been certified double platinum. It sampled a wide range of music, including Laura Nyro and Steely Dan.
West fared badly again, at the next MTV Music Awards, in 2007. He failed to win any of the five awards for which he had been nominated. Kanye was visibly upset at the loss and stated that he would not return to MTV again. On a more positive note, however, he won four of the eight Grammy awards for which he was nominated. During the televised ceremony, West performed 'Stronger' with Daft Punk and 'Hey Mama', as a dedication to his mother, who had recently passed away.
West courted further controversy during a benefit concert for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, when he ventured away from his script; at one point stating "George Bush does not like black people." His microphone was cut, but his message had already reached most of the US.