Kanye West, also known as Ye, is an American rapper, record producer, and fashion designer. He is widely considered to be one of the greatest and most influential hip-hop musicians of all time, as well as one of the best musicians of his generation. Born in Atlanta and raised in Chicago, West rose to prominence as a Roc-A-Fella Records producer in the early 2000s, producing singles for a variety of artists and pioneering the "chipmunk soul" sampling style. He released his debut studio album, The College Dropout (2004), to critical and commercial success, to pursue a solo career as a rapper. Later that year, West established his record label GOOD Music.
On the albums, Late Registration (2005), Graduation (2007), and 808s & Heartbreak (2008), West experimented with orchestral arrangements, synthesisers, and autotune (2008). His fifth album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010), and sixth album, Yeezus (2013), were both critically and commercially successful, drawing inspiration from maximalism and minimalism, respectively. West broadened his musical palette with The Life of Pablo (2016) and Ye (2018), and explored Christian and gospel music with Jesus Is King (2019). Donda (2021), his highly anticipated tenth album, was released after a series of delays to continued commercial success but mixed critical reception. A few months later, he released its sequel, Donda 2 (2022), exclusively through his tie-in audio speaker service. West's discography also includes the full-length collaborative albums Watch the Throne (2011) with Jay-Z and Kids See Ghosts (2018) with Kid Cudi.
West's outspoken opinions and life outside of music have received extensive media coverage. He has been a frequent source of controversy due to his behaviour on social media, at award shows, and in public settings, as well as his comments on the music and fashion industries, US politics, race, and slavery. His Christian faith, estranged marriage to Kim Kardashian, and mental health have all received additional media attention. As a fashion designer, he has collaborated on clothing and footwear with Nike, Louis Vuitton, The Gap, and A.P.C., and he leads the Yeezy collaboration with Adidas. He is also the founder and CEO of the creative content company Donda. In 2020, West ran an unsuccessful independent presidential campaign, primarily advocating for a consistent life ethic.
West, one of the world's best-selling music artists with over 160 million records sold, has won 24 Grammy Awards, the joint tenth-most of all time and the joint-most Grammy awards of any rapper, along with Jay-Z. Among his other honours are the Billboard Artist Achievement Award, a joint-record three Brit Awards for Best International Male Solo Artist, and the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. Six of West's albums were named to Rolling Stone's 2020 list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, and the magazine also named him one of the 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time. He holds the joint record (with Bob Dylan) for the most albums (4) that have topped the annual Pazz & Jop critic poll, and he has the fifth most Billboard Hot 100 appearances (133 entries). In 2005 and 2015, Time magazine named him one of the world's 100 most influential people. Forbes estimates his net worth to be $2 billion by 2022, making him the world's wealthiest musician.
West grew up in a middle-class family, attending Polaris School for Individual Education in Oak Lawn, Illinois, after growing up in Chicago. West moved to Nanjing, China, with his mother when he was 10 years old, where she was a Fulbright Scholar teaching at Nanjing University. West was the only foreigner in his class, according to his mother, but he fit in well and quickly picked up the language, though he has since forgotten most of it. When asked about his high school grades, West stated, "I got A's and B's." West showed an early interest in the arts, beginning with poetry when he was five years old. His mother recalled first noticing West's interest in drawing and music when he was in third grade. West began rapping in the third grade and began writing music in the seventh grade, eventually selling it to other artists. At thirteen, West wrote a rap song called "Green Eggs and Ham" (the title of a best-selling Dr Seuss children's book) and convinced his mother to pay for studio time.
Kanye West began his early production career in the mid-1990s, primarily creating beats for emerging local artists in his area, eventually developing a style that involved speeding up vocal samples from classic soul records. His first official production credits came at the age of nineteen, when he produced eight tracks on Grav's 1996 debut album, Down to Earth. West worked as a ghost producer for Deric "D-Dot" Angelettie for a time. West could not release a solo album due to his association with D-Dot, so he formed and became a member and producer of the Go-Getters, a late-1990s Chicago rap group comprised of him, GLC, Timmy G, Really Doe, and Arrowstar.
Under the management firm Hustle Period, his group was led by John Monopoly, Don Crowley, and Happy Lewis. The Go-Getters released their first and only studio album World Record Holders in 1999, following a series of promotional photo shoots and radio appearances. Rhymefest, Mikkey Halsted, Miss Criss, and Shayla G were among the other Chicago rappers featured on the album. Meanwhile, West, Arrowstar, Boogz, and Brian "All Day" Miller handled the production.
West was the first person signed to management-production company Hip Hop in 1998 by Gee Roberson and Kyambo "Hip Hop" Joshuato Since 1978. West spent a significant portion of the late 1990s producing records for various well-known artists and music groups. West had the third track on Foxy Brown's second studio album Chyna Doll. Her sophomore album became the first hip-hop album by a female rapper to debut at the top of the Billboard 200 chart in its first week of release.
West co-produced three tracks on Harlem World's debut album, The Movement, with Jermaine Dupri and the production duo Trackmasters. Rappers Nas and Drag-On, as well as R&B singer Carl Thomas, appeared on his songs. West co-produced the ninth track from World Party, the final Goodie Mob album to feature the rap group's four founding members before their breakup, with his manager Deric "D-Dot" Angelettie. West produced six songs for Tell 'Em Why U Madd, an album released by D-Dot under the alias of The Madd Rapper at the end of the millennium; West's songs featured guest appearances from rappers such as Ma$e, Raekwon, and Eminem.
West's big break came in the year 2000, when he began producing for Roc-A-Fella artists. With his contributions to Jay-2001 Z's album The Blueprint, West rose to prominence and is often credited with revitalising Jay-career. Z's The Blueprint is consistently ranked among the greatest hip-hop albums, and the album's critical and financial success sparked significant interest in West as a producer. West worked as an in-house producer for Roc-A-Fella Records, producing music for artists such as Beanie Sigel, Freeway, and Cam'ron. In addition, he wrote hit songs for Ludacris, Alicia Keys, and Janet Jackson. West's true ambition, despite his success as a producer, was to be a rapper. Even though he had been rapping for a long time before he began producing, West found it difficult to be accepted as a rapper, and he struggled to land a record deal.
Multiple record labels passed him up because he did not embody the 'gangsta image' popular in mainstream hip hop at the time. West was denied an artist deal after a series of meetings with Capitol. On October 23, 2002, while driving home from a California recording studio after working late, West fell asleep at the wheel, causing a head-on collision with another car. He suffered a shattered jaw in the crash, which had to be wired shut during reconstructive surgery. The other driver's legs were broken in the collision. West was inspired by an accident, and two weeks after being admitted to the hospital, he recorded a song at the Record Plant Studios while his jaw was still wired shut.
"Through the Wire" expressed West's experience following the accident and helped lay the groundwork for his debut album, as "all the better artists have expressed what they were going through," according to West. West went on to say that "working on the album was my medicine," as it distracted him from his pain. "Through the Wire" first appeared on West's Get Well Soon... mixtape, which was released in December 2002. Simultaneously, West announced that he was working on an album titled The College Dropout, the overall theme of which was to "Make your own choices. Don't let society tell you, 'You have to do this.'
In November 2007, West's mother, Donda West, died due to complications from cosmetic surgery involving abdominoplasty and breast reduction. Months later, West and fiancée Alexis Phifer called it quits on their engagement and their long-distance relationship, which began in 2002. The events had a profound impact on West, who embarked on his 2008 Glow in the Dark Tour shortly after. West decided to sing using the voice audio processor Auto-Tune, which would become a central part of his next effort, allegedly because his emotions could not be conveyed through rapping. West had previously used the technology in the background vocals of "Jesus Walks" and "Never Let Me Down" on his debut album, The College Dropout.
West announced his fourth album, 808s & Heartbreak, at the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards, where he performed its lead single, "Love Lockdown," which was primarily recorded in Honolulu, Hawaii, in three weeks. Music fans were taken aback by the unusual production style and the presence of Auto-Tune, which typified the record's pre-release reaction.
808s & Heartbreak, which features extensive use of the eponymous Roland TR-808 drum machine and themes of love, loneliness, and heartbreak, was released by Island Def Jam in November 2008 to capitalise on Thanksgiving weekend. Positive reviews were received, though they were slightly more mixed than his previous efforts. Despite this, the album's singles performed exceptionally well on the charts. The lead single, "Love Lockdown," debuted at number three on the Billboard Hot 100 and became a "Hot Shot Debut," while the follow-up single, "Heartless," performed similarly and became his second consecutive "Hot Shot Debut," debuting at number four. Despite initial criticism, 808s & Heartbreak significantly impacted hip-hop music, inspiring other rappers to be more creative.
West's controversial incident at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards the following year sparked widespread outrage in the music industry. During the ceremony, West stormed the stage and grabbed Taylor Swift's microphone during her acceptance speech for "Best Female Video," proclaiming that Beyoncé's video for "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)," which was nominated for the same award, was "one of the best videos of all time." As a result of his actions, he was removed from the rest of the show. In response to the controversy, West's Fame Kills tour with Lady Gaga was cancelled. Billboard named West the Top Male Artist of 2009 in 2009.
To widespread media attention, West and television personality Kim Kardashian announced the birth of their first child, North, in June 2013 and their engagement in October. West announced in November that he was starting work on his next studio album, which he hopes to release by mid-2014, with production by Rick Rubin and Q-Tip. Adidas announced in December 2013 the start of their official apparel collaboration with West, which would debut the following year. West and Kardashian married in a private ceremony in Florence, Italy, in May 2014, with a number of artists and celebrities in attendance. In December, West released the single "Only One," which featured Paul McCartney.
West gave $1,000 to Barack Obama's re-election campaign in September 2012, and $2,700 to Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign in August 2015. In October 2014, he also gave $15,000 to the Democratic National Committee.
West announced his intention to run for President of the United States in 2020 in September 2015. He later hinted on Twitter that he plans to run for president in 2024 as a result of Donald Trump's victory in the 2016 elections. West later confirmed this in an interview in September 2018, saying that his primary political concern in the United States is health care. West met with President-elect Trump on December 13, 2016. "I wanted to meet with Trump today to discuss multicultural issues," West said. Bullying, teacher support, curriculum modernization, and violence in Chicago were among the issues addressed. If we truly want change, I believe we need a direct line of communication with our future President."
West previously stated that if he had voted, he would have supported Trump. However, in February 2017, West deleted all of his tweets about Trump due to his alleged dislike of the new president's policies, particularly the travel ban. In an April 2018 text to Ebro Darden, West reiterated his support for Donald Trump, writing, "I love Donald Trump... I love Donald Trump." West also shared a photo of himself wearing a Make America Great Again hat, as well as a series of tweets defending President Trump. Later, Trump retweeted several of West's tweets. West returned to Twitter in April 2018, tweeting, "I love the way Candace Owens thinks." Owens, a proponent of black conservatism, hailed President Trump as the "Savior of the Free World" and slammed the Black Lives Matter movement. Some of West's followers were outraged by the tweet.
West reaffirmed his support for Trump in 2019. That year, he spoke out against abortion and condemned those who sought to remove religion from the public square. In a January 2020 interview with GQ, West hinted that he would vote for President Trump. Months later, in September, he expressed his support for Armenia during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, but his fans urged him to make a financial contribution to the country.
West has declared his intention to run for president again in the 2024 election. "When I run for president in 2024, we would've created so many jobs that I'm not going to run, I'm going to walk," he said at an event in November 2019. The audience erupted with laughter. While running for president on October 24, 2020, West told Joe Rogan on his podcast that he would be open to running for Governor of California. On May 19, 2021, Fox News reported that it had received a letter from the Federal Election Commission regarding an RFAI regarding an exploratory presidential committee.
Achievements and Awards
West has received numerous honours. A Webby Award for Artist of the Year, an Accessories Council Excellence Award for being a stylemaker, International Man of the Year at the GQ Awards, a Clio Award for The Life of Pablo Album Experience, and an honour from The Recording Academy are among them. West is one of eight artists to have received a Billboard Artist Achievement Award. He has a joint-record three Brit Awards for Best International Male Solo Artist, and is one of only three artists to have won the award in consecutive years. He became the first artist to win Best Male Hip-Hop Artist three times at the BET Awards in 2011, and he is the male artist with the most Video of the Year wins at the ceremony. He is also the only person to have received the Visionary Award at The BET Honors.
West has received the most MTV Video Music Awards nominations for Best Hip-Hop Video (nine), as well as the second-most nominations for Best Male Video (seven). He was the third rap act to receive the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award in 2015. West has the second most Grammy wins (21) and nominations (68) of any rapper (both behind Jay-Z). He was the most nominated act at five ceremonies, and he won the most Grammys by a male artist, as well as the fourth most overall in the decade of the 2000s. West became the first solo artist to have his first three albums nominated for Album of the Year in 2008. West is one of the world's best-selling digital artists. He is the seventh most certified artist in the United States based on digital singles (69 million). He had the most RIAA digital song certifications of any male artist in the 2000s, and he was the fourth best-selling digital songs artist in the United States during the 2000s. From 2008 to 2018, West was the sixth most streamed artist on Spotify and the fourth fastest to reach one billion streams. West has the joint-most consecutive number-one studio albums on the Billboard 200.
West had the two highest first-week album sales in the United States between August 2005 and June 2008, and was the only act to sell more than 800,000 in an opening week. Graduation and Watch the Throne both had record-breaking first-week digital and iTunes album sales in the United States. West has the joint-fifth most number-one singles in New Zealand (six), as well as the third most on the Hot Rap Songs chart (nine). He has the third-most top-ten singles by a rapper in the UK (20) and the joint-second-most platinum singles by a rapper in the UK (eight). West is one of seven artists with 100 or more Billboard Hot 100 entries. West is widely regarded as one of the most influential hip-hop producers of all time. He appeared on Complex's "Best Producers of Every Year Since 1979" list the most times (five).
West was ranked third among top producers on Billboard's 2000s Decade-end charts. West has appeared on The Guardian's "The Best Albums of the Twenty-First Century" list four times more than any other act and has topped the annual Pazz & Jop critic poll the joint-most times (four albums). He was the first non-athlete to sign a shoe deal with Nike in 2009. NME named him the third most influential artist in music in 2014. West became the second rapper to headline Glastonbury Festival in 2015. Kanye West won Best Contemporary Christian Music Album at the 2021 Grammys. At the 2021 BMI Trailblazers of Gospel Music Awards, he was named Songwriter of the Year.