West became a major name in hip-hop production following the release of Jay-Z's critically-acclaimed album The Blueprint, which featured four tracks produced by him, most notably the lead single "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)" and the Prodigy and Nas diss "Takeover." Due to his appearance and overall style, West struggled to find a way to get his own voice on record. Jay-Z has admitted that Roc-A-Fella was reluctant to support West as a rapper at first, claiming that he saw him as a producer first and foremost. Multiple record companies put him aside because he was not a former street hustler and did not wear the ordinary hip-hop apparel. He was therefore not marketable in the way other rappers were.
A car crash on October 23, 2002, when he fell asleep at the wheel while driving home from the studio, left his jaw fractured in three places, and nearly killed him. This opened his eyes to the meaning of life to him. It was the inspiration for his first single "Through the Wire." He recorded it two weeks after the crash while his mouth was still wired shut.
"Through the Wire", which sampled Chaka Khan's classic track "Through the Fire," would eventually become his lead single from The College Dropout, which was released on Roc-a-Fella Records in February 2004. A later single from the album, "Jesus Walks," would become a major success, and later a staple of his benefit performances, such as at the Live 8 concert. The College Dropout received a great deal of critical praise, in spite of some hip-hop fans' claims that Kanye was much more accomplished as a producer than as a rapper.
On August 30th, 2005, Kanye West released his sophomore album Late Registration. Reviews ranged from glowing ("Late Registration is an undeniable triumph" -Rolling Stone) to mixed ("As ornate and bloated as West's ego". -Spin magazine Sep 2005, p.99).[1] The first two singles were "Diamonds from Sierra Leone" (which contained samples from Shirley Bassey's "Diamonds Are Forever") and "Gold Digger" featuring Jamie Foxx. The album went on to sell over 904,000 copies in its first week, and spun off eight Grammy Award nominations including Album of the Year and Record of the Year for "Gold Digger." West announced that his third and fourth albums will be titled Graduation and A Good Ass Job, respectively.
West, holder of six Grammys, has collaborated with numerous artists, most notably with rapper Twista on songs such as "Overnight Celebrity" and "Slow Jamz" (also featuring Jamie Foxx) — the latter would reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart, becoming the first number one hit for all artists involved. West is also featured on Brandy's single, "Talk About Our Love." Others with whom West has collaborated include Jay-Z, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Ludacris, Dilated Peoples, Mariah Carey, Miri Ben-Ari (whose violin arrangements featured heavily on The College Dropout), and John Legend (who also features on West's first album, providing background vocals). Kanye West is also credited with revitalizing the careers of such rappers as Common and Twista, as well as more recently producing the critically acclaimed The Game track "Dreams."
In early 2005, West coined the term "white crunk" to describe the gritty drum sounds of Scottish alternative dance-rock group Franz Ferdinand, whom he claims is among his favorite bands. West and the band met at the 2005 MTV Europe Music Awards, where they sat down together to share praise and advice. West feels that the white crunk vibe has affected his new work, and is best exemplified on the track "Diamonds from Sierra Leone", from his 2005 album Late Registration. The band itself is also greatly influenced by Kanye and sought advice from him on how to improve production for their 2005 album You Could Have It So Much Better.
On July 2, 2005, West appeared on the Philadelphia bill of Live 8, using the global platform to refer to "man-made diseases placed in African communities," a reference to the belief that AIDS was introduced to Africa via the CHAT polio vaccine.
In "Crack Music", he raps, "How [will] we stop the Black Panthers?/Ronald Reagan cooked up an answer." In the second verse, he raps, "Who gave Saddam anthrax?/George Bush got the answer." He has accused American politicians of insensitivity, claiming they "...[ride] home in their Benzes and Bentleys while poor Africans starve."
On August 22, 2005, the MTV special All Eyes on Kanye West aired, on which West said that the term "gay" is the exact opposite word of "hip-hop" to many. He said 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 that his cousin was gay. He said, regarding this experience, "Yo, this is my cousin. I love him and I've been discriminating against gays." He further said, "Not just hip-hop but America just discriminates against gay people." He concluded by saying "... And I wanna just come on TV, and just tell my rappers, just tell my friends, 'Yo, stop it.'" He also drew comparison between African Americans' struggle for civil rights and today's gay rights movement.
On September 2, 2005, during a benefit concert for Hurricane Katrina relief on NBC, A Concert for Hurricane Relief, West was a featured speaker. When he was presenting, West deviated from the prepared script:
"I hate the way they portray us in the media. You see a black family, it says, 'They're looting.' You see a white family, it says, 'They're looking for food.' And, you know, it's been five days [waiting for federal help] because most of the people are black. And even for me to complain about it, I would be a hypocrite because I've tried to turn away from the TV because it's too hard to watch. I've even been shopping before even giving a donation, so now I'm calling my business manager right now to see what is the biggest amount I can give, and just to imagine if I was down there, and those are my people down there. So anybody out there that wants to do anything that we can help — with the way America is set up to help the poor, the black people, the less well-off, as slow as possible. I mean, the Red Cross is doing everything they can. We already realize a lot of people that could help are at war right now, fighting another way — and they've given them permission to go down and shoot us! (Black People)"
Mike Myers, whom West was paired with to present, spoke next and continued as normal by reading the script. Once it was West's turn to speak again, he said, "George Bush doesn't care about black people".
Although the camera quickly cut away, West's comments still reached the U.S. East Coast in the live news-feed, but they were removed by the network when the concert was re-broadcast on the West Coast three hours later.
A week later West performed before a Patriots game and was loudly booed for the duration of his performance.
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 award 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."
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. Later that month, he suggested in Playboy that he'd be a griot in a modern day Bible claiming "I bring up historical subjects in a way that makes kids want to learn about them." Seeing himself as an inspirational speaker, West claimed he would be "a part of the Bible" citing he is "definitely in the history books already."
West's early production technique consisted of utilizing sped-up soul samples set to his own drum beat. He used this formula for "This Can't Be Life," a track from Jay-Z's The Dynasty: Roc La Familia that was his first beat for a Roc-A-Fella artist. West has admitted that Wu-Tang Clan producer RZA influenced him in his style; RZA has been known to include sped-up soul samples in his beats, albeit with much grimier production layers that are the group's trademark. West's technique played a large role in defining the soul sound of Jay-Z's critically-acclaimed The Blueprint, although tracks such as "Takeover," where West flips an instrumental by The Doors for the beat, showed more variety. The two tracks he produced on Jay-Z's critically-acclaimed The Black Album delved into jazz ("Encore") and reggae ("Lucifer.")
For his debut The College Dropout, West generally utilized the technique he had become known for; the album's lead single "Through the Wire," for example, featured sped-up samples of Chaka Khan's "Through the Fire." On his sophomore effort Late Registration, however, with the help of Jon Brion, he expanded his sound, utilizing non-altered samples along with string compositions crafted by Brion and other layered sounds. As a result, Late Registration has received notable critical praise for its innovative production.
"GOOD Music" (an acronym for Getting Out Our Dreams), the record label founded by Kanye West, has already released John Legend's platinum selling debut album Get Lifted, along with Common's platinum album — Be. Other artists on the GOOD Music label include GLC, Consequence, Really Doe, SA-RA Creative Partners, and Farnsworth Bentley.
In September 2005, West announced that he will release his Pastelle Clothing line in spring 2006. He said of the decision, "Now that I have a Grammy under my belt and Late Registration [West's second album] is finished, I am ready to launch my clothing line next spring."
Kanye West will be in the studio in 2006 working on new albums from the artists signed on his G.O.O.D. Music label. G.O.O.D. Music artists rumored to release an album in 2006 are SA-RA, Consequence and GLC. West is also rumored to be producing tracks for Jay-Z, and may be working with a future record producer, poet, writer, film producer and fellow college dropout from Shreveport, Louisiana.
He is also rumored to be working with R&B singer, Ciara, on her sophomore album, Fever.
The Artists
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Kanye West
Kanye Omari West (first name pronounced /ˈkɑn.jeɪ/) (born June 8, 1977 in Atlanta, Georgia) is an African-American hip hop producer and rapper from Chicago, Illinois who currently resides in Hoboken, New Jersey.
Kanye was born to Ray and Donda West. After attending International Academy of Art and Design and Technology, a local art school in Chicago, and then Chicago State University, West dropped out and began working on his music career. Even while attending school, West produced for local acts. He gained some fame by producing hit singles for major hip-hop/R&B artists, including Alicia Keys, Jay-Z, Janet Jackson, Brandy, Talib Kweli, Dilated Peoples, Ludacris and John Legend. West himself worked on his solo album for a long period of time, having the release pushed back on multiple occasions.
Late Registration
14 - Diamonds From Sierra Leone
The College Dropout
15 - All Falls Down
16 - Jesus Walks