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Kanye Omari West (Template:PronEng) (born June 8 1977) is an American rap artist and hip hop producer. He released his debut album The College Dropout in 2004, his second album Late Registration in 2005, and his third album Graduation in 2007. His first three albums have received numerous awards (including nine Grammys), critical acclaim, and commercial success. West also runs his own record label GOOD Music. West's mascot and trademark is a teddy bear, which has appeared on the covers of his three albums as well as the single cover for his song "Stronger."
Life and career
West was born in Atlanta, Georgia, where he lived with both of his parents. When he was three years old (as mentioned in "Hey Mama") 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. 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.
Kanye took some art classes at the American Academy of Art, a Chicago art school, and also enrolled at 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. 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."
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."
West’s sound was 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.)" 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 that portray the "street image" that is prominent in hip hop culture.
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 went certified triple platinum. Guest appearances included Jay-Z, Ludacris, GLC, Consequence, Talib Kweli, Common, and Syleena Johnson. The album also featured the singles, "All Falls Down" and "The New Workout Plan", as well as Twista's single, "Slow Jamz".
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.
On August 30 2005, West released his second album Late Registration. Reviews were mostly favorable: "Late Registration is an undeniable triumph" (Rolling Stone), "As ornate and bloated as West's ego." (Spin September 2005, p.99). With the help of producer samples in different ways along with compositions of strings and other sounds. The record earned the number one spot on the Village Voice's Pazz & Jop critics poll of 2005. The first two singles from Late Registration were "Diamonds from Sierra Leone" (which features vocals from Shirley Bassey's "Diamonds Are Forever") and "Gold Digger" featuring Jamie Foxx (which contains an interpolation of Ray Charles's "I Got a Woman"). The album sold over 860,000 copies in its first week, and earned him eight Grammy Award nominations including Album of the Year and Record of the Year for the song "Gold Digger." The album also included "My Way Home," a track that sampled Gil Scott-Heron's mournful "Home Is Where The Hatred Is." The album is certified triple platinum . Guest appearances include Jamie Foxx, Adam Levine, Paul Wall, GLC, Cam'ron, Common, Brandy, Jay-Z, Consequence, The Game, and Really Doe.
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." Even months after its speculated release, the current status of this project is unknown. In that year, West produced the hit singles "Go" by Common and "Dreams" by The Game.
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 if a Bible were written in the present day, he is famous and important enough to be included in it. "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.
In December 2006, Robert "Evel" Knievel sued West for trademark infringement in West's video for "Touch the Sky." Knievel is taking 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.
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 recently 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.." It is rumored that West's introductory lines preceding his verse are a thinly-veiled jab at producer and rapper Danny!, who was mercilessly compared to West in the beginning of his career.
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 from his upcoming album, 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.
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.||”|
Like its predecessors, West's Graduation contained extensive sampling of music by eclectic and often obscure artists, including "Champion," taking its hook from a snippet of Steely Dan's "Kid Charlemagne," and "The Glory," which uses as its foundation Laura Nyro's "Save the Country."
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 VMA's 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 VMA's 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.
Kanye West was nominated in 8 Grammy Award categories for the 50th annual Grammy Awards.
- Best Rap Album for Graduation
- Best Rap Solo Performance for "Stronger" from Graduation
- Best Rap Song for "Good Life" from Graduation (with Aldrin Davis, Faheem Najm, James Ingram & Quincy Jones)
- Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group for "Southside" (with Common)
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).
On Saturday, November 10, 2007, at 8:30 PM PST Kanye West's mother, Donda West, was pronounced dead due to complications from cosmetic surgery involving a tummy tuck and breast reduction procedure. TMZ reported that West was advised not to go through with the surgery by Beverly Hills physician Andre Aboolian due to a health condition that could lead to a heart attack. West was later referred to an internist who was recommended by Aboolian. West never met with the recommended doctor and had the procedures performed by someone other than Aboolian. Access Hollywood reported that Oprah Winfrey was responsible for introducing West to the doctor who performed the surgery, Jan Adams, though Winfrey has denied this. Both had been guests on The Oprah Winfrey Show, though their appearances were two years apart, and Oprah denies having contact with either since their respective appearances.
Adams has sent condolences to her family but declined to publicly discuss the procedure that Donda West underwent before her death, "I want to first express my deepest condolences to the West family at a very difficult time. As a medical doctor practicing in this field, I hold sacred the bond of confidentiality that exists between the patient and doctor. Out of respect of the West family, and the absence of verifiable information, any comment without having first discussing that information with the family would be unprofessional." Adams, who had been under scrutiny by the medical board, appeared on Larry King Live on November 20, 2007 but apparently changed his mind about being interviewed after sitting down with King, apologizing and removing his microphone before walking out of the studio. He appeared on the show again on January 22, 2008, this time accompanied by his attorney. He declined to discuss details about the specifics of West's death, stating he was there to "defend himself" and that the recently released autopsy results "spoke for themselves". He claimed the negative publicity surrounding the incident had almost destroyed his business.
The operation lasted eight hours, twice as long as expected. Adams insists he did nothing wrong. The Los Angeles County Coroner's office said preliminary reports indicated that Donda West may have died from complications from cosmetic surgery, however, the autopsy results are inconclusive pending the results of toxicology tests.
The funeral and burial for Donda West was held in Oklahoma City on November 20, 2007. Kanye 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. Kanye also sang a performance of "Hey Mama" at the 50th Grammy Awards.
In the song "Crack Music", he raps, "How [did] we stop the Black Panthers?/Ronald Reagan cooked up an answer", a reference to the allegation that the Reagan administration intentionally placed crack cocaine in the ghettos of the United States.
In the song "Roses", West raps about his grandmother's struggle against AIDS and expresses his outrage at the availability of treatment: "If Magic Johnson got a cure for AIDS / And all the broke mothafuckas passed away / You telling me if my grandma was in the NBA / Right now she would be okay?". This is also a reference to Johnson's unlikely recovery and highly publicized battle with the HIV virus. In the song "Heard 'Em Say", West raps, "And I know the government administered AIDS/So I guess we just pray like the minister say."
Demonstrating his views against George W. Bush, in a 2006 live orchestral performance of "All Falls Down" (later released on the "Late Orchestration" mixtape) West replaced "the White man gets paid off of all of that" with "George Bush gets paid off of all of that".
On August 22, 2005, the MTV special All Eyes On Kanye West aired, in which West spoke out against homophobia in hip-hop, claiming 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 went on to say that "not just hip-hop, but America just discriminates against gay people ... 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.
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:
|“||I think in the daily life of a black male, we gay-bash way more than we disrespect women. We would call a gay guy a fag to his face. But if we walked up to a woman and said Aiight, bitch! we would know that was disrespectful. I remember five years ago I was in this clothing store in Greenwich Village with my old girlfriend. I said the word "fag" kind of loud and there were some gay dudes in the store. My girlfriend was like, 'Yo, c'mon, step into the new millennium'. Well, my level of consciousness has since raised. And I actually think that standing up for gays was even more crazy than bad-mouthing the president. In the black community, someone could label you gay and bring your career down. But that was me showing what black people are really about today, or at least what we need to be about.||”|
Hurricane Katrina fundraiser controversy
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:
|“||I hate the way they portray us in the media. You see a black family, it [the media] 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's, what is the biggest amount I can give, and just to imagine if I was, if I was down there, and those are, those are my people down there. So anybody out there that wants to do anything that we can help — with the set up, the way America is set up to help, the poor, the black people, the less well-off, as slow as possible. I mean, this is, 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!||”|
Mike Myers, with whom West was paired to present, spoke next and continued as normal by reading the script, though with obvious discomfort. Once it was West's turn to speak again, he told the audience: "George Bush doesn't care about black people." At this point, telethon producer Rick Kaplan cut off West's microphone and cut away to an unprepared Chris Tucker, but West's comments still reached much of the United States.
West and Myers met again on a brief sketch on Saturday Night Live, in which Myers joked that since the telethon, the government has stripped him of his American citizenship ("still got my Canadian citizenship to fall back on", Myers joked), and placed him under heavy government surveillance. Also, during West's second musical performance in the show which featured a combination of hit songs "Champion" and "Everything I Am," West stated as a part of a freestyle rap, "y'all thought they'd never let me back on NBC."
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