Kanye West, The Full Profile

Rapper, mogul, fashion designer, Kardashian (via marriage), billionaire (with a B), Kanye West goes by a lot of names. Read on to learn the scoop on all of them.  

The Early Years

  The man born Kanye Omari West on June 8, 1977, did not follow the traditional path to hip-hop superstardom, and his music reflects his different perspective. His father was a Black Panther, and his mother was a college professor. This combination of parental influences is clear in his music. Kanye was born in Atlanta but spent most of his youth in Chicago, raised in solidly middle-class neighborhoods. He was accepted to Chicago State University, and attended for a year, before dropping out to follow his dreams in music.   

College Dropout

  Kanye quickly became a desirable producer, working with names like Jermaine Dupree and Jay-Z. Kanye’s desire to be an artist himself was continually shot down by record label execs that didn’t believe his middle-class upbringing would authentically lend itself to the gangsta rap environment of the late 90s and early 2000s. Kanye became so desirable, in fact, that he would eventually be signed by Roc-A-Fella records, primarily so they wouldn’t lose him as a producer to another label. Kanye chose to make his own path, creating an album that would redefine the genre. On ” The College Dropout”, Kanye demonstrated an ability to create complex rhyme schemes and stack intense lyrical messages on top of comfortable, recognizable hooks after being leaked several months early, West remixed several tracks, and added and dropped several more. He eventually dropped the album in February 2004.    Kanye’s background as a producer served him well in getting started as a rapper- he had a ready stable of artists willing to collaborate on tracks with him. Of the 19 tracks on the final album, five were skits, and 6 were collabs. Having names like Jay-Z and Ludacris collaborate on your debut album gives anyone credibility, and “College Dropout” was no different. It reached number 2 on the Billboard 200 and immediately established Kanye as an innovator in hip hop. It also gave Jamie Foxx, who was primarily considered an actor, his first number one: the collaboration “Slow Jamz”. The album also established Kanye’s willingness to combine ideas of faith, philosophy, and racial identity that would remain hallmarks throughout his career.    The College Dropout Tracklist
  1. Intro (Skit)
  2. We Don’t Care
  3. Graduation Day
  4. All Falls Down (feat Syleena Johnson)
  5. I’ll Fly Away
  6. Spaceship (featuring GLC and Consequence)
  7. Jesus Walks
  8. Never Let Me Down (featuring Jay-Z and Ivy)
  9. Get Em High (Featuring Talib Kweli and Common)
  10. Workout Plan (Skit)
  11. The New Workout Plan
  12. Slow Jamz (featuring Twista and Jamie Foxx)
  13. Breathe In Breathe Out (featuring Ludacris)
  14. School Spirit (Skit 1)
  15. School Spirit
  16. School Spirit (Skit 2)
  17. Lil Jimmy (Skit)
  18. Two Words (featuring Mos Def, Freeway, and the Boys Choir of Harlem)
  19. Through the wire
  20. Family Business
  21. Last Call
  Kanye used the success of “Dropout” to let his second album “Late Registration” incorporate an element he couldn’t afford in his debut- live string musicians. The album would go on to sell over 2 million units after its release in the fall of 2005 and is widely considered the only successful album of that season when downloads and piracy had begun to make a major impact in CD sales. Around this time, Kany had his first major mainstream demonstration of the kind of brash directness he would later come to be known for. At a benefit for Hurricane Katrina victims broadcast on NBC, he famously said “George W Bush doesn’t care about Black people.”   Late Registration Tracklist
  1. Wake Up Mr. West
  2. Heard ‘Em Say (featuring Adam Levine)
  3. Touch the Sky (featuring Lupe Fiasco)
  4. Gold Digger (featuring Jamie Foxx)
  5. Skit No. 1
  6. Drive Slow (featuring Paul Wall and GLC)
  7. My Way Home (performed by Common)
  8. Crack Music (featuring The Game)
  9. Roses
  10. Bring Me Down (featuring Brandy)
  11. Addiction
  12. Skit No. 2
  13. Diamonds from Sierra Leone (remix) (featuring Jay-Z)
  14. We Major (featuring Nas and Really Doe)
  15. Skit No. 3
  16. Hey Mama
  17. Celebration
  18. Skit No. 4
  19. Gone (featuring Consequence and Cam’ron)
  20. Diamonds from Sierra Leone (bonus track)
  21. Late (hidden track)
  With the release of his third Studio Album, “Graduation”, in September 2007, Kanye proved a few things. First, his commitment to a theme- this was the third in a planned quartet of albums to address themes of education. Secondly, he demonstrated that thoughtful rap that didn’t fall into the gangsta rap window could be successful. His release date put him directly opposite 50 cent’s album, “Curtis”. Kanye outsell 50 Cent by a lot more than 50 cents, and opened the door for a whole generation of rappers who would never have been signed-in the gangsta 90s or 2000s. He continued his pattern of high-interest collaborations but made this album much more mainstream in its feel. By eliminating the skits common at the time to hip albums, and reducing the tracklist down to a much smaller 13 tracks, Kanye was able to sharpen the focus on his thematic elements. His focus on anthems after touring with U2 is also clear in this record, as his lyrical density was brought down, creating tracks that could be sung along within a stadium by a crowd, something that Kanye was becoming very familiar with filling.    Graduation Tracklist
  1. Good Morning
  2. Champion
  3. Stronger
  4. I Wonder
  5. Good Life (featuring T-Pain)
  6. Can’t Tell Me Nothing
  7. Barry Bonds (featuring Lil Wayne)
  8. Drunk and Hot Girls (featuring Mos Def)
  9. Flashing Lights (featuring Dwele)
  10. Everything I Am (featuring scratches by DJ Premier)
  11. The Glory
  12. Homecoming (featuring Chris Martin)
  13. BIg Brother
 

Heartbreak

  In late 2007, Kanye lost his mother to surgery complications and broke up with his long term girlfriend. In response to this overload of emotions, Kanye said simply rapping could not convey everything he wanted to express. This led him to sing the tracks for his next album, with the help of Auto-Tune. Using a Roland Tr-808 Drum Machine to provide background beats, and focusing on themes of love and loss, “808s and Heartbreak” represented a huge departure for Kanye, both stylistically and thematically. This would be one of Kanye’s most divisive albums with critics and fans alike but would go on to create a whole subgenre of emotional Hip Hop. He lost the samples he was known for and released a vulnerable album that completely broke hip hop norms he had helped establish just a few years prior.   808s and Heartbreak Tracklist  
  1. Say You Will
  2. Welcome to Heartbreak (featuring Kid Cudi)
  3. Heartless
  4. Amazing (featuring Young Jeezy)
  5. Love Lockdown
  6. Paranoid (featuring Mr. Hudson)
  7. Robocop
  8. Street Lights
  9. Bad News
  10. See You in MY Nightmares (featuring Lil Wayne)
  11. Coldest Winter
  12. Pinocchio Story (Freestyle Live from Singapore) (hidden track)
  What ended being one of Kanye’s most famous appearances had nothing to do with his music. At the 2009 VMAs, he rushed the stage during Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech for Video of the Year, to announce that his friend Beyonce “had one of the greatest music videos of all time”. Pictures of Swift’s awkward face and Kanye’s over the top expression led to outrage on the internet and news circuits for several days. Controversy over the event led to Kanye’s removal from the show, and the cancellation of his upcoming tour with Lady Gaga.   Kanye’s Next two solo albums would incorporate elements of his first four. 2010’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” marked a return to his heavily sampled hooks, along with the orchestral elements of his later albums, and that famous 808s. It also marked the return of huge collaborations, with a majority of the songs including a featured artist. This album was a celebration and statement on the excesses of fame and was meta enough in its commentary to have a 35-minute film created to coordinate with a single song.   My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy Tracklist
  1. Dark Fantasy
  2. Gorgeous (featuring Kid Cudi and Raekwon)
  3. Power
  4. All of the Lights (interlude)
  5. All of the Lights
  6. Monster (featuring Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Micki Minaj, and Bon Iver)
  7. So Appalled (featuring Swizz Beats, Jay-Z, Pusha T, Cyhi the Prynce, and RZA)
  8. Devil in a New Dress (featuring Rick Ross)
  9. Runaway (featuring Pusha T)
  10. Hell of a Life
  11. Blame Game (featuring John Legend)
  12. Lost in the World (featuring Bon Iver)
  13. Who Will Survive in America
  Kanye followed this return to form up in 2011 with a collaboration with Jay-Z: “Watch the Throne”. This was one of the first albums to really take the internet into consideration as a way to avoid leaks. By intentionally releasing the album digitally weeks ahead of its physical release, they were able to control the flow and keep people from hearing it early.    Watch The Throne tracklist
  1. No Church in the Wild (featuring Frank Ocean and The-Dream)
  2. Lift-Off (featuring Beyonce)
  3. Niggas in Paradise
  4. Otis
  5. Gotta have It
  6. New Day
  7. That’s My Bitch
  8. Welcome to the Jungle
  9. Who Gon Stop Me
  10. Nurder to Excellence
  11. Made in America (featuring Frank Ocean)
  12. Why I Love You (featuring Mr. Hudson)
  Kanye’s sixth studio album, “Yeezus”, was released in September 2013. “Yeezus” would be Kanye’s sixth consecutive number one release. This year also marked the beginning of his collaboration with Adidas, and his very public relationship with his future wife, Kim Kardashian.    This began the era where Kanye’s controversies and political statements carried more popular notoriety than his music. While Kanye would release several more solo and collaboration albums over the next several years, his political statements and speeches began to take on much more weight.   Yeezus Tracklist
  1. On Sight
  2. Black Skinhead
  3. I Am a God
  4. New Slaves
  5. Hold My Liquor
  6. I’m In It
  7. Blood on the Leaves
  8. Guilt Trip
  9. Send It Up
  10. Bound 2
  2016’s “The Life of Pablo” ended up being one of Kanye’s most controversial albums. The first single, “Famous” reignited his bad blood with Taylor Swift. In the lyrics, Kanye takes credit for making her more famous than she otherwise would have been. Swift cried foul.    Kanye claimed to have gotten permission from Swift, a friend of his wife Kim Kardashian-West. Then he said, she said came to a head when Kardashian-West produced a recording of the conversation between West and Swift that backed up his version of the narrative. Swift superfans still held him responsible for painting her in a bad light. The Life of Pablo
  1. Ultralight Beam
  2. Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 1
  3. Pt. 2
  4. Famous
  5. Feedback
  6. Low Lights
  7. Highlights
  8. Freestyle 4
  9. I Love Kanye
  10. Waves
  11. FML
  12. Real Friends
  13. Wolves
  14. Frank’s Track
  15. Siiiiiiiiilver Surffffeeeeer Intermission
  16. 30 Hours
  17. No More Parties in LA
  18. Facts (Charlie Heat version)
  19. Fade
  20. Saint Pablo
  Ye
  1. I Thought About Killing You
  2. Yikes
  3. All Mine
  4. Wouldn’t Leave (featuring PartyNextDoor)
  5. No Mistakes
  6. Ghost Town (featuring PartyNextDoor)
  7. Violent Crimes
  In 2018 Kanye formed the duo Kids See Ghosts with Kid Cudi and released an eponymous album. Shortly after this, Kanye released “Jesus is King” in 2019, reflecting on his primary focus in his identity as a Christian, Husband, and Father.    Kids See Ghosts Tracklist
  1. Feel the Love (featuring Pusha T)
  2. Fire
  3. 4th Dimension (featuring Louis Prima)
  4. Freeee (Ghost Town, pt. 2) (featuring Ty Dolla Sign)
  5. Reborn
  6. Kids See Ghosts (featuring Yasiin Bey)
  7. Cudi Montage
  Jesus Is King Tracklist
  1. Every Hour (featuring Sunday Service Choir)
  2. Selah
  3. Follow God
  4. Closed on Sunday
  5. On God
  6. Everything We Need (featuring Ty Dolla Sign and Ant Clemons)
  7. Water (featuring Ant Clemons)
  8. God Is
  9. Hands On (featuring Fred Hammond)
  10. Use this Gospel (featuring Clipse and Kenny G)
  11. Jesus is Lord)
 

MAGA and President Kanye

  In 2016, Kanye announced he would run for President in 2020. Most took this as trademark Kanye hyperbole, especially after Kanye’s well-publicized summit with Donald Trump. President Trump went on to tout his friendship with Kanye in several public venues, and Kanye said he was going to wait until 2024 since he wasn’t going to run against Trump.    All this changed in the summer of 2020 when Kanye made a last-minute plan to run for President, on the “Birthday Party” ticket. While Kanye insists this is a serious campaign, critics have pointed out that he does not have ballot access in enough states to win the electoral college, and have argued that he will only act as a spoiler for president Trump against Joe Biden.    Regardless of what media he is in, no one can argue that Kanye West is not a consummate showman. His charisma and talent are unmistakable, and he always manages to be the center of attention.    Sources
  1. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Kanye-West
  2. https://web.archive.org/web/20111229125050/http://www.theawl.com/2011/09/kanye%E2%80%99s-808s-how-a-machine-brought-heartbreak-to-hip-hop
  3. https://www.vox.com/culture/2020/3/21/21189239/taylor-swift-kanye-west-famous-leaked-phone-call-kanye-west-is-over-party

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