Kanye West Biography

Kanye Omari West, 8 June 1977, Atlanta, Georgia, USA. After making a name for himself in the rap world as a producer, Kanye West successfully launched his own recording career in the early years of the twenty-first century. He first rose to prominence during the late 90s, when he produced hit albums for Foxy Brown (Chyna Doll), Beanie Sigel (The Truth), and Ma$e’s Harlem World (The Movement), all of which reached the upper reaches of the US 200 album charts. West’s trademark sound was honed on these records, with the producer sampling a vintage R&B groove and dropping down the frequencies to make it sound more bass heavy and fit in better with contemporary rap. Shortly after completing work on Jay-Z’s 2001 chart-topper The Blueprint, a demo of West’s own rhymes came to the attention of Roc-A-Fella Records co-founder Damon Dash. West was given his own recording contract and while it appeared to be a given that his solo career would soon reach the stratosphere, everything came crashing down in October 2002 when he was nearly killed. After a recording session had wrapped up one night in Los Angeles, West was driving back to his hotel, when he was involved in a serious car accident, that left him with his jaw fractured in three places, and laid up in a hospital bed. Instead of sitting around and feeling sorry for himself, West decided to return directly to the recording studio (even though his jaw was still wired shut) where he recorded ‘Through The Wire’, a Chaka Khan -sampling track inspired by his accident.

West’s long awaited solo debut, The College Dropout, finally appeared in early 2004. Buoyed by the saturation radio play of the singles ‘Through The Wire’ and ‘Slow Jamz’ (a Luther Vandross -sampling collaboration with Twista and Jamie Foxx that climbed to the top of the Hot 100 in February), this witty and inventive collection shot into the upper regions of the US charts, racking up sales of over 3 million copies and earning 10 Grammy nominations. During this period, West continued to produce albums for other artists, including DMX (Grand Champ), Freeway (Philadelphia Freeway), Ludacris (Chicken-N-Beer) and Lil’ Kim (La Bella Mafia), and worked on hit tracks by Alicia Keys (‘You Don’t Know My Name’) and Talib Kweli (‘Get By’).

West returned to solo work in 2005 with his second album, Late Registration, which debuted at the top of the US charts in September that year. He also achieved a bestselling number 1 single with the Jamie Foxx collaboration ‘Gold Digger’, which stayed at the top of the US charts for 10 weeks. The previous month West had graced the cover of Time magazine. A media-concocted battle ensued between West and 50 Cent prior to the release of Graduation in September 2007. West won the alleged contest and hit the top of the US album chart just one place ahead of 50 Cent’s Curtis.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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