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Kanye Omari West (pron.: //; born June 8, 1977) is an American recording artist, record producer, film director and fashion designer from Chicago, Illinois. West first rose to fame as a producer for Roc-A-Fella Records, where he eventually achieved recognition for his work on Jay-Z's 2001 album The Blueprint, as well as hit singles for musical artists including Alicia Keys, Ludacris, and Janet Jackson. His style of production originally used high-pitched vocal samples from soul songs incorporated with his own drums and instruments. However, subsequent productions saw him broadening his musical palette and expressing influences encompassing '70s R&B, baroque pop, trip hop, arena rock, folk, alternative, electronica, synthpop, and classical music.
West released his debut album The College Dropout in 2004, his second album Late Registration in 2005, his third album Graduation in 2007, his fourth album 808s & Heartbreak in 2008, and his fifth album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy in 2010. West released a collaborative album, Watch the Throne with Jay-Z in 2011, which is the duo's first collaborative album. His five solo albums, all of which have gone platinum, have received numerous awards and critical acclaim. All albums have been very commercially successful, with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy becoming his fourth consecutive No. 1 album in the U.S. upon release. West has had six songs exceed 3 million in digital sales as of December 2012, with "Gold Digger" selling 3,086,000, "Stronger" selling 4,402,000, "Heartless" selling 3,742,000, "E.T." selling over 4,000,000, "Love Lockdown" selling over 3,000,000, and "Niggas in Paris" selling over 3,000,000, placing him third in overall digital sales of the past decade. He has sold over 30 million digital songs in the United States making him one of the best-selling digital artists of all-time. He is also one of the most awarded artists of all-time.
West also runs his own record label GOOD Music, home to artists such as John Legend, Mos Def and Big Sean. West's mascot and trademark is "Dropout Bear," a teddy bear which has appeared on the covers of three of his five solo albums as well as various single covers and in his music videos.
Kanye West was born in Atlanta, Georgia, where he lived with his parents. When he was three years old, his parents divorced, and he and his mother moved to Chicago, Illinois. His father is Ray West, a former Black Panther who was one of the first black photojournalists at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and later a Christian counselor, and who opened the Good Water Store and Café in Lexington Park, Maryland in November 2006, with startup capital from his son. West's mother, Dr. Donda West, was a Professor of English at Clark Atlanta University, and the Chair of the English Department at Chicago State University before retiring to serve as West's manager. He was raised in a middle-class background, attending Polaris High School in suburban Oak Lawn, Illinois after living in Chicago. At the age of 10, Kanye moved with his mother to Nanjing, China, where his mother was teaching at Nanjing University as part of an exchange programme. According to his mother; Kanye was the only foreigner in his class, but settled in well and quickly picked up the language, although he has forgotten most of it. When asked about his grades in high school, West replied, "I got A's and B's. And I'm not even frontin'".
West attended art classes at the American Academy of Art in Chicago in 1997 for one semester on a scholarship, and then transferred to Chicago State University, but dropped out to focus 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, John Legend among others. He also "ghost-produced" for his mentor Deric Angelettie, according to his song "Last Call" and the credits of Nas' "Poppa Was a Playa".
Kanye West's first career productions came at the age of nineteen on Chicago rapper Grav's 1996 debut album Down to Earth. West produced eight tracks on the album. While the album did not attract much attention and would be the only album released by Grav, West would soon be producing for higher profile artists. Due to his association with Deric "D-Dot" Angelettie, West wasn't able to release a solo album, so he formed and became a member and producer of the Go-Getters, a late-1990s Chicago rap group composed of him, GLC, Timmy G, Really Doe, and Arrowstar. They were managed by John Monopoly, Don C, and Happy Lewis under the management firm Hustle Period. The group released their first and only studio album World Record Holders in 1999. The album featured other Chicago rappers such as Rhymefest and Mikkey Halsted while the production was primarily handled by West, Boogz, and Brian "All Day" Miller. Between 1998–1999, West produced for well-known artists such as Jermaine Dupri, Foxy Brown, Goodie Mob, and the group Harlem World.
West got his big break in the year 2000, when he began to produce for artists on Roc-A-Fella Records. He produced the well-received Jay-Z song "This Can't Be Life" off of the album The Dynasty: Roc La Familia. West would later state that to create the beat for "This Can't Be Life", he sped up the drum beat from Dr. Dre's song "Xxplosive". After producing for Jay-Z earlier, West’s sound was featured heavily on Jay-Z's critically acclaimed album The Blueprint, released September 11, 2001. His work was featured on the lead single "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)", "Heart of the City (Ain't No Love)" and a diss track against Nas and Mobb Deep named "Takeover"; West has worked with Mobb Deep and Nas since the track's release. After meeting great commercial success and critical acclaim for his productions on The Blueprint, West became a sought after producer in the hip-hop industry, even before he became known as a rapper and solo artist. In the years 2002–2003, he would produce for artists such as Nas, Scarface, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, T.I., Ludacris, DMX, and Monica. He also continued producing for Roc-a-Fella Records artists and contributed four tracks to Jay-Z's follow up album to The Blueprint, The Blueprint²: The Gift & the Curse.
After great successes as a producer, West now looked to pursue a career as a rapper and solo artist, but struggled to get a record deal. Chris Anokute, then A&R at Def Jam, said that when West regularly dropped by the office to pick up his producer checks he would play demos of solo material to Anokute in his cubicle and bemoan the fact that no one was taking him seriously as a rapper. 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 felt he was not as marketable as rappers who portray the "street image" prominent in hip hop culture. Beginning his career as a rapper, Kanye West recorded the third verse on the song "The Bounce" off of Jay-Z's The Blueprint²: The Gift & the Curse, an album he produced for, from the same label he was signed to as a rapper.
On October 23, 2002, West was involved in a near fatal car crash while driving from a recording studio in Los Angeles. The crash provided inspiration for West's first single, "Through the Wire". "Through the Wire" was later featured in a mixtape, Get Well Soon..., which Roc-A-Fella issued in December 2003.
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 was eventually certified triple platinum. Guest appearances included Jay-Z, Ludacris, GLC, Consequence, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Common, and Syleena Johnson. The album also featured the singles, "All Falls Down" and "The New Workout Plan", as well as Twista's number one single, "Slow Jamz". During 2003, West also co-produced songs for British singer Javine Hylton, even appearing in the music video to Real Things playing the love interest of Javine. 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.
Taking a more eclectic route, West collaborated with American film score composer Jon Brion to construct his second album, Late Registration, which was released on August 30, 2005. Like its predecessor, the sophomore effort garnered universal acclaim from music critics. Late Registration topped countless critic polls and was revered as the best album of the year by numerous publications, including USA Today, Spin, and Time. Rolling Stone awarded the album the highest position on their end of the year record list and hailed it as a "sweepingly generous, absurdly virtuosic hip-hop classic." The record earned the number one spot on the Village Voice's Pazz & Jop critics' poll of 2005 for the second consecutive year. Late Registration was also a commercial success, selling over 860,000 copies in its first week alone and topping the Billboard 200. Grossing over 2.3 million units sold in the United States alone by year's end, Late Registration was considered by industry observers as the sole majorly successful album release of the fall of 2005, a season that was plagued by steadily declining CD sales. The second album earned eight Grammy Award nominations including Album of the Year and Record of the Year for the song "Gold Digger". The album is certified triple platinum.
On August 22, 2005, the MTV special All Eyes On Kanye West aired, in which West spoke out against homophobia in hip-hop. He claimed 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 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. In that year, West produced the hit singles "Go" by Common and "Dreams" by The Game.
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 also 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.". 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." 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 for, 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. On March 25, 2007, he and his father Ray West supported World Water Day by having a "Walk for Water" rally. After a two-year break, West has returned to being a fashion columnist in lifestyle magazine Complex. On July 7, 2007, West performed with The Police and John Mayer at the American leg of Live Earth. West hosted the August 17 edition of British comedy- variety show The Friday Night Project.
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, and Lil Wayne.
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. On September 9, 2007, West performed at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards, losing in every category he was nominated for; he gave an angry speech immediately afterward. (see "Controversies" section) Following the MTV stint, West was nominated in eight Grammy Award categories for the 50th annual Grammy Awards. He won four of them, including Best Rap Album for Graduation and Best Rap Solo Performance for "Stronger" from Graduation. 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).
West kicked off the Glow in the Dark Tour in Seattle at the KeyArena on April 16. The tour was originally scheduled to end in June in Cincinnati but was extended into August. Over the course of the tour West was joined by a varying group of opening acts, including Lupe Fiasco, Rihanna, N.E.R.D, DJ Craze, and Gnarls Barkley. On June 15, West was scheduled to perform a late night set at the Bonnaroo Music Festival. His performance started almost two hours late and ran for half of its alloted time, angering many fans in the audience. West later wrote an outraged entry on his blog, blaming the festival organizers as well as Pearl Jam's preceding set, which ran longer than expected.
On September 7, West debuted a new song "Love Lockdown" at the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards. "Love Lockdown" features no rapping and only singing using an auto-tune device. This song appears on West's fourth studio album, 808s & Heartbreak. The new album was expected to be released on December 16, but West announced on his blog on September 24, 2008, that he had finished the album and would be releasing it sometime in November, earlier than previously scheduled. In early October, West made a surprise appearance at a T.I. concert in Los Angeles, where he stated that 808s & Heartbreak was scheduled to be released on November 25, though it was actually released on the 24th, and that the second single is "Heartless". The album was another number one album for West, even though the first week numbers fell well short of Graduation with 450,145 sold. In 2008, West and director Hype Williams paid tribute to the film American Pop in the music video for West's single "Heartless", which featured use of rotoscoped animation and references to scenes and backgrounds from the film.
West performed at the American Music Awards ceremony on November 23. That same night he won two AMA awards, including Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Album for Graduation and Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Male Artist. West performed at the Democratic National Convention in Denver in August 2008, along with Wyclef Jean and N.E.R.D in support of Barack Obama. On January 20, 2009, Kanye West performed at the Youth Inaugural Ball hosted by MTV for Obama's inauguration. On February 17, 2009, West was named one of Top 10 Most Stylish Men in America by GQ. The next day, February 18, 2009, West won International Male Solo Artist at The 2009 BRIT Awards. West was not in attendance but accepted his award with a video speech, saying "Barack is the 'Best Interracial Male' but I'm proud to be the Best International Male in the world. In April 2009, Kanye West recorded a song called "Hurricane" with 30 Seconds to Mars to appear on their album This Is War, but was not released due to legal issues with both record companies. The song was eventually released on the deluxe version of This Is War, titled "Hurricane 2.0".
In May 2010, West made an animated television guest appearance on Fox's animated television series The Cleveland Show (a spin-off of Family Guy) as the voice behind "Kenny West", a rival of Cleveland Brown's son. In his first episode he performed in a rap battle with Cleveland's son. The producers stated working with West was a very good experience and a reason they chose him was because they knew he was a fan of Family Guy. West has since returned to voice the character in two additional episodes.
West spent the first half of 2010 in Honolulu, Hawaii, working on his new album with the working title "Good Ass Job", later named My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, released on November 22, 2010. West has cited Maya Angelou, Gil Scott-Heron and Nina Simone as his musical inspirations for this album. This album was far more ambitious than anything he had previously released. It addresses, and to an extent accepts, the darker aspects of his personality and those impulses that court such controversy. Naturally, it went straight in at number one. Most of the outside production was handled by RZA, Q-Tip, Pete Rock, and DJ Premier. West also had Justin Vernon flown into his studio on Oahu after seemingly expressing interest in sampling one of Bon Iver's songs; Vernon proceeded to feature on a number of new tracks, including "Lost In The World," which features Vernon's vocal line from Woods. On May 28, the Dwele-assisted first single from the album, entitled "Power", leaked to the Internet. On June 30, the track was officially released via iTunes. The music video was quoted as being "apocalyptic, in a very personal way" by the director Marco Brambilla. On September 12, 2010, West performed a new song, "Runaway" featuring Pusha T, at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards. Shortly after the performance, Kanye revealed he was working on a 35 minute short film based around the song. The movie is said to be influenced by film noir and concerns a fallen phoenix whom Kanye falls in love with. On October 15, 2010, Kanye West was ranked 3rd in BET's "Top Ten Rappers of the 21st Century" list.
Watch the Throne, a collaborative studio album by West and Jay-Z, was released by Def Jam Recordings on August 8, 2011. It had been under production since August 2010 as part of West's GOOD Fridays initiative of releasing new songs every Friday between August 20 and Christmas 2010. West said in an interview with MTV that the album is "going to be very dark and sexy, like couture hip hop." He appeared at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, performing the track "Lost in the World" from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. On January 6, 2011, Kanye announced via Twitter that the first official single from Watch the Throne would be a song called "H•A•M" produced by Lex Luger. The song was released on January 11, 2011. On April 17, 2011, West closed the Coachella Festival with a headlining set that received glowing praise from fans and critics alike. On July 20, a track titled "Otis" from the album was released in the iTunes Store. It samples "Try a Little Tenderness" by Otis Redding.
On September 18, 2012, West released Cruel Summer, a collaborative studio album with GOOD Music artists, including Big Sean, Pusha T, and newly signed in-house producer Lifted, among others. Four singles were released in promotion of the album— "Mercy" on April 3, 2012, "Cold" on April 17, "New God Flow" on July 21, and "Clique" on September 7. The album leaked onto the Internet on September 12. On December 12, West performed at Madison Square Garden, alongside Jon Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, Alicia Keys, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Roger Waters and The Who, in a concert organized as a relief effort for those affected by Hurricane Sandy.
In July 2012, producer No I.D. said that he is working with West on the latter's sixth studio album and that it will be released after GOOD Music's Cruel Summer. S1, The Heatmakerz and Skrillex confirmed themselves as producers on the album as well. West also enlisted The-Dream and Malik Yusef to contribute to the album. Currently the majority of the album has been recorded in Paris, France. Even without a title, the album was named in multiple "Most Anticipated Albums of 2013" lists, including the ones by XXL, Complex Magazine and VH1. The album appeared at #1, #2 and #4 on the respective lists. On February 25, 2013 at a concert in France, Kanye publicly announced that he was working on his sixth studio album and that new material would be released in the next couple of months. He has also reportedly been working with Young Chop, Chief Keef, Travi$ Scott, King L, Pusha T and Daft Punk on the album in some capacity.
In August 2008, West revealed plans to open 10 Fatburger restaurants in the Chicago area; the first was set to open in September 2008 in Orland Park. The second followed in January 2009, while a third location is yet to be revealed, although the process is being finalized. His company, KW Foods LLC, bought the rights to the chain in Chicago.
In September 2005, West announced that he would release his Pastelle Clothing line in spring 2006, claiming "Now that I have a Grammy under my belt and Late Registration is finished, I am ready to launch my clothing line next spring." The line was developed over the following four years - with multiple pieces teased by West himself - before the line was ultimately cancelled in 2009.
In 2009, West collaborated with Nike to release his own shoe, the Air Yeezys, with a second version released in 2012. In January 2009, West introduced his first shoe line designed for Louis Vuitton during Paris Fashion Week. The line was released in summer 2009. West has additionally designed shoewear for Bape and Italian shoemaker Giuseppe Zanotti.
On October 1, 2011, Kanye West premiered his women's fashion label, DW Kanye West at Paris Fashion Week. He received support from DSquared2 duo Dean and Dan Caten, Olivier Theyskens, Jeremy Scott, Azzedine Alaïa, and the Olsen twins, who were also in attendance during his show. His debut fashion show received mixed-to-negative reviews, ranging from reserved observations by Style.com to excoriating commentary by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, Elleuk.com, The Daily Telegraph, Harper's Bazaar and many others.
On March 6, 2012, West premiered a second fashion line at Paris Fashion Week. The line's reception was markedly improved from the previous presentation, with a number of critics heralding West for his "much improved" sophomore effort.
West (alongside his mother) founded the "Kanye West Foundation" in Chicago in 2003, tasked with a mission to battle dropout and illiteracy rates, while partnering with community organizations to provide underprivileged youth access to music education. In 2007, the West and the Foundation partnered with Strong American Schools as part of their "Ed in '08" campaign. As spokesman for the campaign, West appeared in a series of PSAs for the organization, and hosted an inaugural benefit concert in August of that year.
In 2008, following the death of West's mother, the foundation was rechristened "The Dr. Donda West Foundation." The foundation ceased operations in 2011.
West has additionally appeared and participated in many fundraisers, benefit concerts, and has done community work for Hurricane Katrina relief, the Kanye West Foundation, the Millions More Movement, 100 Black Men of America, a Live Earth concert benefit, World Water Day rally and march, Nike runs, and a MTV special helping young Iraq War veterans who struggle through debt and PTSD a second chance after returning home.
At the start of his career, West often used pitched-up vocal samples, usually from soul songs, in his production, along with his own drums and instruments. 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, "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." RZA himself has spoken quite positively of the comparisons, stating in an interview for Rolling Stone, "All good. I got super respect for Kanye. He came up to me about a year or two ago. He gave me mad praising and blessings... For people to say Wu-Tang inspire Kanye, Kanye is one of the biggest artists in the world. That goes back to what we say: 'Wu-Tang is forever.' Kanye is going to inspire people to be like him." After hearing his work on The Blueprint, RZA claimed that a torch-passing had occurred between him and West, saying, "The shoes gotta be filled. If you ain't gonna do it, somebody else is gonna do it. That's how I feel about rap today."
While his use of sampling has lessened over time, West's production continues to feature distinctive and intricate string arrangements. This characteristic arose from him listening to the English trip hop group Portishead, whose 1998 live album Roseland NYC Live, with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra inspired him to incorporate string sections into his hip hop production. Though he was unable to afford live instruments beyond violin riffs provided by Israeli violinist Miri Ben-Ari around the time of his debut album, its subsequent commercial success allowed him to hire his very own eleven-piece string orchestra. For a time, West stood as the sole current pop star to tour with a string section.
West has stated on several occasions that outside of work, he favors listening to rock music over hip-hop. He cites Franz Ferdinand, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Killers, Keane, Radiohead, Kaiser Chiefs and Modest Mouse as some of his favorite musical groups. Additionally, on Graduation, West drew inspiration from arena rock bands such as U2, The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin for melody and chord progression. Both a fan and supporter of indie culture, West uses his official website to promote obscure indie rock bands, posting up music videos and mp3s on a daily basis. This musical affinity is mutual, as West has collaborated with indie artists such as Santigold, Peter Bjorn and John, and Lykke Li while his songs have gone on to be covered countless times by myriad rock bands.
West began dating designer Alexis Phifer on-and-off in 2002, with West eventually proposing in August 2006. The pair ended their 18-month engagement in 2008. West was subsequently in a high-profile on-and-off relationship with Amber Rose from 2008 until the summer of 2010. West has been in a relationship with reality star Kim Kardashian since April 2012. In December 2012, West and Kardashian announced that they are expecting their first child. He told the crowd of more than 5,000 at his concert in Atlantic City in song form: “Now you having my baby.” He also told the audience to congratulate his “baby mom” and that this was the “most amazing thing."
On November 10, 2007, West's mother, Donda West, died of complications from cosmetic surgery involving abdominoplasty and breast reduction. TMZ reported that Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Andre Aboolian refused to do the surgery because Donda West had a health condition that placed her at risk for a heart attack. Aboolian referred her to an internist to investigate her cardiac issue. Donda never met with the doctor recommended by Aboolian and had the procedures performed by a third doctor, Jan Adams. She was 58 years old (1949–2007).
Adams sent condolences to Donda West's family but declined to publicly discuss the procedure because of confidentiality. He had previously been under scrutiny by the medical board. Adams appeared on Larry King Live on November 20, 2007 but left before speaking. Two days later, he appeared again, with his attorney, stating he was there to "defend himself." He said that the recently released autopsy results "spoke for themselves". The final coroner's report January 10, 2008 concluded that Donda West died of "coronary artery disease and multiple post-operative factors due to or as a consequence of liposuction and mammoplasty."
The funeral and burial for Donda West was held in Oklahoma City on November 20, 2007. West 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 Believin'", to his mother, and did so on all other dates of his Glow in the Dark tour.
At a December 2008 press conference in New Zealand, West spoke about his mother's death for the first time. "It was like losing an arm and a leg and trying to walk through that," he told reporters.
California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger passed the "Donda West Law," a legislation which makes it mandatory for patients to provide medical clearance for elective cosmetic surgery.
In December 2006, Robert "Evel" Knievel sued West for trademark infringement in West's video for "Touch the Sky." Knievel took 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. West's attorneys argued that the music video amounted to satire and therefore was covered under the First Amendment. Just days before his death in November 2007, Knievel amicably settled the suit after being paid a visit from West, saying, "I thought he was a wonderful guy and quite a gentleman."
On September 11, 2008, West and his road manager/bodyguard Don "Don C." Crowley were arrested at Los Angeles International Airport and booked on charges of felony vandalism after an altercation with the paparazzi in which West and Crowley broke the photographers' cameras. West was later released from the Los Angeles Police Department's Pacific Division station in Culver City on $20,000 bail bond. On September 26, 2008, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office said it would not file felony counts against West over the incident. Instead the case file was forwarded to the city attorney's office, which charged West with one count of misdemeanor vandalism, one count of grand theft and one count of battery and his manager with three counts of each on March 18, 2009. West's and Crowley's arraignment was delayed from an original date of April 14, 2009.
West was arrested again on November 14, 2008 at the Hilton hotel near Gateshead after another scuffle involving a photographer outside the famous Tup Tup Palace nightclub in Newcastle upon Tyne. He was later released "with no further action", according to a police spokesperson.
West has had several controversies throughout his career. 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 West was presenting alongside actor Mike Myers, he deviated from the prepared script. Myers spoke next and continued to read the script. Once it was West's turn to speak again, he said "George Bush doesn't care about black people." At this point, telethon producer Rick Kaplan cut off the microphone and then cut away to Chris Tucker, who was unaware of the cut for a few seconds. Still, West's comment reached much of the United States. Bush stated in an interview that the comment was "one of the most disgusting moments” of his presidency.
In November 2010, in a taped interview with Matt Lauer for the Today Show, West expressed regret for his criticism of Bush. "I would tell George Bush in my moment of frustration, I didn't have the grounds to call him a racist," he told Lauer. "I believe that in a situation of high emotion like that we as human beings don't always choose the right words." The following day, Bush reacted to the apology in a live interview with Lauer saying he appreciated the rapper's remorse. "I'm not a hater," Bush said. "I don't hate Kanye West. I was talking about an environment in which people were willing to say things that hurt. Nobody wants to be called a racist if in your heart you believe in equality of races."
Reactions were mixed, but some felt that West had no need to apologize. "It was not the particulars of your words that mattered, it was the essence of a feeling of the insensitivity towards our communities that many of us have felt for far too long," noted Def Jam co-founder Russell Simmons. Dr. Boyce Watkins said that West was, "now part of the establishment, where waffling on your principles is fully expected. Bush deserved no apology, for you don’t apologize to a criminal after repudiating him for an egregious crime. " Bush himself was receptive to the apology, saying, "I appreciate that. It wasn't just Kanye West who was talking like that during Katrina, I cited him as an example, I cited others as an example as well. You know, I appreciate that."
In 2004, West had his first of a number of incidents involving music award events. At the American Music Awards of 2004, West stormed out of the auditorium after losing Best New Artist to country singer Gretchen Wilson. He later commented, "I felt like I was definitely robbed [...] I was the best new artist this year." After the 2006 Grammy nominations were released, West said he would "really have a problem" if he did not win the Album of the Year, 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." On November 2, 2006, when his "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. He later spoofed the incident in the season premiere of Saturday Night Live.
On September 9, 2007, West suggested that his race had to do with his being overlooked for opening the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) in favor of Britney Spears; he claimed, "Maybe my skin’s not right." West was performing at the event; 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 VMAs two 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 VMAs with it. He has also stated that Spears has not had a hit in a long period of time and that MTV exploited her for ratings.
On September 13, 2009, during the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards while Taylor Swift was accepting her award for Best Female Video for "You Belong with Me", West went on stage and grabbed the microphone to proclaim that Beyoncé's video for "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)", nominated for the same award, was "one of the best videos of all time". He was subsequently removed from the remainder of the show for his actions. When Beyoncé later won the award for Best Video of the Year for "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)", she called Swift up on stage so that she could finish her acceptance speech. West was criticized by various celebrities for the outburst, and by President Barack Obama, who called West a "jackass". In addition, West's VMA disruption sparked a large influx of Internet photo memes with blogs, forums and "tweets" with the "Let you finish" photo-jokes. Subsequently, West posted two apologies for the outburst on his personal blog; one on the night of the incident, and the other the following day, when he also apologized during an appearance on The Jay Leno Show. After Swift appeared on The View two days after the outburst, partly to discuss the matter, West called her to apologize personally. Swift said she accepted his apology. In September 2010, West wrote a series of apologetic tweets addressed to Swift including "Beyonce didn't need that. MTV didn't need that and Taylor and her family friends and fans definitely didn't want or need that" and concluding with "I'm sorry Taylor." He also revealed he had written a song for Swift and if she did not accept the song, he would perform it himself. However, on November 8, 2010, in an interview with a Minnesota radio station, he seemed to recant a bit of his past apologies by attempting to describe the act at the 2009 awards show as "selfless" and downgrade the perception of disrespect it created.
An outspoken and controversial celebrity, West has frequently spoken out against homophobia in hip hop music. He posed as Jesus Christ for the cover of Rolling Stone and accused President George W. Bush of not "car[ing] about black people." His dapper and flamboyant fashion sense has also attracted media attention and set West apart from other rappers. Allmusic editor Jason Birchmeier writes of his impact, "As his career progressed throughout the early 21st century, West shattered certain stereotypes about rappers, becoming a superstar on his own terms without adapting his appearance, his rhetoric, or his music to fit any one musical mold."
Ben Detrick of XXL cited the outcome of the sales competition between rapper 50 Cent's Curtis and West's Graduation as being responsible for altering the direction of hip-hop and paving the way for new rappers who didn't follow the hardcore-gangster mold. He wrote, "If there was ever a watershed moment to indicate hip-hop's changing direction, it may have come when 50 Cent competed with Kanye in 2007 to see whose album would claim superior sales. 50 lost handily, and it was made clear that excellent songcrafting trumped a lack of street-life experience. Kanye led a wave of new artists—Kid Cudi, Wale, Lupe Fiasco, Kidz in the Hall, Drake—who lacked the interest or ability to create narratives about any past gunplay or drug-dealing. Similarly, in a retrospective article, Rosie Swash of The Guardian viewed the album's sales competition with 50 Cent's Curtis as a historical moment in hip-hop, writing that it "highlighted the diverging facets of hip-hop in the last decade; the former was gangsta rap for the noughties, while West was the thinking man's alternative.
Although it was polarizing for both listeners and critics, West's 2008 album 808s & Heartbreak was commercially successful and impacted hip hop stylistically, laying the groundwork for a new wave of hip hop artists who generally eschewed typical rap braggadocio for intimate subject matter and introspection, including B.o.B, Kid Cudi, Childish Gambino, Frank Ocean, The Weeknd, and Drake. Both Drake and Casey Veggies acknowledge being influenced directly by West.
Village Voice Media senior editor Ben Westhoff dubbed West the greatest hip hop artist of all time, writing that "he's made the best albums and changed the game the most, and his music is the most likely to endure."
As of 2013, West has won a total of 21 Grammy Awards, making him one of the most awarded artists of all-time. About.com ranked Kanye West No. 8 on their "Top 50 Hip-Hop Producers" list. On May 16, 2008, Kanye West was crowned by MTV as the year's No. 1 "Hottest MC in the Game." On December 17, 2010, Kanye West was voted as the MTV Man of the Year by MTV. Billboard ranked Kanye West No. 3 on their list of Top 10 Producers of the Decade. West has also been included in the Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world as well as being listed in a number of Forbes annual lists.
In their 2012 list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, Rolling Stone included three of West's albums—The College Dropout at number 298, Late Registration at number 118, and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy at number 353.
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Image from Discogs