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  Category: Articles » Arts & Entertainment » Music » Article

Kanye's witty wrap and outspoken political views made him a commercial success

By John Kim

Kanye Omari West was born on June 8, 1977 in Atlanta, Georgia. He is a Grammy Award-winning producer and rapper. His family moved to Chicago when West was only three-years old. After attending a local art school and Chicago State University, West dropped out to pursue his music career. He had been busy as a producer even while he was in college. West gained more prominent popularity after he produced songs for big artists such as Alicia Keys, Janet Jackson, Jay-Z, Brandy, Talib Kweli, Ludacris, and John Legend. His big shot at fame was Jay-Z's album The Blueprint, which featured four tracks produced by West, the most successful of which was "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)."

West had always wanted to venture into a solo rapping career but found difficulty in finding a label that would support him, mostly due to the lack of a "street" appearance. After persevering through many rejections, West finally found a supporter in Jay-Z who signed him to his Roc-A-Fella music label. On October 23, 2002, West was involved in a serious car crash, which left his jaw fractured in three places.

West's near death experience inspired his first single, "Through the Wire," which West recorded with his mouth still wired shut due to his shattered jaw. The track would become the lead single for his debut album under Roc-a-Fella Records, The College Dropout, released in February of 2004. West next single off the album, "Jesus Walks" would go on to become a hit and gained West much recognition from both critics and the hip-hop community. West would take home three Grammy Awards in 2005 for Best Rap Album, Best Rap Song for "Jesus Walks", and Best R&B Song for co-writing Alicia Keys' "You Don't Know My Name".

On August 30, 2005, West released his sophomore album, Late Registration, which debuted at the top of U.S. music charts and stayed there for 2 weeks. The album, thanks to hit singles "Diamonds from Sierra Leone" and "Gold Digger", was a huge commercial success, selling over 904,000 copies in its first week. The album also received eight Grammy Award nominations, including Album of the Year and Best Rap Album. West would go on to win Best Rap Album, Best Rap Song for "Jesus Walks" and Best Rap Solo Performance for "Gold Digger".

Since coming into the spotlight, West has been involved in multiple controversies surrounding his outspoken political views and over-confident demeanor. For instance, at the 2004 American Music Awards, upon losing to Gretchen Wilson for the Best New Artist award, West went on a rant proclaiming, "I was the best new artist this year," and "I got 10 Grammy nominations, and won three – even if I should have won all 10".

West's most controversial event came on September 2, 2005. During a televised benefit concert for Hurricane Katrina victims, West deviated from his prepared script and denounced both the American media and Bush's response to the crisis. West would conclude his version of the script by stating, "George Bush doesn't care about black people." West's controversial comments, particularly his last one on the nationally televised event, placed him in the national spotlight and spurred many debates on their validity.

West is founder of GOOD Music, a record label he founded in 2004 that has already released two platinum albums, John Legend's Get Lifted and Common's Be. In mid-to-late 2006, West plans to release his new clothing line, Pastelle Clothing. West is currently rumored to be working on tracks for Jay-Z, Ciara, SA-RA, Keyshia Cole, Consequence, and GLC. West has already announced the titles for his upcoming third and fourth albums, Graduation and A Good Ass Job, respectively.

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