Kanye Omari West (1977-) is an American hip hop artist from Chicago [born in Atlanta]. Originally a producer for Jay-Z's Roc-A-Fella Records, he started releasing his own music in 2004 with the Grammy-winning College Dropout. Some of his music videos reference and describe his experiences in the South Side of Chicago, including a music video where he rapped in front of a Harold's Chicken restaurant.Some know him for his controversies. Some of his actions that some may consider egotistical have arguably garnered more attention than his music. His polarizing line from 2005, "George Bush doesn't care about black people" was one example. And then there was—"YoTaylor,I'm real happy for you, I'mma let you finish, butBeyoncéhad one of the best videos of all time!One of the best videos of all time!"*Ahem.* As we were saying, there was also the infamous incident at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, in which he brusquely interrupted Taylor Swift's acceptance speech for winning Best Female Video with the above quote. Reporters, talk shows, and the Internet in general had a field day with this, and several people today (including Barack Obama) still won't let him off the hook. And amongst certain Daft Punk fans, he is infamously known for sampling "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger".He's currently released six albums: The College Dropout, Late Registration, Graduation, 808's & Heartbreak, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Yeezus, and a collaboration album with Jay-Z titled Watch the Throne and a collaboration with his vanity label, G.O.O.D. Music, called Cruel Summer. Kanye featured a Funny Animal named "Dropout Bear" on the front cover of his first three albums.Discography:
MBDTF in general. Looking at the list of personnel involved, they range from the expected (e.g. Kid Cudi, Drake) to the somewhat less-expected (e.g. Gil Scott-Heron) to the rather bizarre (Justin Vernon of Bon Iver? Really?)
Subverted with "Cruel Summer" in that the features (outside GOOD Music) were all superstars in the world of urban music - about 10 years before the album was released. It featured R. Kelly, Ma$e, Raekwon and Marsha Ambrosius.
The exceptions being Jay-Z and Chief Keef. Plus, R. Kelly and Marsha Ambrosius both had albums out.
For the most part, Yeezus doesn't have as many features. However, Daft Punk produced four of the tracks, Rick Rubin was brought in as the deadline loomed for additional production, and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver returns.
Yeezus only appears to have less features on the surface, based on the decision to not name features on the track list. Looking at the credits you can also find Lupe Fiasco, Kid Cudi, Hudson Mohawke, Travis Scott, Chief Keef, King L, Frank Ocean and reggae musician, Assassin.
Alternative Hip Hop: although the masses tend to view him as a pop rapper due to his use of auto tune, Kanye may be one of the few artistic rappers in the modern music industry and his work incorporates a large body of genres and progressive ideas.
Ambiguous Disorder: He's never officially been diagnosed, but there's a lot of speculation that he has Asperger's or some other disorder on the Autism spectrum. His Motor Mouth tendencies, lack of a filter, avoidance of gaze in interviews, and obsessive focus on his projects point to this. It would certainly explain a lot.
Arc Words: References to being 'cold' abound on 808s and Heartbreak, adding to the already icy and bleak atmosphere.
Ascended Meme: The leaked version of "See Me Now" (a bonus track from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy that features Beyonce) has Kanye ad-libbing for about a minute at the end instead of Big Sean's verse. Among the things Ye says is...
"...and I'mma let you finish but I got Beyonce on the track!"
When Britney Spears ' new single "Hold it Against Me" beat Kanye and Jay-Z's single "H.A.M" to number one, Kanye posted a tweet which said ""Yo Britney, I'm really happy for you and I'mma let you be #1, but me and Jay-Z's single is one of the best songs of all time!"...which he promptly deleted when peoplegotupset.
Attention Whore: Many people see him as one due to his actions in the media.
"So if you ain't no punk, holla 'we want pre-nup!'"
"When I say 'Hey,' you say, 'mama!'"
The video that's surfaced of the Yeezus tour shows the audience enthusiastically singing along with and supplying lines from "I'm In It," "On Sight," "Blood on the Leaves" (the entire first verse, in fact), and various other tracks. It's kind of heartwarming, given how divisive the album has been.
And, of course, from "I Am a God:"
Kanye: In a French-ass restaurant-
Audience:Hurry up with my damn croissants!
Some performances of the legendary unreleased track "Mama's Boyfriend" have the audience shout out the final lines of the first verse.
Sometimes Kanye doesn't even rap the first verse of "New Slaves"- the audience shouts it instead.
Autotune: Adopted on 808s and Heartbreak to convey loneliness and disconnect. Used on occasion from then forward, either for singing or rapping. The outro to "Runaway" uses this combined with effects pedals to make Kanye's voice sound like a distorted guitar. More than a few reviewers compared it to a Robert Fripp solo, which, given that West samples King Crimson on another song on that album, was probably exactly his intention. It's also speculated that the unintelligible vocals are intended to represent West's frequent difficulties in expressing himself verbally.
Berserk Button. Don't be a paparazzo and annoy him, no seriously, don't. His distate for them really took off when they started to abuse his privacy around his mother's passing.
Being controlled, on any level. This led to "New Slaves", in which the loudest screamed line on it (and the Yeezus album proper) is, "Y'ALL NIGGAS CAN'T FUCK WITH YE!! Y'ALL NIGGAS CAN'T FUCK WITH YE!!"
Black Comedy: The bleakly funny "We livin' in hell here / hell yeah!" in "Jesus Walks."
Blasphemous Boast: Subverted by I Am a God. Kanye claims to be "a god, even though I'm a man of God" and has a conversation with Jesus in the second verse.
Bowdlerization: A couple instances on The College Dropout. Aretha Franklin would only clear the sample for "School Spirit" if Kanye guaranteed the resulting song would be clean, so it's edited even on the explicit version. Less clear is why this also happened to the single swear on "Through the Wire" (left in on the single version) and half of the principal's profane rant in "Graduation Day".
Bunny-Ears Lawyer Despite how much of a total jackass some might say he is, the music is awesome enough for his career to stay intact.
Live performances of "New Slaves" turn the bridge into this, with Kanye rapping "y'see there's leaders and there's followers" and the audience shouting back "but I'd rather be a dick than a swallower!"
Darker and Edgier: Late Registration's "Crack Music", which is the bleaker Spiritual Successor to the uplifting "Jesus Walks". The church chorus is still present, but the subject matter and tone doesn't inspire optimism like its predecessor (though that may be the point).
808's and Heartbreak (yes, the entire album) is another big one, though it's less intentional and more due his epic Creator Breakdown (see the Trivia page for details).
He's out-darked himself with "Cruel Summer," to a point where the lead single's main sample is a pitch-shifted description of the devil.
Yeezus (again, the entire album) is probably his darkest piece of work yet.
Determinator: Two days before Yeezus was due in the record label's hands, Kanye hadn't written lyrics for five songs – half of the album's worth. As he was going to be spending those two days in Milan, he managed to write and record all five vocals within two hours before leaving to catch his plane.
Doing It for the Art: The Runaway film. Paid out of his own pocket, done solely to show off the music and backstory of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Def Jam's official statement was basically: "We have no idea where the money for this came from."
Downer Ending: The music video for Touch the Sky has this, with Evel Kanyevel attempting to jump the Grand Canyon in a rocket...and crashing badly, with the rocket exploding. Kanyevel is then seen in the clouds, presumably in Heaven.
808s and Heartbreak ends with "Coldest Winter" and "Pinocchio Story."
Dream Team: Every song he's done with Jay-Z, from "The Bounce" on The Blueprint 2 to "Clique", and everything in between (including the entirety of Watch the Throne).
Kanye, Jay, Lil Wayne, T.I. and M.I.A. on T.I.'s "Swagger Like Us"
Kanye and Rihanna on "All of the Lights" (which reunited on the "Diamonds" remix to equally good effect)
Kanye and Rick Ross on "Devil in a New Dress", as well as the Ross song Ye did in return, "Live Fast, Die Young," both of which were preceded by "Maybach Music II" on Ross' Deeper Than Rap which featured Kanye and a high-of-his-powers Lil' Wayne.
Kanye and Coldplay's Chris Martin on "Homecoming".
Early-Bird Cameo: Listen to 'My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.' Now go back and watch the Runaway' film. The film contains 11 of the 13 tracks featured on the album in either a snippet or its full track. The only two tracks on the album that aren't in the film are 'Monster' and 'So Appalled,' which were released as part of his G.O.O.D. Fridays project. So if you heard the two "G.O.O.D. Fridays" and watched the film, you heard the album before it got released in stores.
Fading into the Next Song: "Jesus Walks" into "Never Let Me Down" on The College Dropout, "Say You Will" into "Welcome to Heartbreak" on 808s and Heartbreak.
A God Am I: One of the major themes of "Yeezus," which includes a song called "I Am a God." It's not actually intended to be blasphemous, as Kanye's a Christian- it's based on a Bible verse- but the shock and controversy of it was certainly not an accident.
Heel Realization: The narrator of "Runaway" realizes that he treats everyone around him like garbage.
Idiot Savant: Common theory about him. He's one of the most creative and innovative producers and rappers of the last decade, and probably has a wide variety of undiagnosed mental problems.
The Illuminati: Ye's membership is proposed by a significant portion of the Fan Dumb. For example. the casual conspiracy theorist who has no knowledge of Roc-A-Fella Records might think that his◊ is an anodyne sign. Helping the theories are the fact that Kanye's among the many popular artists to use Masonic symbolism and other Illuminati references (all seeing-eye, Pharaohs and Egyptian symbolism, pyramids, chessboard etc...) .
Insufferable Genius: Prime example for showing that such types are entertaining to watch but highly unpleasant to be around. He almost seems to lampshade this in the remix of Beyoncé's Ego.
Insult Backfire: Jesus Walks includes the lines "We eat pieces of shit like you for breakfast" / "Y'all eat pieces of shit?"
Lighter and Softer: "Graduation" was poppy and anthemic, compared to the more serious "Late Registration."
Loudness War: Most of the albums are brickwalled to a certain extent, but it's particularly egregious on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Thank you, Vlado Meller. The official video clips in places like youtube generally don't suffer from this problem as being built as web content have no need for the type of loudness and clipping that analogue formats require.
Yeezus's dynamic range squishes even tigher than Fantasy's does, averaging at 4dB of range. Unlike MBDTF, Yeezus features heavy amounts of clearly audible distortion, but this was probably on purpose, considering the material on it.
Lyrical Dissonance: Despite the dark, crushing, minimalist and creepy instrumentals behind "I Am A God," The lyrics are all mostly quite funny, or at the very least don't leave anything to imply the intense darkness that the beat carries.
Meaningful Name: "Through The Wire" is about a car accident that Kanye was in, and was recorded while his jaw was wired shut. (And the song also samples Chaka Khan's "Through the Fire".)
Messianic Archetype: Seems to think of himself like this, as evidenced when he portrayed himself as Jesus on the cover of Rolling Stone, the Runaway film and in his album Yeezus.
Metal Scream: Several times in Yeezus, most notably "I am a God" and "Black Skinhead." Live performances take this to another level.
Mood Whiplash: "Blame Game" from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Kanye painfully recounts falling out with a woman (possibly Amber Rose) and mentions overhearing a conversation when her phone automatically dialed him back. The other man she's seeing is none other than Chris Rock. The phone call goes all the way up to hilarious ("You took your pussy game up to a whole 'nother level! This is some Cirque du Soleil pussy now!") to downright tragic again at the end.
New Sound Album: Every album after (arguably) Late Registration has been one (with 808s and Yeezus being the most drastic), leading to some calling Kanye the Hip HopRadiohead.
No Indoor Voice: On the Internet at least...his blog is written in ALL CAPS with gratuitous exclamation points.
Non-Appearing Title: "Graduation Day", "The Glory", "Dark Fantasy", "Gorgeous", "Devil in a New Dress", "Good Friday", "Gotta Have It", "Otis", "Black Skinhead" (the word 'black' appears, but 'skinhead' doesn't), "Guilt Trip", and "Murder to Excellence".
In the case of "Murder to Excellence," the words appear in the song but the title refers to the fact that it's basically two songs in one track.
Notable Music Videos: He approaches his video clips with the same outlandish expression that he does his music.
All Of The Lights caused seizures.
a lot of his recent videoclips ("I Wish You Would", "Cold") have done so as well.
"Mercy" was widely acclaimed as one of the best videos of 2012.
The music video for "Power" consists of the camera starting on a zoom of Kanye's face as it slowly zooms out for a minute and a half, the video's surreal elements becoming more evident as the zoom out continues. Frequently parodied, and one of the most prominent music videos of the year.
Sacrificial Lion: Could be seen as this for Hip-Hop, he has a track record of speaking on behalf of the wider community at moments when others would have conformed and stayed silent. With... mixed results.
Sampling: One of Kanye's earliest trademarks was sampling from old R&B/soul/funk records and pitching them up until the vocalists sounded like chipmunks. He himself admitted this technique was borrowed from RZA. After this, Kanye's sampling portfolio grew ever bigger (and stranger); the sheer number of samples Kanye has used in his career has made him sampling's poster boy and inevitably leads to a Love It or Hate It reaction from people who like the original material.
Ironically, the one song on MBDTF that sounds most like his Dropout era work ("Devil in a New Dress") is the only one that's not self-produced - it was produced by Bink!, one of Kanye's producer friends from the Blueprint period.
"Cruel Summer" features a few reggae samples, often as sound effects in the background of the tracks. There's also an interpolation of one of the songs in My Fair Lady.
"Mercy" turns the intro of the cheerful reggae song "Dust a Sound Boy" into a fear-inducing scream.
Yeezus includes samples from Hungarian progressive rock band Omega, the Holy Name of Mary Choral Family, Nina Simone, and Beenie Man, amongst several others.
This trope was taken to its logical extreme with the track "Comfortable" by Lil Wayne, which is a sample of Alicia Keys' "You Don't Know My Name", which he produced and sampled from a song by The Main Ingredient. In other words, Kanye sampled himself using a sample.
Self-Parody: By the time of Yeezus, Kanye seems to have realized how comically overblown his ego is. While a number of the songs are completely serious (such as "New Slaves" and "Black Skinhead"), some of the other songs on the album take common rap boasts and make them as over-the-top as possible, such as the line above under Corpsing and this entry, also from "On Sight":
Real nigga back in the house again Black Timbs all on your couch again Black dick all in your spouse again And I know she like chocolate men She got more niggas off than Cochran
The video for "Stronger" heavily references AKIRA, from the motorcycles and their light trails, to the heavily stylized operating table and hospital gown that West appears in.
The animated music video for "Heartless". The Rotoscoped animation, Pop Art-influenced backgrounds and a few of the scenes in the video pay tribute to Ralph Bakshi's film American Pop. Also, when the character in the video is seen in his apartment, you can spot posters of The Jetsons and other Hanna-Barbera characters on the wall.
The video for "All of the Lights" features rapid-fire typography and neon strobing colours in an homage to Gaspar Noé's film Enter the Void. Due to a response from British group Epilepsy Action, the video was re cut without these effects but retains the technicolour floods of light of the source material.
Serial Escalation: Done on the first leg of the Watch the Throne Tour with "Niggas in Paris". Kanye and Jay-Z cut the song off near on the first night - and played it again from the top. The resulting crowd explosion apparently convinced them to one-up themselves until they were playing it eleven times back-to-back at the end of the tour.
Sincerity Mode: Inverted. His online apology to Taylor Swift (in all caps) contained statements such as "I'm sorry Taylor... Beyoncé had one of the greatest videos of all time!" Many argued whether or not he was truly being sincere (including the rather sincere 100+ tweet apology on Twitter) but Kanye confirmed in 2013 with the New York Times that he felt pressured into apologizing and he actually doesn't feel sorry for the incident.
Spoken Word In Music: A technique he often uses. The principal from the intros to The College Dropout and Late Registration, as well as "Graduation Day", J.Ivy's poem from "Never Let Me Down", Nicki Minaj's introduction to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, as well as Gil Scott-Heron on "Who Will Survive in America".
One of the things that makes him so fascinating to many is how he deconstructs the stereotypical hip-hop boastfulness in his music, while deliberately amplifying and exaggerating these traits in his public persona.
Stealth Pun: "I Am a God" was inspired by the Bible verse Psalms 82- "I have said, Ye are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High." Get it? Ye are gods?
Super Group: "Child Rebel Soldier/CRS" with Lupe Fiasco and Pharrell Williams. Though work has cooled on that front (they've released all of 2 songs together - although one of those featured Thom Yorke from Radiohead.
Kanye and Jay-Z forming The Throne for their album and tour, Watch the Throne.
Take That: Not from Kanye, though when Beyoncé won her award she called Taylor up onto the stage and told her that she deserved to share this moment too, due to the first time of it being soiled by a certain SOMEONE. The certain someone part wasn't said, but she apparently made it quite clear that despite Kanye's opinions about her video, she was plenty ticked at him too. A competing team on America's Best Dance Crew also did a routine to Taylor Swift music, which ended with one of them assuming the role of Kanye and doing his famous rant. Before he could finish, another member turned around and punched him repeatedly before kicking him in the nads.
When Taylor Lautner hosted Saturday Night Live, his monologue included an apology to Taylor (his then girlfriend) for not standing up for her, ending with a demonstration of his black-belt level Tae Kwon Do on a Kanye West cardboard cutout.
Also, when Barack Obama, the President of the United States calls you "a jackass", you really need time to think how you can be a better American citizen. This is considered by some to be the one thing Obama has said that both parties can agree on.
In "Power" he refers to himself as the "OBAMAnation of Obama's nation."
The 49th annual Country Music Academy Awards also had "Little" Jimmy Dickens interrupt Brad Paisley's award acceptance speech by pulling Kanye's famous rant, except by ending it with complimenting Taylor. This was followed by a joke about how a short, 87-year-old man could get past their security. Which is actually a good question for the MTV Awards.
"Gorgeous" contains the line "choke a South Park writer with a fishstick".
Another jab pointed his way came up in the 2010 CMT Awards. Kid Rock (the host) said that if anybody tried any "Kanye-Westing" or stealing microphones from nice young ladies, he and Hank Williams Jr. would punch their face in.
808s & Heartbreak and MBDTF are full of shots at his ex-fiancee Alexis Phifer and his ex-girlfriend Amber Rose, respectively.
When Kanye performed Stronger live at Coachella in 2011, he changed the lines talking about how "I'd do anything for a blond dyke" to past-tense ("I did anything for a blond dyke"), subtly turning them into a shot at Amber Rose, who was at the fest with her new hookup Wiz Khalifa.
Taylor Swift managed to get in at least one shot at him when she hosted SNL shortly after the awards; since she was both host and musical guest, during the part of the monologue where the host says "We have a great show for you tonight, [musical guest] is here!", she instead said, "We have a great show for you tonight, Kanye West is NOT here!"
In a beautiful example of adding insult to injury, Kanye absolutely skewers Kris Humphries on "Theraflu".
And I'll admit, I had fell in love with Kim 'Round the same time she had fell in love with him Well that's cool, baby girl, do ya thang Lucky I ain't had Jay drop him from the team
Three years later at the BET awards, Jay Z did it to Kanye, ironically for an award they beat Beyonce for.
Take That Me: "Runaway", which has him admitting faults in a relationship that didn't work out:
Never was much of a romantic I could never take the intimacy And I know I did damage Cause the look in yo eyes is killin' me
Take This, Haters: "Stronger" and "Power" are two songs that directly bash common criticisms of him at the time.
Textless Album Cover: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Watch The Throne, Cruel Summer. Yeezus has no cover and the actual sticker put on the album case has no text on it.
Theme Naming: His first three albums, The College Dropout, Late Registration, and Graduation: all to do with, well, college. The next album was originally supposed to continue the trend and be named Good-Ass Job, but its title track was cut and the album was renamed to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
The Tyson Zone: As described above, West is considered so arrogant that no stories about his ego can be dismissed offhand.
Unexpected Character: Each album generally has at least one. Graduation involving Chris Martin, 808s and Heartbreak involving Lil Wayne and Cruel Summer involving Ma$e probably take the biscuit though.
The College Dropout had DeRay Davis as the principal, poet J.Ivy on "Never Let Me Down" and Jamie Foxx on "Slow Jamz"
Late Registration had DeRay Davis (again), Lupe Fiasco ("Touch The Sky" was his breakthrough), Adam Levine of Maroon Five, and - a major surprise considering Jay-Z was in a major feud with him at the time - Nas.
Graduation had Chris Martin, and - dependent on how you viewed Kanye's music at the time - T-Pain.
808s and Heartbreak had Lil Wayne and Young Jeezy, who despite both being involved in the production of Graduation, few expected to feature on a breakup album.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy had Bon Iver (who few had even heard of at the time, let alone knew what to expect from them).
Watch the Throne had fuckingOtis Redding! And Curtis Mayfield (both posthumously). And (although she is definitely still alive) Elly Jackson of La Roux and Frank Ocean of OFWGKTA fame. It also had (although this is more unwanted than unexpected) - Swizz Beatz (much to many fans' chagrin).
Cruel Summer had most of its' cast like this. R. Kelly, Marsha Ambrosius, Chief Keef, Jadakiss, MA$E... Few expected these collaborations.
Yeezus involves Chief Keef, Chicago rapper King Louie, Daft Punk, Bon Iver, Kid Cudi, and Frank Ocean. With the exception of King Louie, all the major names had worked with Kanye in the Past. Though this time around, some of the big names talents are were used against type. For example, Chief Keef sings the Hook on Hold My Liquor while Daft Punk co-produced four of the album's tracks (On Sight, Black Skinhead, I Am a God, Send It Up) that are noticeably darker and visceral than their normal output.
Kanye himself is this on GOOD Music labelmate Pusha T's "Hold On." Despite being uncredited, his incomprehensible, autotuned moaning is a big part of the beat.
Visual Pun: The cover from the album 808's and Heartbreak was a broken red love heart on a green/blue background, one of the singles from the album was called Heartless which just had a plain green/blue cover.
What Could Have Been: As is the case with the development process for most rap albums, rumors circulated that Kanye had a variety of guest artists to choose from in making MBDTF. A wide variety of guest artists, including Soulja Boy (who Kanye had previously offered beats to) and Waka Flocka Flame. Much to the relief of some longtime Kanye fans, these two names never resurfaced. Madlib, the famous experimental, jazzy hip hop producer, was another name frequently mentioned. Who knows whether it would have fit with Kanye's style or not; but it would have been fascinating, no matter what.
"Drive Slow" on 'Late Registration' was supposed to feature M.I.A. and T.I.. The former didn't record a verse, whilst the latter did, but it was cut from the album, but can be found on the Internet. M.I.A. also recorded for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
Child Rebel Soldier could arguably fall into this as well.