Kanye West

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About Kanye West

Few artists have had as deep an impact on pop culture as Kanye West. Raised in Chicago by his mother, an English professor, West (born in 1977) initially studied to be a painter while making beats on the side—a multidisciplinary drive that came to mark his career. After contributing production to a series of increasingly high-profile projects (including work with Foxy Brown and the Mase-fronted Harlem World), West broke through in 2001 with his work on JAY-Z’s The Blueprint, producing and cowriting some of the album’s biggest songs (“Izzo [H.O.V.A.]”, “Takeover”). His chopped-and-pitched, sample-heavy “chipmunk soul” sound would define rap for years after. He launched his MC career with 2004’s The College Dropout and hasn’t looked back, releasing a string of groundbreaking—and often self-contradicting—albums, each of them a pacesetter for the culture around it. From the baroque grandeur of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy to the punk fragments of Yeezus, from the social commentary of The College Dropout to the confessional summits of 808s & Heartbreak, West has always been expanding his scope and sound—and shifting everyone else’s playing field in the process. Much of that comes from his gift for listening, for orchestrating: Over the course of his career, he has absorbed sounds and styles from the underground—whether Chicago drill, UK bass music, gospel or Bon Iver’s postmodern folk—and reimagined them, changing the course of the mainstream along the way.

Chicago, IL
8 June 1977
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