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One of the few truly unique hip-hop artists to revel atop the commercial side of the industry during the early 2000s, Kanye West spent most of his time producing flavorful hits for Jay-Z and other top-tier rappers, yet he eventually seized the opportunity to launch his own rapping career as well. Granted, West himself wasn't a phenomenal rapper, but he had a lot going for him. For one, he was witty, coming up with off-the-wall lyrics like "She's got a light-skinned friend look like Michael Jackson/Got a dark-skinned friend look like Michael Jackson" that were smart and funny at the same time, even if they didn't employ elaborate rhyming schemes à la Rakim or street-prophet motifs à la Nas. Secondly, he had a singsong flow that made him seem like an Everyman rapper as if he were your homeboy from down the street (or perhaps you yourself), even though he was, in fact, a seasoned rapper who'd been spitting game since he first heard Run-D.M.C. way back in the day. Moreover, his beatmaking skills were peerless: a trademark pitched-up, chopped-up use of somewhat recognizable samples for his hooks, and a likewise trademark stutter-step drum-programming touch for his rhythms -- a simple yet potent combination. And lastly, because of his hitmaking credentials, he had ties to some of the top names in the industry, from Jay-Z and Ludacris to Dame Dash and Jamie Foxx, all of whom helped West get his solo career off the ground with a bang. That bang happened during the opening weeks of 2004, when not one but two songs featuring him as a rapper ("Through the Wire" and "Slow Jamz") were downright ubiquitous, saturating music-video television and urban radio all the while skyrocketing to the top of the charts. Of course, West was no stranger to success, having produced hits for years, but suddenly he wasn't just an in-demand producer -- he was It, the latest in a long line of momentarily brand-new, red-hot rappers thrust into the mass-media spotlight. Yet at the same time, West wasn't your ordinary superstar rapper. Again, he was very much your Everyman rapper, relying more on his wit and his earnestness (and his own beatmaking) than the usual cocktail of sex, drugs, violence, and street dreams (though he did have a good car-accident back-story) -- all of which, of course, was refreshing circa 2004 in the wake of 50 Cent.
From out of left field (i.e., Chicago, anything but a hip-hop hotbed), West was an unlikely sensation and more than once defied adversity. Like so many others who were initially inspired by Run-D.M.C., he began as just another aspiring rapper with a boundless passion for hip-hop, albeit a rapper with a Midas touch when it came to beatmaking. And it was indeed his beatmaking skills that got his foot in the industry door. Though he did quite a bit of noteworthy production work during the late '90s, it was his work for Roc-a-Fella at the dawn of the new millennium that took his career to the next level. Alongside fellow fresh talent Just Blaze, West became one of The Roc's go-to producers, consistently delivering hot tracks to album after album. He first caught everyone's ear in 2001 when he laced Jay-Z's earth-shaking Blueprint album with "Takeover" and "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)." Both songs were enormous successes, partly so because of West's trademark beatmaking style, which was largely sample-based -- in these brilliant cases the former track appropriating snippets of the Doors' "Five to One," the latter the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back."
More high-profile productions followed, and before long word spread that West was going to release an album of his own, on which he'd rap as well as produce. Unfortunately, that album was a long time coming, pushed back and then pushed back again. It didn't help, of course, that West experienced a tragic car accident in October 2002 that almost cost him his life. He capitalized on the traumatic experience by using it as the inspiration for "Through the Wire" (and its corresponding video), which would later become the lead single for his eventually released debut album. That debut album, The College Dropout (2004), was continually delayed while West continued to churn out big hits for the likes of Talib Kweli ("Get By"), Ludacris ("Stand Up"), Jay-Z ("'03 Bonnie & Clyde"), and Alicia Keys ("You Don't Know My Name"). Then, just as "Through the Wire" was breaking big-time at the tail end of 2003, another West song caught fire, a collaboration with Twista and comedian/actor Jamie Foxx called "Slow Jamz" that gave the rapper/producer two simultaneously ubiquitous singles and a much-anticipated debut album. As with so many of West's songs, these two were driven by somewhat recognizable sample-based hooks -- Chaka Khan's "Through the Fire" in the case of "Through the Wire," and Luther Vandross' "A House Is Not a Home" in the case of "Slow Jamz."
Kanye West was born on June 8, 1977, in Atlanta, Georgia.
Kanye Wests Photo Payment Demand Met If He Appears Naked!!
PLAYGIRL OFFERS KANYE WEST A PAID MAGAZINE SPOT
LATEST: KANYE WEST's demand to be paid to appear in magazine photoshoots appears to have worked - as long as he's willing to strip naked.
PLAYGIRL magazine have offered to pay the THROUGH THE WIRE rapper to pose nude.
West outraged magazine bosses by insisting he should be paid, even though his appearance in glossy magazines boosts his profile and helps publicise his material.
He said, "These magazines make money from ads and subscriptions. So if you're putting me on the cover and people are buying your magazine because of me, why shouldn't I get paid to be on that cover? You are going to have to pay me to do magazine covers now."
Most magazines scoffed at the suggestion, but Playgirl's MICHELLE ZIPP welcomes West's demands, saying, "I would certainly consider paying Kanye West. But he would need to take his clothes off."
Kayne West Demands Magazine Pay Him For Photo Usage
KANYE DEMANDS PAYMENT FOR PHOTOS
Hip-hop sensation KANYE WEST has been slammed by magazine editors after demanding he be paid to pose for photoshoots.
Even though his appearance in glossy mags boost his profile and help publicise his material, the THROUGH THE WIRE hitmaker insists publications should pay him to pose for snaps.
He says, "These magazines make money from ads and subscriptions. So if you're putting me on the cover and people are buying your magazine because of me, why shouldn't I get paid to be on that cover? You are going to have to pay me to do magazine covers now."
But the men behind some of America's top magazines are not amused. ESQUIRE editor DAVID GRANGER tells the NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, "There's no chance of us paying him to do a cover."
GQ chief JIM NELSON, "Our West Coast editor, CHRIS HUVANE, was at that brunch, and he sent me an email that Kanye West is insane. When I read it, I did a spit-take. Kanye clearly does not understand the sacred economics of magazines. We're notoriously cheap."
Kanye West is Good to Go, Go, Go
Kanye West doesn't expect to be taking any breaks any time soon. Once the Grammy Awards (he's nominated for 10) are done, he'll be right back in the studio finishing his new album. And he has albums for several others on deck.
West has been prepping his Late Registration while simultaneously working on Common's Be, which will be the next project released on his GOOD (Getting Out Our Dreams) Music imprint. (R&B singer/pianist John Legend's hit album Get Lifted was the first.)
West also plans to put out albums by Consequence, GLC, Keisha Cole and Farnsworth Bentley by the end of the year, and take them all out on tour this summer.
He's reluctant to give out too many details about his own album, but he says Legend and Cole appear on it. Guitarist/singer John Mayer is the only outside artist he worked with. The most important thing, he says, is to keep the down-to-earth spirit he achieved on College Dropout. To do that, he has to mentally put aside the lifestyle his success has afforded him.
''I have to take myself back to when I was in college or high school, when I was living what I consider real life, because this is a fantasy I'm living right now,'' says West, who dropped out of art school in Chicago after one year. ''I have a couple of songs that talk about some of my new experiences, but really, I make songs to be the voice of the people.''
West says he pulled it off the first time, even though his production work for the likes of Alicia Keys, Jay-Z and Janet Jackson had already made him a millionaire. He thinks he'll be able to do it again. Late Registration is the second in what West envisions as a four-album set. Graduation would come next, ''and what are you supposed to get after you graduate -- Good-Ass Job.''
While he has done some recent studio work with Lauryn Hill, Mariah Carey and P. Diddy, West says he has cut back on his role as in-demand producer so he can concentrate on working with the people on his own label.
''I'm really working to get Getting Out Our Dreams off the ground,'' says West. ''With my deal, I'm only allowed five to seven things outside, anyway. I only want to work with whoever inspires me. Right now that's Outkast, Green Day, John Mayer. And I really like The Diplomats.''
In addition to producing music, West has become a hands-on video director, and plans to do clips for all of his artists.
''One of the nice things about doing videos is that you can incorporate the things that you encounter in real life,'' says West, who survived a severe car wreck three years ago. ''You can take the worst things in the world and make it something positive and make people feel good about it. It's like I nearly died in an accident, and I made it my first single (Through the Wire).''
Rapper Kanye West's shrewd soul
US hip-hop star Kanye West - who leads the race for this year's Grammys with 10 nominations - rose to prominence by producing songs for artists such as Jay-Z and Alicia Keys.
He then emerged from his behind-the-scenes role to become an artist as well as a producer.
But his solo career almost ended before it began after a near-fatal car crash left West with his jaw wired shut in 2002.
The resulting song, Through the Wire, became West's first UK hit in April 2004 and subsequent album The College Dropout became a transatlantic success, both critically and commercially.
West, 26, began rapping as a teenager at his Chicago school, inspired by the beats and rhymes of 1980s pioneers Run DMC.
Hip-hop producer No ID encouraged West to sample old soul and R&B hits then revive them with an updated sound, an approach that would become his trademark.
"I feel like a lot of the soul that's in those old records that I sample is in me," he said.
"So when I hear them and I put them with the drums and I bring them to the new millennium, it's just like God's doing that. I'm one with them records right there. It's a blessing."
Leaving his Chicago art school after only one year - a move which would later inspire the title of his album - West began his music career co-producing songs for artists Mase and the Madd Rapper.
This drew the attention of superstar rapper Jay-Z, who signed West up to his Roc-A-Fella record label to produce numerous artists on his roster.
West's work gained mainstream recognition when he produced the singles Takeover and Izzo (HOVA) on Jay-Z's own 2001 album Blueprint.
Incorporating samples of Five to One by The Doors and the Jackson Five's I Want You Back respectively, the hits were credited with injecting soul back into hip-hop.
As their success attracted further production work for Jay-Z ('03 Bonnie & Clyde) and artists such as Ludacris (Stand Up) and Alicia Keys (You Don't Know My Name), West announced plans for a solo album.
Driving home from a late-night Los Angeles recording session in October 2002, he was involved in the car crash that left his jaw fractured in three places.
"Anytime I hear about any accident my heart sinks in and I just thank God that I'm still here," he later said.
"That steering wheel could have been two inches further out, and that would have been it."
West's account of the accident sampled Chaka Khan's hit Through the Fire to become the heart of his completed solo album The College Dropout.
Released last year, it was by turns smooth, humorous and sharp and largely avoided the clichéd hip-hop preoccupation with guns, girls and jewellery.
Through the Wire was quickly joined in the UK and US charts by Slow Jamz, on which West collaborated with rapper Twista and Ray actor Jamie Foxx.
The College Dropout spawned two further UK hits and a string of award nominations.
West was shortlisted for 10 Grammys - including nominations for artist and album of the year - and took the best hip-hop artist, producer and album titles at last year's Music of Black Origin (Mobo) Awards.
Now a respected rapper and producer in the influential field of hip-hop, Kanye West is unlikely to regret his decision to leave college early.
Kanye West To Launch Foundation To Combat Rising Dropout Rates
Rapper and producer Kanye West dropped out of college to pursue a musical career, and he even named his debut album the College Dropout, but West still understands the value of an education, and he has launched the Kanye West Foundation to combat the rising dropout rates in schools across the country.
West will host a reception on February 10 to announce the new foundation and its aim to combat the dropout rate by adding more music programs. The rapper will also unveil a painting he commissioned from renowned artist Ernie Barns at the event.
The foundation's first initiative is titled Loop Dreams, and it is designed to support the fight to keep instruments in the schools, and to provide opportunities for 'at-risk' students to learn how to write and produce music while simultaneously improving their academic skills.
In related news, West is slated to perform at the Pepsi Smash Super Bowl concert in Jacksonville, Florida, on Thursday (February 3). He will share the bill with OutKast's Big Boi. On February 13, West will attend and perform at the 47th Annual Grammy Awards where he is up for 10 awards, including Album Of The Year and Rap Album Of The Year. The Grammy Awards will air live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
West is also currently working on a new album, Late Registration, which will be released later this year.
Grammys 2005: West and the rest
With no big theme dominating this year's nominations -- no "year of the woman" or overdue acknowledgement of the chart supremacy of hip-hop -- the big story of the 2004 Grammy Awards is the recognition of an extraordinary artist who happens to hail from Chicago.
The voting membership of the Recording Academy, which sponsors the Grammys, justifiably honored 27-year-old South Side native Kanye West as a triple threat -- an exceptionally talented rapper, producer and songwriter -- and rewarded his 2004 debut "The College Dropout" with a phenomenal 10 nominations, including several in the "big four" categories viewed as the awards' most prestigious.
This slate of Grammy nods is surpassed only by Michael Jackson and Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds for the most in a single year -- with 12 each -- and it ties with other recent multiple-nominee giants Carlos Santana and Lauryn Hill, according to Grammy historians. It is also the most nominations ever for a Chicago artist.
Because of the wide-ranging diversity of the 2004 contenders -- a better slate overall than the Grammys have mustered since the mid '90s -- West is unlikely to duplicate the sweeps that Santana and Hill achieved, claiming nearly all of the categories they were nominated in. But veteran Grammy handicappers and music-industry insiders predict that West will have a very good night, nonetheless, coming home with at least three or four golden phonograph statuettes for his mantelpiece.
Grammy executives are prohibited from talking about the nominations or offering their insights into the byzantine politics of the academy, but one high-ranking insider confided that in addition to voters being attracted by West's obvious and multifaceted technical skills -- he also directs his own videos -- they were impressed by the positive message of his lyrics, especially the hit single "Jesus Walks," which finds the artist offering a thankful prayer for surviving a devastating car wreck.
In addition to the varied slate of competitors -- with Usher and Alicia Keys also topping the list -- the biggest factors working against West on Grammy night are his outspoken and notoriously cocky attitude (though let's hope voters will realize that's just part and parcel of the hip-hop world) and the Grammys' consistent and undeniable urge to honor venerated elders who have recently passed away.
"Genius Loves Company," a posthumous collection of tepid duets, is one of the least remarkable albums in Ray Charles' great career, but it became his best selling disc ever after his death last June. Grammy voters love big chart hits almost as much as they love dead legends, and they also like to be seen as being hipper than Oscar voters, who are weighing the merits of Jamie Foxx's starmaking turn as Charles in "Ray."
Kanye West get props or die trying
Oh, you will believe in him. You have no choice.
"I'm asking you all, I'm begging you all," Kanye, standing on a table, pleads with the conviction of a civil-rights leader leading a march. "If y'all feel this is a zero, give it a zero. If you feel like it is a five, give it a five. If y'all believe that this is the future, which is what I believe ... If y'all feel like this is what the game needs right now, if y'all feel that this anticipation ... I delivered what y'all all been waiting for, then let it ... what's the word? Reciprocate? I dropped out of college, can I have a thesaurus?"
The 26-year-old is speaking to a gathering that includes John Mayer, Common, a handful of journalists and other music-industry tastemakers inside New York's Sony Studios. They've all been privileged enough to preview his debut, The College Dropout, almost a month before its February 10 release.
"I'm asking you all not to let the future pass you by and be a part of history, 'cause this is history in the making, man," he says before playing the first track.
Kanye is going to do more than just play the records. He's going to be lip-syncing, singing and yelling his raps like it's the finale of a sold-out, three-night stint at Madison Square Garden. He's going to jump on tables, pound his chest like an athlete who just made a winning shot, pose in a b-boy stance and flail his arms, all with enough vim and vigor that you'd think he was ready to fight.
Hip-hop's latest purveyor of common-man music not only wants you to feel his music, he wants you to feel his struggle. If he thinks that he doesn't have 150 percent of your undivided attention, he's going to put you on blast. A couple of times at the listening session, he stopped a song and started it over when he thought there might be someone in the room who was not getting it.
"Abby, remember when they ain't believe in me?!" West, standing on a tabletop and pounding his right fist into the palm of his left hand, rapped a cappella before talking. "How many months ago was that? What did it take? It took 'Slow Jamz' to have 9,000 spins. Or it took 'Through the Wire' [to become a hit]. Do y'all remember when they ain't believe in me?!"
If it seems like Kanye has a chip on his shoulder, it's because he's had to labor to the brink of exhaustion to tell the world what he's believed since he was a kid: Given the chance, he could change the rap game. His words would do more than strike a chord, they would give listeners flashbacks to when they'd seen or felt the same situation he talked about. And his beats — we all know about his beats. So soulful and rich they've been known to make people rejoice like it was the last day of school.
"I'm a pretty smart dude. I knew that if I could rap even anywhere near the caliber of my beats, I would kill the game," Kanye, a couple of weeks removed from the listening sessions, surmised modestly. "Murder the game."
He seems to be on the right track. "We've heard him from a production standpoint for a minute, and he's always come through in a major way," Alicia Keys said recently, "but he really has crazy rhyme skills. The way he puts his thoughts together, the way he puts everything in this mixture, it's something everybody can feel."
That's exactly the idea, West said. "I try to see how I can express things in my life that other people will relate to and feel like, 'Man, I'm glad that somebody said that.' There are so many people that vent through other stuff other than shootin'."
His regular-Joe ditties have emerged at perhaps the perfect point in hip-hop. With the game mired in G-Unit wannabes more concerned with piling up a lyrical body count than writing witty punch lines, West is making tunes about being frustrated with his job as a cashier, being self-conscious and overcoming racial stereotypes.
"I saw his show at [New York club] S.O.B.'s and I was like, 'Man, hip-hop is back again,' " Common said. "It felt so good that it was coming through this brother. I'm honored to be on his album and geeked what the brother is bringing to hip-hop. I don't think nobody is coming with beats and rhymes, putting that package together like this right now."
In its first week in stores, The College Dropout debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, selling more than 441,000 copies, while "Slow Jamz" is the #1 song on Billboard's Hot 100, and "Through the Wire" is #15. The blockbuster record he produced for Alicia Keys, "You Don't Know My Name," has been a top 10 staple the past 15 weeks, and the record he produced for Ludacris, "Stand Up," reached #1 a few weeks ago and has held firm in the top 30.
"It's all a matter of a turning tide," West said. "Compared to movies, there's a time of mad gangsta movies, then it's comedies, then it's family films, then it's back to gangsta flicks, [because] we missed the gangsta flicks. I'm doing this little wave [of music], it's going to make people fiend for good gangsta music again after my wave is waving goodbye. I realize that time will happen. I enjoy it and I realize that it's all entertainment."
"[When] we worked together on 'You Don't Know My Name,' " Keys said, "we'd be in the middle of doing something and he'd break out and start rhyming. This is how passionate he is about what he does. He'd be like, 'Feel me on this,' and start putting together this idea he's working on. That's what I love about him. You really feel the genuine love from him."
The Cliffs Notes version of West's life goes like this: He started rapping in the third grade and started making beats in the seventh grade because he didn't realize that most mic rockers hired people to make tracks for them. When he was 15 he met famed Chicago producer No I.D., who supplied the tracks for many of Common's early records. While No I.D. mentored him on sampling soul artists like Kanye's favorite group at the time, the Ohio Players, West further cultivated his love for hip-hop.
"[A Tribe Called Quest's] Low End Theory was the first album I bought," he remembered. "I was like, 'Oh sh--, [they] have whole albums? They don't just have the singles?' I was like, 'I'mma start buying a bunch of sh--.' "
Years later, after stints at the American Academy of Art and Chicago State University as well as a brief learning period under the wing of Deric "D-Dot" Angelettie, just about the time Kanye's name started buzzing around the music industry for his flawless production on most of Jay-Z's The Blueprint, he started his campaign.
He was bringing back the heart-grabbing soulful samples that RZA so cleverly mastered in the early and mid-'90s, and people were starting to do their homework on him, finding out that he'd been putting in work for years on such classic cuts as Beanie Sigel's "The Truth" and "Nothing Like It," Jay's "This Can't Be Life" and Nas' "Poppa Was a Player." But Kanye didn't want anyone to get it twisted. He wasn't a producer who rapped, he was a rapper who produced. Still, people slept on him.
"Man, people told me that I couldn't rap, that I couldn't sell a record, that I didn't have a chance. And it hurt me. Nobody believed in me."
West was undaunted. He visited the offices of every hip-hop publication and played his music, shook hands and even rhymed for editors. When he wasn't getting his own publicity, he shopped his demo to labels and almost hit the jackpot with Capitol Records in 2002.
"Kanye was never down on himself," said Joe "3H" Weinberger of Capitol's A&R department. Two years ago, he came oh so close to inking a deal with West. "He'd be ready to rap on the spot, ready to tell his story on the spot, ready to make a record on the spot. He was probably the hungriest dude I ever saw. Whatever it takes. He wasn't all caked up yet, but he still had his Kanye swagger. It was definite star quality the day I saw him. He played me three songs and I was like, 'What!?' His flow was different, his beats were great, he was performing the whole time. The energy was there, it was some real star-quality stuff."
The Capitol deal was all but signed, and then at the 11th hour, 3H said, another person in the company got in the ear of Capitol's president and the deal was nixed. "He told the president, 'He's just a producer/rapper. Those record won't do well. He'll never sell.' "
Luckily for West, Dame Dash saw enough potential in him to offer a deal. The two had already built a relationship via West's production work for several Roc-A-Fella acts.
"I was definitely feeling a little bit of anxiety 'cause my man Jay-Z is retiring," Dash said. "People were on me like, 'What you gonna do after this?' I personally signed Kanye, and I wanna take credit for that because I feel good that I believed in him and I saw his vision. What I didn't see was how big his vision was and how he was going to attack it himself. He's like me and Jay put into one. He's a businessman, he's an artist, he's a producer. On a bigger level, he's positive."
Kanye's positive attitude has certainly been tested over the years. As he would find out, securing a recording contract wouldn't mean an end to the problems life throws at you.
In the blink of an eye my whole life changed," West said of his October 2002 car accident in Los Angeles. "From me trying to get out of the way of this car, I ended up in a head-on collision. Then I remember looking in the rearview mirror and seeing my jaw cracked in three places. These teeth right here in the middle, I'm surprised they lined them up so well being that they didn't put the whole jaw in the right place."
Hence West's jaw being a bit puffy on the right side.
"I remember calling my girl, and the first thing I said to her was, 'I'm sorry for hurting myself' 'cause I knew how it would affect [my loved ones]," West said. "So she called my mother, and my mother called back and said, 'Ah, baby, are you OK?' I just remember saying, 'It huuurts!' like a little kid. It hurt bad as hell."
West said the agony he was going through with his injury would be nothing compared to the heartache he'd suffer if he couldn't tell his story on wax. So as soon as he was physically able, he took some painkillers and recorded "Through the Wire" — with his mouth wired shut.
"All I kept thinking about was D.O.C., how he was in a car wreck," Kanye said. "I was at the concert in Chicago that he was supposed to go to the night of his car accident. I was just at a Hip-Hop Summit with D.O.C., and while he was sitting up there giving his speech, man, it almost brought me to tears. At the point before the accident, my whole goal in life was to eventually be able to do nothing. Now that I see the type of impact I'm gonna make on music and the community, my responsibility is now to do everything for the fans, for the community."
"Through the Wire" wasn't the only painstaking endeavor he had to go through while making his self-produced The College Dropout.
To get 16 members of the Boys Choir of Harlem on "Two Words," he had to spend $10,000 for their appearance fee and travel hours into the woods of upstate New York just to record them. He didn't have to pay Ludacris to get him on the chorus of "Breathe In, Breathe Out," he just had to give up three of his much-sought-after beats for free, one of which turned into "Stand Up."
It took West six months to draw inspiration just for the second verse of "Jesus Walks," while it took more than 70 hours to make "The New Workout Plan." "We Don't Dare" had its title changed from "Drug Dealer" and had to have its three verses cut down from eight. "School Spirit" was in serious jeopardy of not making the album because of trouble clearing the sample from Aretha Franklin's "Spirit in the Dark," and at the last minute Lauryn Hill reneged on clearing the sample from her "Mystery of Iniquity" on "All Falls Down." West had to get singer Syleena Johnson to re-sing Hill's lyrics.
And when all that was done, Kanye still went back and reworked the entire album because it had been bootlegged and leaked on the Internet.
"It's so much that goes into one of these records," West explained of what some say is his tendency to be overly sensitive about his music. "It's not contrived and it's not a copy of anything. It's also so from the heart, and I feel so connected with it. When it comes out, I feel people are going to be connected with it."
West has trumpeted himself so passionately, some have labeled him arrogant — a rep he's all too aware of and quick to defend against.
"Would it be arrogance or confidence?" he questioned. "Because I'm outspoken? Or because I feel confident? I feel like I have the right to tell you. My thing is, I just like to debate. I really like my raps. ... But it's not from arrogance, it's from me just debating and wanting to get my point across. Like, 'You all need to understand.' Any situation I'm in, I just wanna stand out."
Kanye is mindful that the more popular he gets, the more his boastful behavior will be dissected. So he's trying to play like Larry David and curb his enthusiasm — at least a little.
"I think I've got a lot of growing to do," he admitted. "I've got a lot of energy. I'm growing and growing every day, and I'm finding out ways to wear my success with more dignity. The younger you are, the newer your money is, the more ignorant you're gonna act. I need to learn and have the opportunity to be around people like Quincy Jones and Oprah Winfrey."
Although he doesn't yet have Jones or Winfrey as mentors, the musical double threat is picking up some jewels from the Jiggaman.
"He consults me about handling fame, about shutting down malls and dealing with so many people pulling at you," West said of his talks with Jay-Z. "Different moves, what records to go to next. Some of the stuff I wouldn't even put it on the air. It's stuff for me to personally have in my mind. 'Cause if I give away the secrets, people can go around it."
Lord knows nobody has made it easy for Kanye, so why should he make it for anyone else?
Kanye West had his best moments in 2004
No kicks from champagne, just hits and ten Grammy nods.
With the multiplatinum success of his debut album, The College Dropout, Kanye West, 27, had one hell of a freshman year in the music biz. Well, not exactly a freshman year -- he's been scoring major hits since 2001 as a producer for Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, Ludacris and others. "Kan the Louis Vuitton Don" -- as he likes to be called -- proved his utter domination by ruling the charts, the radio waves and MTV. He checked in with us on the day he received ten Grammy nominations, more than any other artist this year.
How much of 2004 do you remember?
Every moment I had to soak it in, I'd stop and soak it in.
Can you describe your year in five words?
Overwhelming, unpredictable, sensational, confrontational and inspirational. Can I give one more? Powerful.
How many bottles of Cristal did you pop in 2004?
Only about ten. I don't particularly like champagne that much. I like Hennessy and Coke -- I'd say I ordered that well over a hundred times.
Is that more or less times than you've had sex in 2004?
Hmm . . . I'm not really that sure. I'd prefer not to say.
Did you flip out at any point?
I used to flip out all the time. I remember flipping out when Rolling Stone only gave College Dropout three-and-a-half stars. Now, every magazine is calling it the album of the year. I bet that won't get printed.
What's your favorite album of the year, besides your own?
Franz Ferdinand's album is incredible. I like the energy, the vibe of that record, the gritty drums and the songwriting.
Did it make you dance?
I can dance a little bit, but I don't do good with white-people dances.
When have you been happiest this year?
Working on videos, being in post [production] and seeing the video come together. Like when we got the color right on "Jesus Walks" -- that really vintage feel.
What was your favorite vacation spot?
I was at the Four Seasons on Maui, chillin' with my girl. It's the best hotel I ever stayed in. That shit was crazy. You just lay out on the beach, but what was dope about it was they'd bring you popsicles and stuff.
Was there a moment late this year when you listened to College Dropout and said, "Shit, this is awesome!"
Yeah. Especially now that I'm working on the next album, I had to listen to the competition, listen to the best albums. For College Dropout, I listened to The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill at least a thousand times while I was working on it. Now I got to compete with College Dropout, The Love Below, Midnight Marauders, Jodeci, John Mayer, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lil' Wayne and Juvenile.
What's the best gift you received?
There's the ten Grammy nominations, but from a lot of people I received the gift of inspiration.
Ten Grammy nominations -- you're killing the competition. How does it feel?
It's not about the competition. It's about competing with yourself. That's why when I play video games, I like playing racing games instead of fighting games. Fighting games are won by beating someone else down. Racing is a matter of figuring out your technique and driving as fast as you can -- and that's how my life has been this year.
What's the most money you bet on a poker hand this year?
I don't play poker. I played some blackjack and lost about $2,000 on one hand. That was a happy moment [laughs].
How much pot did you smoke, roughly?
None, actually. I used to have a girl that smoked weed, and that didn't work out. [Sings] "I don't know why I get so high." My head starts hurtin' and all. If you think about it, nothing compares to this whole ride I've been on, the way I feel onstage and the audience is singing my song. I guess that's how a crackhead must feel when he's smoking crack. If he's gotta take hits to keep it going, I gotta make hits to keep it going.
What did you buy your mom this year?
I got her a drop-top Mercedes-Benz CLK500 and a house in L.A.
Who's the coolest person you met?
I don't know what's cooler: meeting John Mayer this year for the first time, or meeting Michel Gondry, the director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and all those White Stripes videos. I saw him at Dave Chappelle's Block Party.
What do you have planned for 2005?
Avoiding the sophomore slump.
Kanye West understands the preciousness of life
It was in October of 2002 that his was nearly abruptly taken from him. Driving back to his hotel late one night after a Los Angeles recording session, the acclaimed producer/burgeoning rapper was involved in a devastating, near fatal car accident in which he sustained injuries that left his jaw fractured in three places. News reports of the accident quickly spread throughout the music industry, and the disturbing image of the usually-slender West's suddenly bloated, severely bruised visage laid up in a hospital bed became indelibly ingrained in the conscience of a shocked rap nation.
"I have flashbacks of what happened everyday, " Kanye confesses. "And anytime I hear about any accident my heart sinks in and I just thank God that I'm still here. That steering wheel could have been two inches further out, and that would have been it. You find out how short life is an how blessed you are to be here."
But a remarkable thing happened in the immediate aftermath of this tragedy. Kanye used the accident as inspiration for one of the most arresting and triumphant creative statements rap music has ever seen. Just weeks after skirting death, and with his jaw still literally wired shut, he recorded "Through the Wire," a pointed and personal account of the events that resonates with uncanny wit and raw emotion.
Rhymes West: "I must got a angel/ Cuz look like death missed his ass/ Unbreakable/ What you thought they call me Mr. Glass/ I look back on my life like the ghost of Christmas past/ Toys R Us where I used to spend that Christmas cash/ And I still won't grow up/ I'm a grown ass kid/ So I should be like other stupid shit that I did/ But I'm a champion/ So I turned tragedy to triumph/ Make music that's fire/ Spit my soul through the wires."
Very simply, the song marks the emergence of hip hop's most important new voice. Rap music's storied history has seen several artists play the dual roles of word wielder on the mic and trackmaster behind the boards. But if many have gained notoriety for their double duty activities, only a few have exerted a profound impact on the direction of the music overall. Add to the latter Kanye West. With his highly anticipated debut LP for Roc-A-Fella Records, The College Dropout, acclaimed aural architect West not only produces, writes and performs his own music and lyrics, but presents himself as a thoroughly well rounded artist with a purpose and musical vision all his own.
"In hip hop people always have pre-conceived ideas about you when you're a producer who also rhymes," explains the 26 year old maestro. "But one of the main things I wanna stress is that Stevie Wonder produced his own music. Prince produced his own music. Tyrone Davis and Bobby Womac - all these different people. And you don't even think about the fact that they created their own songs. So I don't see what I do as being any different."
Heretofore known the sonic visionary behind such hits as Jay-Z's "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)," "Girls Girls Girls," "The Takeover," and "03 Bonnie & Clyde," Beanie Sigel's "The Truth," Scarface's "Guess Who's Back," and Talib Kweli's "Get By," amongst many others, Chicago-bred West is undoubtedly one of most talented and accomplished young producers to have emerged in recent years.
After beginning his career co-producing songs for Mase's Harlem World, and the Madd Rapper, West caught his big break when his work attracted the attention of decision-makers at Jay-Z's Roc-A-Fella Records, who lauded his soulful approach to hip hop production. West-helmed hits frequently rely on vintage R&B samples ingeniously reconfigured for today's digital low end theories. First fully showcased on Jigga's 2001 classic, The Blueprint, Kanye's signature style has since rejuvenated the soundscape of rap music as a whole‹injecting warmth and melodic savvy where cold keyboards previously dominated‹and spawned a host of imitators.
"I feel like a lot of the soul that's in those old records that I sample is in me," says the now tri-state residing transplant. "So when I hear 'em and I put 'em with the drums and I bring 'em to the new millennium it's just like God's doing that. I'm one with them records right there. It's a blessing. And best believe I saved some monsters for my album!"
Indeed, the soul that informs Kanye's tracks reaches another level on his own material. Unbeknownst to those who may only be familiar with him via his boardsmanship, Kanye has rhymed avidly since his Chi-town days. So when Roc co-founder Damon Dash heard a demo of Kanye's solo songs in 2002, the young producer immediately joined to the label's stable of artists. Having achieved his professional success sans a university diploma (he dropped out of art school in Chicago after one year), Kanye explains the meaning of the album's title as "just saying set your own goals in life. Don't let anyone ictate to you what you need to do to be."
The College Dropout is a testament to such free-thinking, an astounding debut effort whose sensibilities runs the gamut from the insightful and inspirational to the infectious, comedic and clever. Exhibiting remarkable breadth, the album provides a wealth of surprises for anyone erroneously assuming West's music would go the way of a Roc-A-Fella cookie cutter copy.
See for instance "When It All Falls Down," a track cleverly based around an indelible Lauryn Hill Unplugged vocal loop, that addresses materialism in the Black community with self deprecating humor and honesty. Or "Two Words" featuring Mos Def, fellow Roc soldier Freeway, and the grand choral backing of the Harlem Boys Choir, which provides a majestic platform for Kanye and company's inspired, nearly entirely mono-syllabic wordplay. Elsewhere, "Slow Jams," featuring actor/comedian/singer Jamie Foxx and fellow Second City vocal wonder Twista, hilariously lampoons quiet storm conventions without succumbing to novelty itself. "The Good, the Bad, the Ugly" finds Kanye and former Tribe Called Quest associate Consequence brilliantly trading fluid verses over mesmerizing Hi Records string lines. And the guitar-driven "Breathe In Breathe Out" featuring mouth of the south Ludacris is a playful club anthem containing no shortage of lyrical wit on Kanye's part: "Golly, more of that bullshit ice rap/ I gotta apologize to Mos and Kweli/ But is it cool to rap about gold if I tell the world I copped it from Ghana and Mali?/ First nigga with a Benz and a backpack/ Ice chain Cardy lens and a knapsack/ I always said if I rapped I'd say something significant/ But now I'm rappin bout money, hoes and rims again."
But perhaps most indicative of Kanye¹s determination to remain creative in the face of adversity is "My Way," a song that impressively answers the haters and naysayers who may doubt his solo skills. Rhymes West over a sped up soul cover of the Paul Anka-penned classic of the same name: "It goes my way/ Chi way/ This way or the highway/ Shots will lay you off on your day off like Friday/ The Roc got yay but they ain't snortin' it/ They just got him up at Bassline recordin' shit/ Yeah I been broke/ Now I'm good, bitch/ I ain't no Kennedy/ But I'm hood rich/ So I say my way to take you to the ghetto/ And everybody else, thank you very little."
For a rap audience continually weaned on thug threats and ice worship, College Dropout, contrary to its title, provides an educational reminder of what it means to be compelling and human in hip hop. As one of a precious few rappers with actually something to say in his songs, Kanye is fully aware that his beats provide the best conduit to absorbing his not-so-trendy content. "The best thing about the fact that I did beats is I can make the perfect plateaus for me to present information over. I make music that'll catch people's ear automatically. Then when they hear what I'm saying they go, "Oh shit, he saying some shit right there."
And even this collegiate dropout admits that as a vocalist he's learned some valuable lessons of his own while punching the clock at the Roc.
"It's like if you wanna rap like Jay, it's hard to rap like Jay and not rap about what Jay is rapping about," says Kanye. "So what I did is incorporate all these different forms of rap together - like I'll use old school patterns, I come up with new patterns in my head every day. Once I found out exactly how to rap about drugs and exactly how to rap about say no to drugs," I knew that I could fill the exact medium between that. My persona is that I'm the regular person. Just think about whatever you've been through in the past week, and I have a song about that on my album."
In essence, Kanye West's music has arrived not just for the sake of defying expectations, but to express the truisms of every day life as no one in hip-hop has done before.
"In music and society people tell you to pick a side," Kanye concludes. Are you mainstream or underground? Do you rhyme about nice cars, or about riding the train? Are you ignorant or do you know something about history? But I'm a person who I can do all these different things. It's like everybody is taking that fork in the road. They don't see the rainbow in the middle. And I'm about to ride that. I'm the prism. And my music comes out in colors."
Kanye West Is Working On New Album
Kanye West says album is 75 percent done. After wrapping up his tour with Usher, Kanye West has been hard at work on his next record, due out in the spring of 2005. West told MTV that he is about 75 percent done with the album, which he plans to call "Late Registration." The new release will likely include a duet with singer-songwriter John Mayer. When MTV asked who else West was collaborating with besides Mayer, West answered, "Nobody!"
Kanye West's 2004 was good
It's been a very good year for Kanye West. He has a hit record on his hands with his multi-platinum debut, "The College Dropout," and he's been nominated for 10 Grammy awards, including Album of the Year and Best New Artist. He also won four Billboard awards and was named one of Rolling Stone magazine's People of the Year.
When asked to describe his year in five words, Kanye tells RollingStone.com, "Overwhelming, unpredictable, sensational, confrontational and inspirational. Can I give one more? Powerful."
And among West's goals for 2005? "Avoiding the sophomore slump," he says.
You can catch Kanye West this week on Regis and Kelly Live. He'll be performing "Jesus Walks".
Kanye West has deal with Zingy Mobile Media
After appearing in Boost Mobile promotional spots, Kanye West has just signed a deal to provide voice recordings for Zingy Mobile Media.
In addition to voice recordings, Kanye will also deliver screensavers, wallpapers, voicemail greetings, voice ringtones and voice ringback tones -a replacement that signals a call is ringing on the other end.
Zingy has also inked a deal to distribute unreleased Aaliyah material via mobile content, including "Ave Maria." Zingy will donate part of the proceeds to the Aaliyah Memorial Fund, a foundation that supports Alzheimer's, AIDS and breast cancer research. Kanye and Aaliyah's material will range from $1.49 to $2.99 per download. Zingy has previously signed contracts with Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, Ludacris, D12, Fabolous and Jurassic 5.
Kanye West Competes With Himself
With 10 Grammy nominations, it seems Kanye West is giving other artists a run for their money these days. But West insists, "It's not about the competition."
The Chicago hip-hop artist tells RollingStone.com, "It's about competing with yourself." West adds, "That's why when I play video games, I like playing racing games instead of fighting games. Fighting games are won by beating someone else down. Racing is a matter of figuring out your technique and driving as fast as you can -- and that's how my life has been this year."
And besides the Grammy nominations for his album "The College Dropout," what's the best gift West received in 2004? Says West, "From a lot of people I received the gift of inspiration."
Kanye West debut album named best of 2004 in UK
US rapper Kanye West's smash hit debut The College Dropout has been voted the best album of 2004, according to an innovative "poll of polls" compiled from British music magazines and newspapers and published on Tuesday.
The supposedly definitive list by music retailer HMV took an aggregate of every best of 2004 album list published around Britain.
The results saw the album by producer-turned-star West, which has gone platinum in Britain, anointed the best of the year, ahead of two other debut titles in second and third.
"Scissor Sisters" by the flamboyant New York dance group of the same name was the critics' combined second choice of the year, with another eponymous effort, from Scottish art-rockers Franz Ferdinand, in third.
"A Grand Don't Come For Free" by British slice-of-life rapper The Streets and "Abattoir Blues/Lyre Of Orpheus" from Australian singer-songwriter Nick Cave completed the top five.
Rapper Kanye West Leads Grammy Nominees
Chicago rapper Kanye West, who survived a near-fatal car crash to record a debut album that ranked among the year's biggest sellers, led the field of Grammy Award contenders with nominations in 10 categories, organizers said on Tuesday.
R&B singers Alicia Keys and Usher picked up eight nominations each, followed by late "Genius of Soul" Ray Charles with seven, and punk rock band Green Day with six.
Jazz pianist Norah Jones, country veteran Loretta Lynn, funk musician Prince and engineer Al Schmitt each earned five.
West, 26, already a successful producer, started recording his first album in 2001. But work on the project was halted in October 2002 when he was involved in a car crash.
Even though his jaw was wired shut, he returned to the studio to record the track "Through the Wire," which related his experience.
His debut album, "The College Dropout," a soulful mix of hip-hop and gangsta rap, has sold more than 2.5 million copies in the United States, making it the year's fifth-biggest seller.
It will compete for the coveted album of the year Grammy with Charles' posthumous duets album "Genius Loves Company," Green Day's "American Idiot," Keys' "The Diary of Alicia Keys" and Usher's "Confessions.
West was also cited in the leading key categories of song of the year for "Jesus Walks" and for best new artist. The other nominees in the latter category included Texan rock trio Los Lonely Boys, pop band Maroon5, young English soul singer Joss Stone and country singer Gretchen Wilson.
The other songs nominated for song of the year, a prize that goes to the songwriters, were singer/songwriter John Mayer's "Daughters," Keys' "If I Ain't Got You," country singer Tim McGraw's "Live Like You Were Dying" and rock band Hoobastank's "The Reason."
Record of the year nominees were funk band Black Eyed Peas with "Let's Get It Started," Charles and Jones with the duet "Here We Go Again," Green Day with "American Idiot," Los Lonely Boys' "Heaven" and Usher featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris with their former U.S. chart-topper "Yeah!"
Winners of the 47th annual Grammy Awards, which are voted on by 13,000 members of the music industry, will be announced on Feb. 13 during ceremonies at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.