Kanye Omari West was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and moved with his mother to Chicago, Illinois when he was three years-old. 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.
West attended art classes at the American Academy of Art in Chicago, and also enrolled at Chicago State University, but left to focus on his music career.
While attending school, West produced for local artists. He later produced 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 effort at producing was on Chicago rapper Grav's 1996 debut album Down to Earth. West produced eight tracks on the album. While the album did not sell, West soon began producing for higher profile artists. In 1998–1999 he produced for Jermaine Dupri, Foxy Brown, Goodie Mob, and the group Harlem World.
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West got his big break in the year 2000 however 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 said that to create the beat for "This Can't Be Life" he sped up the drum beat from Dr. Dre's song "Xxplosive."
His style of production originally used pitched-up vocal samples from soul songs incorporated with his own drums and instruments. Over time, Kanye expanded and incorporated R&B, baroque pop, trip hop, arena rock, folk, alternative, electronica, synth-pop - even 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. His five albums, all of which have gone platinum, have received numerous awards and critical acclaim.
On September 9, 2007, West performed at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards, losing in every category he was nominated for. Soon after, he 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.
On November 10, 2007, West's mother, Donda West, died of complications from cosmetic surgery involving abdominoplasty and breast augmentation. Her death was surrounded by controversy. 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.
As of 2011, West is the most honored rapper in Grammy history with a total of fourteen awards. All albums have been very commercially successful, with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy becoming his fourth consecutive #1 album in the U.S. upon release. As of May 2011, West currently has 4 songs above the 3 million mark with "Gold Digger" selling 3,086,000, "Stronger" selling 4,363,000, "Heartless" selling 3,742,000 and "E.T." selling 3,157,000 making him the top selling male digital artist of all time.
West also runs his own record label GOOD Music, home to artists such as John Legend, Common and Kid Cudi. West's mascot and trademark is "Dropout Bear," a teddy bear which has appeared on the covers of three of his five albums as well as various single covers and music videos.
About.com ranked Kanye West #8 on their "Top 50 Hip-Hop Producers" list. On May 16, 2008, Kanye West was crowned by MTV as the year's #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 #3 on their list of Top 10 Producers of the decade.
West has made his share of mistakes. Here's one of his biggest: 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.
The negative response was immense. Embarrassed he posted two apologies for the outburst on his personal blog. After Swift appeared on The View two days after the outburst, partly to discuss the matter, West called her to apologize personally.