kanye west

This is How Kanye Got to the Top

Photo: Danny Moloshok/Reuters

Kanye West is the lord of the mics whose arrogance is surpassed only by his ability. We unpick his Runway rise from throne watcher to firmly ensconced status as Yeezus.


A star was born. Raised by his English professor mother, Donda, Yeezus was rapping by the age of 8. Music eventually beat books and he became a college dropout. “Some career goals don’t require college,” said Donda. “It was more about having the guts to embrace who you are.”


West caught the ear of Jay-Z, who taps him up to produce 5 tracks on his seminal album The Blueprint. “Kanye has never hustled,” said Jay-Z. “I didn’t see how it could work.”


Kanye crashes driving home from the studio and wakes up in the hospital, his jaw wired shut, but charged with inspiration. He channels the pain into Through The Wire. “It was my medicine.”


Irritated by copycats, West reinvented himself with Late Registration, a $2 million investment from his own pocket. “I’m always going left until everyone is going left, then I’ll go right again,” he said.

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Called out by 50 Cent, the rappers faced off. The hackneyed sound of gangster rap loses to Graduation, an album that marks another evolution. “I have to be creative at all times. I have to learn.”


Kanye’s arrogance peaks when he shuts down Taylor Swift at the VMAs. He returns with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, a rumination on celebrity excess that marks his most boundary-breaking output, and displays a previously unseen willingness for ego-free collaboration. 


Kanye and mentor Jay-Z pair up for Watch The Throne,
a collaborative album and tour. It’s validation for an artist who once struggled to stand out. “ I was always the weakest rapper,” said Kanye. “But every night I was working.” 


Just 15 days before release, Kanye overhauls sixth album Yeezus, with producer Rick Rubin, in pursuit of perfection. “The risk for me would be in not taking one,” he said. The album hits number one and collects a myriad of awards. 


Yeezy headlines Glastonbury, despite a 136,000 signature-strong petition against his appearance. “You are now watching the greatest living rock star on the planet,” he declared. A roaring crowd didn’t disagree. 

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02 2016 The Red Bulletin

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