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Kanye West – One Of The Most Influential Artists Of Today

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Kanye West was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on June 8, 1977. West’s mother, Dona was a professor of English at Chicago State University. And West for most of his life was raised on Chicago’s middle-class south side with his mother where he was drawn to the South Side’s hip-hop scene. When West graduated he won a scholarship to study at Chicago’s American Academy of Art, but he dropped out to pursue music, inspiring his iconic album “The College Drop Out” which would later drop in the peak of Kanye’s career. West was able to develop a signature style named “chipmunk soul” characterized by sped-up soul samples.

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His first big break was when he handled the production one of Jay- Z’s songs on his album Dynasty: Roc La Familia leading to him producing four songs on his next album The Blueprint, widely regarded as one of the greatest rap albums of all time. From this point he went on to produce for Mos Def, Beyoncé, Ludacris, Alicia Keys and many other artists. But Kanye didn’t just like being the one behind the scenes in the studio he wanted to be the stellar act. But Kanye lacked what other rappers in the game all had they were “gangster” and all carried street cred that were the prerequisites to jump into the rap game. Jay Z later told Time magazine: “We all grew up street guys who had to do whatever we had to do to get by. Then there’s Kanye, who to my knowledge has never hustled a day in his life. I didn’t see how it could work. ” And West received similar feedback from other labels. But with hesitation Damon Dash signed him to Roc-A-Fella in 2002. That October after signing with his record label West involved in a head-on car collision that left his jaw shattered, this didn’t hold him back from his dream of wanting to change the rap game. While his jaw was still wired shut he recorded a song called “Through the Wire” and was able to finish the rest of the album, “The College Drop Out” while recuperating. Some songs off that album were leaked on internet shortly before the actual release date and Kanye decided to change every single song and sound off that album.

West’s highlights as an artist didn’t just stop at the College Drop Out debut, he created many other albums that changed the sound of hip hop. He spent a whole year working on “Late Registration” where he featured an orchestra, showcased his mix of hard-edge, city-bred beats with soaring strings and worked with composer John Brion whom had never worked with a rapper prior to Kanye West. Gold Digger which was a hit of this album that features samples from a 1954 hit “I’ve Got a Women” by Ray Charles gave Charles writing cred and have the honor of having this song at number one on the Billboard Top 100 a year or so after he passed away. According to Billboard’s rankings it was the 9th most played song between 2000-2009. Later albums such as Graduation drew influences from The Stones and Led Zeppelin selling 957, 000 copies in its first six days, going straight to No. 1. In 2015 Kanye West became the only rapper to work with Beatles legend Paul McCartney releasing “Four Five Seconds”.

There was a lot of controversy about his seventh album “Life of Pablo” where he fired shots prior to the release through several tweets where he mentioned the trial of Bill Cosby for drugging and raping women, and he also urged Mark Zuckerberg to invest $1 Billion into his “ideas” and also made claims about being $53 million dollars in debt, but aside from these controversies it became West’s sixth solo album to debut at Number 1. In 2012 West moved away from the music spotlight and signed a deal with Nike for sneakers, the first drop was the Air Yeezy Zen Greys. He then left Nike to sign with Addidas, due to a bigger contract offer creating the Yeezy’s empire that is now worth $1. 5 Billion dollars that expanded from sneakers to clothing. In between the creation one the biggest brands of our time came his marriage with Kim Kardashian, causing a huge media attention that has given him the spot light since.

Every one of Kanye’s moves is constantly being over looked by the media and has even reached as far as getting him a meeting in the oval office with Donald Trump. Kanye’s mental health has been in question since his mother passed away back in 2007, the rapper caught an addiction to opioids and has gone on several rants and has also lead him to suicidal thoughts when he is off the meds. Some of his actions have given him the negative light in the media some of his disturbance include walking off stage in the middle of his concerts, and making comments about other stars such as at the VMA’s where he took the mic from Taylor Swift and proceeded to take her shine from receiving her award by saying that Beyoncé deserved it more, and in recent times he received lots of negative feedback from not just the media but also his fans when he went on TMZ to say that “slavery was a choice” while wearing a ‘Make America Great Again’ cap, this infuriated the African American community that supported him. But aside from Kanye’s negative media coverage that he has received over the years he is still an artist that everyone is constantly watching and paying attention to what he drops next whether it be sneakers or music. Kanye is always bringing something unexpected to the table such as his idea to run for president in the year 2020.

I chose Kanye West as someone to do my Midterm paper on because aside from his crazy media rants and media coverage, I could admit that he is easily one of the most influential artists of our time. From his different music styles to his different political views Kanye West is the only artist who isn’t afraid to be blunt about his views regardless of the outcome. I also grew up listening to his Chipmunk soul mixtape that samples sounds from classic artists such as Al Green and Ray Charles that he would use later throughout the years in his new albums, specifically that mixtape will always have a special place in my heart because it was what first introduced me to soul music and the person who showed me the mixtape is someone who will always hold a special place in my heart. To me specifically Kanye’s sound is amazing regardless of his negative rep his music is truly art and he is so confident about it. He changed the sound of “hard core” hip hop and made it soft to the point where it could still be considered hip hop. Kanye’s discography as an artist will go down as one of the greatest and people will listen back and see what true influence he had on the 21st century as a whole. From fashion to new music features and sounds Kanye West will be the face of our era because he always has something new and is always trying to innovate our society to have their own ideas and develop their own styles regardless of what the person next to us is wearing, he shaped all of the new rappers coming up to be more on the side of fashion and new sounds rather than lyrically and what rep they had in the streets. He changed the sound and look of Hip-Hop forever. x

15 July 2020

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