Born in Atlanta and raised in South Shore, Chicago, Kanye was born to Donda West, an English professor, and Ray West, a former Black Panther and an influential black photojournalist at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution until becoming a Christian counselor. His parents divorced when he was merely 3, and Donda West raised Kanye as a single mother. Despite getting to only see Kanye sporadically, Ray West still maintained a lasting influence on Kanye's temperament, growing up."Like his dad, Kanye has little patience for what he thinks is unjust," writes Donda West in her autobiography, Raising Kanye.
From an early age, West manifested an organic fascination for the arts, jotting down poetic rhymes when he was five years old. His mother recalls Kanye meticulously crafting drawings and composing rap verses by the third grade, and she always stood by his side.
Donda West was a huge influence in his life, encouraging Kanye to pursue his budding vision for hip-hop from a young age. "My mother was my everything," Kanye told MTV News in 2005. She supported him throughout the beginning of his career and helped him keep faith in himself. She's had a lasting influence on his music, illustrated in his songs, "Hey Mama" and "Coldest Winter."
By the seventh grade, West wrote a rap song called "Green Eggs and Ham," and swayed his mother to pay for time in a recording studio. Kanye's mother even paid for a 13-year-old Kanye to record this song in a dingy basement studio," and even accompanied him there. "The microphone was hanging from the ceiling by a wire hanger. But he was so excited, I couldn't say no," Donda West told RedEye in 2007.
Kanye's mother knew the mother of Chicago producer and DJ, No I.D, and got the boys collaborating in hip-hop. No I.D. eventually transfigured into influential, life-long mentor for Kanye. It was from him I.D that West learned how to sample and program beats for the first time by the age of 15.
Kanye attended the American Academy of Art on scholarship for one semester, but his family couldn't afford to pay once that scholarship ran out, so he transferred to Chicago State University, where his mother taught in the English department. Eventually, Kanye dropped out to exclusively pursue his ambition for rap. It broke his mother's heart, but she reluctantly agreed for him to live under her roof if he paid her rent; she gave him a year to work it out, and this really pushed Kanye towards untainted grounds within the hip-hop industry.
To Studio Recordings:
Kanye started nagging Jay Z, who was initially hesitant to sign Kanye. Always the businessman, Jay wasn't sure Kanye's college-educated, pink polo, backpack-wearing style would work in the gangster-driven rap game. When Kanye began to close a deal with Capitol, he eventually took a risk on the rising star.
"I really started grinding, just trying to sell beats to people. I worked a telemarketing job," Kanye told Complex. He'd come home from work and just work on his music. According to Jake Brown's biography of the rapper, Kanye "would be up until 4 in the morning ... focusing on my dream and praying for the day where I could just do that all the time."Without warning, Kanye almost died in a car crash on Oct. 23, 2003. Stuck n the hospital, he had a vision: "I remember when I first talked to him after the accident, and his mouth was all messed up," No I.D. told Billboard. "He was like, 'I figured it out.' I was like, 'What did you figure out?' He said, 'I'm going to rap about this accident. I'm going to use a song and change the direction. I'm going conscious with my music.'"
Without warning, Kanye almost died in a car crash on Oct. 23, 2003. Stuck n the hospital, he had a vision: "I remember when I first talked to him after the accident, and his mouth was all messed up," No I.D. told Billboard. "He was like, 'I figured it out.' I was like, 'What did you figure out?' He said, 'I'm going to rap about this accident. I'm going to use a song and change the direction. I'm going conscious with my music.'"
To Dropping Albums:
Incredibly, less than two weeks after his near-death injury, Kanye recorded "Through the Wire," rapping with his jaw essentially wired shut. If you listen to the track carefully, you can legitimately hear Kanye's subtly muffled voice from his wires. This mixtape set the stage for the rest of his first album: "The name of my album is called The College Dropout," Kanye told MTV two years before it debuted. "All that's saying is make your own decisions. Don't let society tell you, 'This is what you have to do.' Society told me, 'Man, don't move from Chicago.' People told me to stay in school, this music is this, this music is that." But Kanye paved his own way." The College Dropout justified how Kanye had the guts to write his own narrative opposed to the following path that society had constructed for him.
From The College Dropout to his September 2007 release of Graduation, Kanye rapidly rose in fame amidst a notoriously demanding rap game. West created a name for himself in the hip-hop industry by this point.
However, on November 10, 2007, Kanye's mother, Donda West, died of a heart attack due to unanticipated surgical complications during her break reduction from the previous day. Kanye's sudden loss of his mother left him heartbroken and vulnerable, spurring a gradual deterioration of his mental health and a downward spiral of emotional turmoil.
This dark era in his life lasted for many years – prompting a series of untimely, politically-charged, public controversies manipulated through the lens of the media. Chronologically, some of these notorious moments include: Kanye-Taylor MTV Music award moment back in 2009; revealing how Kanye didn't vote, but would've voted for Trump in 2016; showing up to multiple shows of his Saint Pablo Tour before abruptly canceling the rest of tour dates; meeting President Trump at Trump Towers days after his hospitalization in December 2016; ranting on TMZ how slavery was a choice in 2018; praising Trump and endorsing MAGA across his Twitter in April 2018; notably beefing with Taylor Swift, Jay Z, and Drake; and condemning the Me-Too movement for victimizing wealthy men in positions of power during early 2019.
His Jesus Is King Era
To be clear, I'm not saying that we should all just forgive and forget all of Kanye's past mistakes. That's your personal choice. All I am simply asking is for us to empathize and listen to his side of his own narrative before we jumping to judgement on whether Kanye is canceled or not. Also, it is only fair to acknowledge how Kanye's struggles with mental illness (medically diagnosed with bipolar disorder) and suddenly losing his mother partially prompted many of his past public controversies. Kanye is a human being just like us who struggles with mental illness and makes mistakes, so why are we always so quick to judge, jump to assumptions, and not listen to what Kanye has to say today? We cannot condemn Kanye for his past if we continue to plug our ears whenever a Kanye song comes on and still refuse to acknowledge how he's grown from where he was before.
Showing empathy and understanding Kanye's circumstances enables us too see how he was grown. Therefore, when we simply hate and cancel Kanye – confining him to a box of exclusively his past wrongdoing – this blinds us from seeing how he's grown from his mistakes. By constantly associating Kanye to his past, we're systematically disabling and stunting opportunity for his growth in the future. This kind of a judgement enables our ignorance to fabricate how we see really reality. For instance, many long-time Kanye fans, including myself at first, were coerced into canceling him before even grasping his side of his own story. If we continue to promote this fragmented, illusive narrative of Kanye being fundamentally crazy across social media platforms, we cannot continue to condemn Kanye now since we're merely judging him by his past. Also, in order to grasp the the bigger picture, it's time to acknowledge ...
Where Kanye Stands Now:
- In 2018, Kanye's comment that "slavery is a choice" generated a lot of public backlash for his misplaced choice of words. Kanye West did eventually clarify his controversial comments about the 13th Amendment. The 13 amendment, which was ratified in 1865, abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for a crime for which someone had been convicted. Kanye clarified, "Abolish was the wrong language... I misspoke by saying abolish. Amend is the right language." He adds, "The 13th Amendment is slavery in disguise. Meaning it never ended. We are the solution that heals... In 1865, the 13th Amendment stated that no man is destined to slavery or involuntary servitude unless convicted of a crime," West read from his phone. "This translates to in order to make a freed man a slave all you have to do is convict them of a crime... So in other words what you're saying is they carve out prison for involuntary servitude and you can use prison as a pretext to bring involuntary servitude back." His statement clarifies how all Kanye meant to show how black mass incarceration and the prison industrial complex in America today has transfigured into a contemporary form of slavery, as black people are being disproportionately incarcerated, and consequently, losing their fundamental right to vote. To put it simply, Kanye was trying to endorse prison reform in America, but his message was unclear and further misconstrued by the media.
- Kanye later announces, “I was used to spread messages I don't believe in ... I support creating jobs and opportunities for people who need them the most, I support prison reform, I support common-sense gun laws that will make our world safer ... I support those who risk their lives to serve and protect us and I support holding people who misuse their power accountable. I believe in love and compassion for people seeking asylum and parents who are fighting to protect their children from violence and war... I would like to thank my family, loved ones, and community for supporting my ACTUAL beliefs and my vision for a better world." Kanye has publicly announced that he does not to engage in politics anymore. For a long time, the chaotic polarity between the parties pushed Kanye to lose sight of who he was, straining his relationship to God. He does not wear a MAGA anymore. Today, Kanye has chosen to put all trust in God.
- While hosting Sunday Services across the country, in celebration of Kim's birthday, Kanye donated one million dollars to charities that promote prison reform initiatives for people of color who are unjustly marginalized due to the systemic racial bias embedded within the United States' criminal justice system today.
- In his newest album, Jesus Is King, Kanye has chosen not use any kind of vulgar language (i.e swearing, references to sex, drugs, partying, money). This drastically contrasts with his previously released albums, but instead, he chose to incorporate various biblical references in this new album.
- Kanye is maintain focusing on his spiritual relationship with God through prayer. He has to focus on being a better husband, father, and follower of Christ. Ultimately, Kanye has chosen to put all of his faith in the hands of God.