Kanye West

Rapper, record producer and singer. Kanye Omari West was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on June 8, 1977. His parents divorced when he was three. He was raised on Chicago’s South Side by his mother, an English professor, and spent summers with his father, an award-winning photographer who became a church counselor.

West graduated from Polaris High School and completed one year of art school at Chicago State University. After spending time rapping and working with local artists, West moved to New York in 2001 to pursue his music career full time. Respected rapper Jay-Z hired him to produce songs for his album The Blueprint, which sold more than 420,000 copies in the first week alone. West went on to produce for a handful of stars including rapper Ludacris and singer Beyonce.

While serving as producer to the stars, West cut his own demo and began shopping it around. He signed a deal with Roc-A-Fella Records, Jay-Z’s label, in 2002 and began recording in the studio.

On the way home from a session in Los Angeles, West fell asleep at the wheel and was involved in a head-on car collision that left him with a fractured jaw.

With his jaw wired shut, West returned to the recording studio to complete his debut release The College Dropout. The album, which was released in 2004, sold 2.6 million copies and earned him a Best Rap Album Grammy. He matched that feat with 2005’s Late Registration and 2007’s Graduation.

West also has won three Best Rap Song Grammys for his hits « Jesus Walks, » « Diamonds from Sierra Leone » and « Good Life. » For his hit « Gold Digger, » he took home the Best Rap Solo Performance award in 2005. West also won a Grammy for Best R&B Song for « You Don’t Know My Name, » sung by Alicia Keys. His collaboration with Common on « Southside » earned West the Grammy for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group in 2007.

West was devastated when his mother, Donda West, died to complications from cosmetic surgery on November 10, 2007. During his first concert following the funeral, he dedicated a performance of « Hey Mama » to his mother.

Moving on after his tragic loss, West put out his next album, 808s & Heartbreak, in 2008. The recording reached the top of the charts and featured several hits, including « Heartless » and « Amazing. » That same year, West earned two Grammys for his work with other artists. His duet with Estelle, « American Boy, » won for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration, and his work with Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, and T.I. netted the honor for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group.

The following year, West released two albums on the same day—Good Morning Good Night: Dusk and Good Morning Good Night: Dawn. Also in 2009, Kanye West debuted the line of shoes he designed for the luxury goods brand Louis Vuitton. He engages in a number of charitable activities as well. Founded by his mother in 2007, he supports the Kanye West Foundation, which works to reduce the number of high school dropouts.

West and designer Alexis Phifer began dating in 2002. He proposed in August 2006, but the engagement ended 18 months later. West has also been romantically linked to model Amber Rose.

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