Kanye West’s name is synonymous with modern rap.
His era-defining take on hip-hop in the early ’00s changed the genre forever—a pattern he continues today. With every switch up of his sound, a new era of rap is born with his long list of progeny following suit.
Unfortunately, all that trailblazing goodness is often overshadowed by his, seemingly, insatiable need to cause controversy. From calling out other rappers to ruining a burgeoning Taylor Swift’s big VMA moment, to starting beef with almost everyone, West has caused quite the stir throughout his career.
Despite it all, West has managed to carve out a lauded career across music, fashion, and more. CelebrityNetworth.com estimated the rapper to be worth nearly $6.6 billion. While his albums always do the trick of generating revenue—to the tune of $1.5 billion a year—for the Donda artist, a large sum of his earnings comes from his Yeezy clothing line and Adidas collab.
His Yeezy brand has been estimated to earn around $4 to $5 billion a year. In March of 2021, his deal with The Gap added another $1 billion to West’s net worth.
Whether you love him or hate him he’s done all right for himself. Below we will chart a course through the rapper’s polarizing career.
Kanye Omari West grew up in Chicago, Illinois, under the musical stewardship of DJ No I.D. While learning under the producer, West began experimenting with his own sound. He later attended the American Academy of Art in 1997 before transferring to Chicago State University to study English. Eventually, he dropped out at age 20 to pursue his music career.
His early career started by making beats for other artists to use while he honed his craft. His first official production credits were for the debut album of rapper Grave, Down to Earth. Other artists he produced with, during this period, included Foxy Brown, Deric “D-Dot” Angelettie, and Harlem World.
West started making waves in 2000 while working as a producer at Roc-A-Fella Records. There, he worked with established artists in the Hip Hop and R&B scene, the likes of Ludacris, Alicia Keys, and Janet Jackson.
But it was his work on Jay-Z’s 2011 album, The Blueprint, that generated serious interest in West’s work. He fully took off after the album was released and began working for other heavyweights like Beyoncé and John Legend.
Despite his success as a producer, West’s main dream was to be a rapper in his own right. After a serious car crash in 2002, West was inspired and recorded the song “Through the Wire” with his jaw still wired shut. The rest of his debut album, The College Dropout, was released to rave reviews in 2004 and earned him 10 Grammy nominations, and eventually was certified triple platinum in the U.S.
As West has continued to pump out lauded album after lauded album, the rapper has had all but one LP not go Platinum in the U.S.
808’s & Heartbreak truly defined mid-’00s rap, causing the booming drum machine to run rife throughout the genre. Yeezus caused some controversy in 2013 as many claimed the rapper was comparing himself to Jesus with the title. The Life of Pablo once again changed up West’s sound with a turn to the spiritual. He then dived head first into the divine with Jesus is King in 2019.
In light of his faith, he also began to pursue weekly “Sunday Service” orchestration with his backing choir in 2019. The group consistently performed every Sunday for a while, playing a mix of popular music and gospel classics.
His most recent albums Donda and Donda 2 saw West turn towards a darker sound with a long list of famous features. The first album saw widespread success while the unique roll-out of part 2 – available exclusively on his Stem Player – lessened its appeal.
In addition to his own albums and releases, West has continued his work as a producer for artists, including 6ix9ine, XXXTentacion, Lil Pump, Chance the Rapper, Kid Cudi, and Teyana Taylor.
West has long expressed his interest in fashion and was the first non-athlete to score a shoe deal with Nike with his 2009 Air Yeezy sneaker. He has also designed footwear for Louis Vuitton, Bape, and Guiseppe Zanotti.
In 2013, Adidas officially announced its new shoe collaboration with West, which produced the Yeezy Boost 750 sneaker. The collab sold out in New York within 20 minutes of being posted online. West and the brand went on to create upwards of 6 designs. In 2015, West premiered season 1 of his full Yeezy clothing line with Adidas with season 2 following later that year and then season 3 being revealed in 2016.
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