From his bilingual childhood to his controversial political beliefs, this is the untold truth about Kanye West.
Kanye Omari West was born in Atlanta, Georgia in June 1977. Kanye is said to mean “only one” in Swahili or “let’s give” in Igbo. His parents separated when he was three, and he and his mom moved to Chicago. His dad, Ray West, was one of the initial African-American photojournalists working for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was a member of the Black Panther Party. He became a Christian counselor later on and opened a store in Maryland. West’s mom, Donda, was an English professor at Clark Atlanta University and became the head of Chicago State University’s English Department. She eventually became Kanye’s manager.
West discovered his passion for the arts at a young age. When he was only five years old, he started writing poetry. He began rapping when he was in third grade. By the seventh grade, he was already constructing musical compositions and selling them. When Kanye was thirteen, he wrote a rap titled “Green Eggs and Ham,” and he convinced his mother to pay for him so that he could record it at a studio. Kanye met producer No I.D., aka Ernest Dion Wilson, shortly after, and they quickly became close friends. West learned how to program sampled beats from Wilson, and he has gifted his first sampler at fifteen years old.
When he graduated high school, Kanye was awarded a scholarship for the American Academy of Art in Chicago. He started attending painting classes; but, soon after, he transferred to Chicago State University for English instead. However, West concluded that he didn’t have time to pursue music with a busy college schedule. So, at the age of twenty, he left school. Although this upset his mom, she later stated, “It was drummed into my head that college is the ticket to a good life… but some career goals don’t require college. For Kanye to make an album called College Dropout, it was more about having the guts to embrace who you are, rather than following the path society has carved out for you.”
Kanye West is most widely known for his career in music; however, he has had numerous other business ventures as well. In 2004, he founded GOOD Music, a record label he established along with Sony BMG. But, in 2015, West made Pusha T GOOD Music’s new president. West also opened a couple of Fatburger restaurants in Chicago. In 2012, he announced his plan to create DONDA, a company named after his late mother. West stated that the organization would “pick up where Steve Jobs left off,” and added that it would be “a design company which will galvanize amazing thinkers in a creative space to bounce their dreams and ideas… [with the] goal to make products and experiences that people want and can afford.”
West has remained covert about DONDA operations; but, they’ve worked on two film projects, a cosmetics line, and DONDA music. Kanye is also a co-owner of Tidal, a music streaming service. He has even collaborated with various brands, like Nike and Louis Vuitton, to make sneakers and apparel as well as launched the Yeezy Season 1 through 7 lines. His footwear includes his most popular sneaker, the Boost; people have camped outside stores for hours to secure one of these sought-after pairs of sneakers. More recently, West claimed that he wants to “build a flying-car factory in Chicago with the help of Tesla alums.”
In 2006, Kanye faced a bit of trouble from America’s favorite daredevil, Evel Knievel. In his video for “Touch the Sky,” he portrayed “Evel Kanyevel,” who makes a failed attempt to jump over a canyon… sound familiar? Well, the real Evel didn’t appreciate the parody, probably since it highlighted his most significant failure. So, he filed a lawsuit against Kanye. He claimed copyright infringement, calling the music video clip “vulgar and offensive.” He said it damaged his reputation and added, “That video that Kanye West put out is the most worthless piece of crap I’ve ever seen in my life, and he uses my image to catapult himself on the public.” So, West traveled to Florida to speak with Knievel in person. They ended up settling the case out of court.
We already discussed the majority of Kanye’s business ventures, but did you know that he was once launching a travel website? Yep, KanyeTravel.com was the name of his prospective site, which he announced in 2008. Kanye Travel aimed to offer low airfares, rental cars, and hotels without requiring a membership fee. He teamed up with Travelocity to get the business started. As far as what’s happening to it now? Well, apparently the site didn’t work out and is currently filled with spam.
One of the most interesting facts about Kanye’s childhood was that he lived in China when he was ten years old. His mother was teaching at Nanjing University for an exchange program. Although he was the only foreign person in his class, Kanye allegedly picked up the language quickly. But, don’t expect a rap album in Mandarin any time soon. West didn’t remain fluent when they moved back to the United States.
Kanye faced another struggle in 2002. He was driving home after a late night at a recording studio in California when he fell asleep driving and collided with oncoming traffic. The driver of the car he hit had both of his legs broken in the crash, and West suffered a shattered jaw. The accident could have been much worse, and it was a miracle that both parties survived. Kanye used the experience as inspiration, and he recorded his track “Through the Wire” while his mouth was wired shut. In 2014, West told Interview magazine, “The accident gave me the opportunity to do what I really wanted to do. During that recovery period, I just spent all my time honing my craft and making The College Dropout.” It seems that this artist can use any adverse event to his advantage.
Although he receives a lot of negative attention from the press, Kanye is a pretty stand-up guy, especially when it comes to charitable work. In 2003, he and his mom created the Kanye West Foundation, which had the aim of improving illiteracy and dropout rates and providing music education to disadvantaged youth. After his mother passed, he renamed the foundation “The Dr. Donda West Foundation.” However, the movement came to a close in 2011. West also founded Donda’s House, Inc., whose most renowned program is Got Bars, a free program to help at-risk Chicago youth to write music. Kanye has also given to victims of Hurricane Katrina, 100 Black Men of America, World Water Day, and the Millions More Movement among others.
Perhaps one of the most significant events that Kanye West is known for is his interruption of Taylor Swift at the 2009 VMAs. Swift was just nineteen at the time, and she won the award for Best Female Video for “You Belong With Me.” When she went on stage to accept her shiny, new Moonman, West rushed in. He was upset that Beyonce’s video for “Single Ladies” wasn’t chosen instead. He grabbed the microphone from Taylor and stated, “Yo, Taylor, I’m really happy for you, I’d let you finish, but Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time! One of the best videos of all time!”
Later on, Kanye apologized to Taylor and said, “I immediately knew in this situation that it was wrong… it’s actually someone’s emotions that I stepped on… It was rude. Period. And… I’d like to be able to apologize to her in person.” He allegedly did say sorry to Swift after that.
Kanye West has received a lot of negative attention for his political views since President Trump took office. He is one of the few celebrities to show support for the current POTUS, especially since he has been so controversial. In December 2016, he went to see Trump and stated later, “I wanted to meet with Trump today to discuss multicultural issues. These issues included bullying, supporting teachers, modernizing curriculums, and violence in Chicago. I feel it is important to have a direct line of communication with our future president if we truly want change.”
West also noted that if he would have voted, then he would’ve done so for Donald Trump. For a short time in 2017, he deleted his tweets concerning the President because he disagreed with Trump’s travel ban. However, in April 2018, he reiterated his support to Ebro Darden of Hot 97 by allegedly saying, “I love Donald Trump.” Kanye has even posted a photograph of himself wearing a Make America Great Again hat, and Trump has retweeted some of the rapper’s posts.
Since he’s so talented, it shouldn’t surprise anybody that Kanye has taken home numerous awards for his work. He is one of the leading artists regarding Grammy wins in history, and he has received twenty-one of them. West’s Grammy wins include three from 2004, three from 2005, two from 2008, four from 2011, and several more. He has also won two AMAs, upwards of fifteen BET awards, and six Billboard Music Awards. Kanye’s total notedly comes to 236 wins out of 726 nominations.
We’ve already talked about Kanye’s pro-Trump political beliefs. He has always been one to voice his opinions. So, he donned his Make America Great Again hat once more and began his now-viral speech. He stated, “I’ ma break it down to you right now: If someone inspires me and I connect with them, I don’t have to believe in all they policies.” He added, “You heard ‘em scream at me… They bullied me backstage, they said, ‘Don’t go out there with that hat on.’… And then they say I’m in a sunken place… If you want the world to move forward, try love.”
Kim Kardashian recently told Vogue that her husband is doing well despite the diagnosis concerning his mental health. Kanye West was diagnosed as bipolar, which he confirmed in the song “Yikes.” He opened up about it more during an interview with Jimmy Kimmel and discussed how important it is to talk freely about mental illnesses. Kim said that dealing with the diagnosis has been an emotional process for both of them, but they’re working through it together.