Kanye West has enjoyed one of the greatest ascents in the history of hip-hop. The man born Kanye Omari West on June 8, 1977, in Atlanta had dreams of being a rap superstar but was initially noticed only as a music producer. Kanye West got his big break doing ghost production for music producer, songwriter, artist, and entrepreneur Deric “D-Dot” Angelettie in the late ’90s, which landed him placements on hip hop and rap albums from Jermaine Dupri, Foxy Brown, and Goodie Mob. But while some young music producers would’ve been happy simply collecting production checks and placing beats on major label releases, Kanye West had bigger plans.
While ‘Ye craved national acceptance, he was also determined to get his own stable of artists and producers off the ground back home in Chicago. His crew, the Go-Getters, consisted of childhood friends and rap contemporaries, while his Kon Man Productions wing featured some of the best rising music producers in the city. But eventually Kanye West hit a ceiling in Chicago. He’d dried up his resources, and the Windy City lacked the music industry infrastructure that was so prevalent on the coasts. So in early 2000, Kanye packed up a U-Haul and left Chicago for greener pastures.
Kanye West soon aligned with Jay Z and Roc-A-Fella Records as a producer. After giving Jay a Top 10 hit with the track “Izzo (H.O.V.A.),” Kanye’s name began to ring out, and he was soon one of the most in-demand beatsmiths in hip-hop. But deep down, Kanye West knew he was a rapper, and after a handful of false starts, he was finally able to persuade the Roc to give him a solo record deal. Surviving a near-fatal car crash made Kanye West more determined than ever to become a lyric star, and within two years he had an album in stores. The rest, as they say, is music history.
Kanye West has since become a number of things: A rap superstar with seven sterling solo studio albums, including such storied projects like The College Dropout, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and, most recently, The Life of Pablo. A legendary music producer. A fashion icon with the launch of his fashion clothing line Yeezy. A tabloid favorite. All of these things together have created one of the most fascinating and influential entertainers of all time. (What other artist has grown men believing they can wear kilts and has people dropping $4,000 on a pair of his sneakers?) And he’s not done yet. Today, Complex celebrates the Louis Vuitton Don by recognizing 100 of his greatest records.
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