Kanye Omari West (born 8 June 1977) is an American rapper, record producer, film director, entrepreneur, and fashion designer. West was raised in a middle-class household in Chicago, Illinois, and began rapping in the third grade, becoming involved in the city's hip hop scene. West attended art school for one semester before dropping out to pursue music entirely in the late 1990s. Although his real desire was to become a rapper, record executives did not take his ambitions seriously and viewed him as a producer first and foremost.
West first gained prominence as a producer for his work at Roc-A-Fella Records; he produced songs on Jay-Z's 2001 album The Blueprint, as well as hit singles for artists including Alicia Keys, Ludacris and Janet Jackson. His style of production originally used high-pitched vocal samples from soul songs incorporated with his own drums and instruments. After signing to Roc-A-Fella in 2002, West released his debut album The College Dropout in 2004 to commercial and critical acclaim. West's background and style used on his debut album deviated from the then-dominant "gangsta" persona in hip hop, and he would later alter the genre stylistically as rappers became influenced by his alternative aesthetic. The baroque-inspired Late Registration followed in 2005, and Graduation in 2007. West switched rapping for singing on his emotive 2008 effort 808s & Heartbreak, and embraced maximalism on 2010's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Following several collaborations with other musicians (most notably Watch the Throne with Jay Z in 2011), West released his sixth album, Yeezus, to further critical praise in 2017. His seventh album, The Life of Pablo, was released in early 2016.
West is one of the best-selling musicians of all time, having sold more than 21 million albums and 66 million digital downloads. He has won a total of twenty-one Grammy Awards, making him one of the most awarded artists of all-time and the most Grammy-awarded artists of his age. An outspoken and controversial celebrity, West has often been the source of incidents involving paparazzi and at award shows. His interest in fashion has also attracted media attention and differentiates West from other musicians. West runs his own record label, GOOD Music, and has directed several short films.buuu