Wake Up Mr West: The Career of Kanye


Denis Mardesich and Tanner Wymore

In the world of music and controversy Kanye West is a figure that is definitely worth mentioning, from his beginning as a producer for Jay Z, to his maximal masterpiece My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, his career is filled with highlights that are definitely important for the music industry.

Kanye started out producing for artists like Jay Z, but he always had bigger ambitions to be a rapper himself. He’d give his tape to anybody who would listen, playing or rapping the song “Jesus Walks.”. Not many were willing to seriously consider him because, at the time, religious rap wasn’t in high demand. Despite the fact that he would later influence many other gospel rappers, like Chance The Rapper. Eventually in 2001, Kanye produced The Blueprint by Jay Z, and Kanye finally had received praise for his work.

However, in 2002,would get into an accident that permanently changed his life. After a long night of working in the studio, he left at the middle of the night in his rented Lexus, and got cut off by another car. The result of this was a devastating crash that caused him to need reconstructive surgery on his jaw, permanently altering his appearance. But this experience only pushed him to work harder, and became the inspiration for his first ever hit “Through the Wire.”

After the debut of the single Kanye started working hard again on getting an album released and in 2004 his debut album The College Dropout released. The album was released to critical acclaim and featured iconic tracks such as “Jesus Walks,” “Through the Wire,” and “All Falls Down.” The album also included legendary features from Jay Z and Mos Def to Ludacris.

The last track on the album was a thank you to the listeners and supporters and also discussed Kanye’s perseverance on becoming the man he wanted to be. Kanye, love him or hate him, was definitely growing extremely quickly.  

After the success of the The College Dropout. Kanye was still ready to work hard, and the result of this was his second studio album, Late Registration. The album expanded upon the established sound he presented on his last album and singles. Using soul samples masterfully and interpolating voices and sounds into beats like no one had really ever done before in hip hop production. The album was in many ways a sequel to The College Dropout, continuing the education theme and discussing stuff like family and religion. The album was also heavily praised by critics and is widely considered a classic by most hip hop fans.

On Kanye’s 2007 album, Graduation he embraced a new style for his music. At this point in his career, coming off of so much attention and success from the industry, Kanye wanted to do something more refreshing with his sound. He did this by embracing and developing a new style for his production, this came in the form of an electronic production style. Kanye was inspired by disco and house artists like Daft Punk and recruited them to work with him on his project, sampling them on the hit “Stronger”. Because of this, the album ended up with a more light hearted and poppy sound due to the electronic production being so prevalent. However, the album still had Kanye’s iconic personality, and some of his production style from previous work carried over. Because of this, the album is still regarded as one of Kanye’s many classics.

2008 was one of the toughest years of Kanye’s life, he experienced the loss of the most important person for him, his mother, Donda West. Along with this loss, his fiance also left him. Because of this, Kanye was definitely in a deeply saddened state. Like the artist he is, he found a way to express this through his music. He did this by embracing the electronic elements of Graduation, and adding an extra element. He used autotune to enhance his voice and express his emotions in a very unique and refreshing way, that would change the music industry forever. With the help of artists like Kid Cudi, he used autotune and started a new wave of rap. This ended up becoming the sound of his 4th album, 808s and Heartbreak, his most emotional album yet.

Once it was released, 808s had an influence like no other album had, it became the landmark of the emo rap and trap wave. Without 808s, there wouldn’t be chart topping artists like Lil Uzi Vert and Juice WRLD. The influence of this record was definitely another achievement in the many Kanye had made in his career.

When West was hosting the 2009 Video Music Awards he shook the media and public with one controversial statement. When they announced that Taylor Swift had won the award for best music video, she walked to the stage, and then Kanye said, “Taylor, I’m really happy for you, Imma’ let you finish, but Beyonce had on of the best music videos of all time.” The media didn’t take this lightly, and ever since then they’ve looked at Kanye different.

Soon after, Kanye started working on a shoe deal with nike and his new Yeezy branding, and his next album would be one of his most ambitious and acclaimed album yet. Kanye’s next would have features from legendary artists, and would become one of the most iconic rap albums. 

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy released in 2010, and received praise everywhere, and the media’s opinion on Kanye had shifted once again. Songs like Runaway and All of The lights were a coming together moment in music, having over 50 artists in the studio singing their own part of the song, to see how to make the song reach its full potential. The album is considered a 10/10 to many, and will be remembered as one of the greatest hip hop albums of the 2010s.

Jay Z and Kanye came together in 2011 to make a project called Watch The Throne. It’s one of Kanye’s most egotistical albums, partly because he wanted to impress his now wife, Kim Kardashian. The album is Kanye’s least acclaimed, but it helped him win over Kim.

On his next album, Kanye took a huge stylistic shift in his sound. Inspired by experimental hip hop artists like Death Grips, he created an almost brutalist production style that combined elements of electronic, noise, and his iconic soul sampling within his production. Along with this, Kanye turned up his ego to the max, on seemingly every song he was angry about something. This ended up becoming the sound of Yeezus, an album that was Kanye’s least accessible project to date. Because of this new sound, and some admittedly lackluster lyricism, Yeezus was met with mixed reviews. However it is still viewed as an important part of Kanye’s artistic progression, since the project’s release. Many people have suggested that it was the result of a rough time for Kanye mentally, but others say it is just him being his most unfiltered and honest.

Since his first kid was born, Kanye released a single with Paul McCartney named Only One. Kanye had troubles with the release, even changing the name of the album three times, and finally settled on the Life of Pablo. The track No More Parties In LA showed Kanye’s lyrical talent was still strong, and Kendrick Lamar’s verse on the song was prolific. Mr. West gave Frank Ocean his own interlude called Frank’s Track before the popular song Wolves. The album has hints of christianity, and more iconic features from Sia, Young Thug, and Kid Cudi.

During the tour that occurred after the release of The Life of Pablo, Kid Cudi went on a rant on twitter about rappers showing fake love, and not writing their own songs. During these tweets, he called out Kanye and Drake, calling them “fake.”Kanye happened to have a show that day, during which he responded to Cudi telling him to never mention the name Ye, and that he “birthed Cudi.” This beef would be followed by rumors of mental issues from both artists, but Kanye would have a change of heart about Cudi, addressing his tweets, but doing so in a forgetful way. Praising Cudi, and calling him one of the best artists of the generation, rekindling their friendship and their iconic duo.


Although, contrary to the recent success of his last album, Kanye had taken to Twitter to rant. Some took this as a mental breakdown, and help had seeked Kanye, after the event he would look at his mental breakdowns in a more reflective way. A tweet from him states, “No one would ever choose to end up in a mental hospital and diagnosed with a mental disorder but god chose me to publicly go through this journey and it is beautiful.” After this Kanye had gotten to finishing his next album, coming to extremely mixed reviews.

Ye was released with 7 tracks, and seemed to be one of Kanye’s most emotional album in years. It showed Kanye was really at one of his lowest points. The album’s cover showed Kanye’s mentality, and was a new direction we’ve never seen him take.

Just one week after the release of Ye, Kanye continued his 7 track album rollout with his collaboration with Kid Cudi, Kid Sees Ghosts. On this album, Cudi and Kanye rekindle their friendship to create an introspective ode to mental illness. Although the album was short, it showed a more open side of both Kanye and Cudi, and they were willing to address their issues and better themselves because of it. The project was a great conclusion to the 7 track album run, and it gave the public a lot more respect for Kanye, despite all the controversy that he had been through in the past few years.

In September of 2018, Kanye teased the release of a new album through Twitter, called Yandhi. The album shared similarities with the cover of Yeezus, and because of this people though it was going to be a different side of the same coin, showing a more vulnerable side as opposed to an egotistical rage. However, the album never released in 2018, and there was virtually no new information on the album. But it leaked earlier this year, and with that it seemed that the project had been completely scrapped.

But 2019 isn’t just about Yandhi, in fact, Kanye has been holding his “Sunday Service” events, where he performs his classic hits and fuses them with gospel elements. The events have become a very well known event, going as far as being held at Coachella, serving as an almost centerpiece of the event. With this Sunday Service event, Kanye has taken the opportunity to tease the release of a new album, seemingly titled, Jesus Is King, and it is set to release on September 27th of this year. Given the popularity of the Sunday Service events, there is a lot of hype leading up to this project, and it will be very interesting to see the sonic direction thar Kaye decides to take on the project.

In conclusion, Kanye West has had a very eventful and intriguing career that has made him into a household name and ,admittedly, he has been through a lot of controversy that may have some people disliking him, but his artistic progression is still very intriguing. He has one of the most versatile discographies in hip ho and is considered one of the best producers in music as a whole. Love him or hate him, West is a huge influence on many facets of modern culture, and despite his mistakes, he has made enough achievements to become a true icon.