Kanye West

(b. 1977)

As famous for his outsized media presence as for his music, Kanye West is nonetheless regarded as one of Hip Hop's most innovative creative forces. In the space of a few years, he went from respected producer and beatmaker to international superstar. Both a sonic visionary and a distinctive, verbally inventive rapper, West makes music whose creativity and flamoyance are more than a match for his cocky personality and dapper visual image.

Although the Chicago native started as an aspiring rapper, West first gained significant attention in the late 90s for his production work with the likes of Foxy Brown and Goodie Mob. It was his subsequent productions for the Roc-a-Fella label that established West as an in-demand producer, and he achieved widespread recognition for his work on Jay-Z's 2001 classic Blueprint and on hits by Talib Kweli, Ludacris, and Alicia Keys. 

Those productions set the stage for West's 2004 debut album, The College Dropout, which won a Grammy award for Best Rap Album (one of 21 Grammys West has under his belt). West's creative and commercial winning streak continued with Late Registration, Graduation, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Watch the Throne and Yeezus. 2008's 808s & Heartbreak took an unexpected and controversial new direction, with West singing personally-charged breakup songs with heavy use of Auto-Tune.  Meanwhile, he continued to collaborate with Jay-Z, as well as producing successful releases for Twista Brandy, Janet Jackson, Common, the Game, Keyshia Cole, Beyonce, Drake, Rick Ross, John Legend, and Mariah Carey, and running his label G.O.O.D. (i.e., "Getting Out Our Dreams") Music.