Kanye Omari West (born June 8, 1977) is an American hip hop recording artist, songwriter, record producer, film director, entrepreneur and fashion designer from Chicago, Illinois. West first gained prominence as a producer for Roc-A-Fella Records; he achieved recognition for his work on rapper Jay-Z's The Blueprint (2001), as well as hit singles for musical 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. He later broadened his influences to include 1970s R&B, baroque pop, trip hop, arena rock, folk, alternative, electronica, synthpop, industrial, and classical music.
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 West seriously, viewing him as a producer first and foremost. After being signed to Roc-A-Fella in 2002, West released his debut album The College Dropout in 2004 to commercial and critical acclaim. The baroque-inspired Late Registration followed in 2005, and Graduation in 2007. West switched rapping for singing on his emotive 2008 effort 808's & Heartbreak, and embraced maximalism on 2010's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Following several collaborations, West released his sixth album, Yeezus, in 2013.
West is one of the best-selling and among the most awarded artists in popular music. West has won a total of 21 Grammy Awards, making him one of the most awarded artists of all-time and the most awarded artist of anyone his age. TIME has also named West one of the 100 most influential people in the world as well as being listed in a number of Forbes annual lists. Several of his studio albums, most prominently Late Registration and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, have been ranked amongst the greatest albums of all time. West's background and style, from his debut album, deviated from the then-dominant "gangster" persona in hip hop, and he would later alter the genre stylistically as rappers adopted his alternative aesthetic. An outspoken and controversial celebrity, West has often been the source of incidents at award shows, and his dapper and flamboyant fashion sense has also attracted media attention and set West apart from other rappers. West runs his own record label GOOD Music and has directed several short films.