The West family moved from Atlanta to the Chicago area when Kanye West was three-years old. West's father, Ray West (born Ryan Konarsky), was working as an award-winning photojournalist when Kanye was born, and currently works as a pastoral marriage counselor. Kanye's mother, Dr. Donda West, worked as the Chair of English Department at Chicago State University before retiring to serve as Kanye's manager.
After attending The International Academy of Art and Design and Technology, a local Chicago art school, West then attended Chicago State University. West dropped out of CSU and began working on his music career. Even while attending school, West produced for local acts. He gained some fame by producing hit singles for major hip-hop/R&B artists, including Alicia Keys, Jay-Z, Janet Jackson, Brandy, Talib Kweli, Dilated Peoples, Chamillionaire, Ludacris, Carter Hays, and John Legend. West himself worked on his first solo album for a long period of time, having the release pushed back on multiple occasions.
West soon became a major name in hip-hop production following the release of Jay-Z's critically-acclaimed album The Blueprint, which featured four tracks produced by Kanye, most notably the lead single "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)" and the Prodigy and Nas diss "Takeover." Due to his appearance and overall style, West struggled to find a way to get his own voice on record. Jay-Z has admitted that Roc-A-Fella was reluctant to support West as a rapper at first, claiming that he saw him as a producer first and foremost. Multiple record companies put him aside because he was not a former street hustler and he did not wear stereotype hip-hop apparel. He was therefore not marketable the way other rappers were.
Kanye was involved in a car crash October 23, 2002, when he fell asleep at the wheel while coming home from the studio. The crash left his jaw fractured in three places, and nearly killed him. The crash inspired his first single "Through the Wire." He recorded it two weeks after the crash while his mouth was still wired shut.Following this recovery Kanye was said to have become a born again Christian after he said that Jesus saved him with a quick recovery. He shows his faith in many of his songs such as the song 'Jesus Walks'.
"Through the Wire," which sampled Chaka Khan's classic track "Through the Fire," would eventually become his lead single from The College Dropout, which was released on Roc-a-Fella Records in February 2004. A later single from the album, "Jesus Walks," would become a major success, and later a staple of his benefit performances, such as at the Live 8 concert. The College Dropout received a great deal of critical praise, in spite of some hip-hop fans' claims that Kanye was much more accomplished as a producer than as a rapper.
On August 30th, 2005, Kanye West released his second album Late Registration. Reviews ranged from glowing ("Late Registration is an undeniable triumph" -Rolling Stone) to mixed ("As ornate and bloated as West's ego". -Spin magazine Sep 2005, p.99). The first two singles were "Diamonds from Sierra Leone" (which contained samples from Shirley Bassey's "Diamonds Are Forever") and "Gold Digger" featuring Jamie Foxx. The album went on to sell over 904,000 copies in its first week, and spun off eight Grammy Award nominations including Album of the Year and Record of the Year for "Gold Digger." West announced that his third and fourth albums will be titled Graduation and A Good Ass Job, respectively.
West, holder of six Grammys, has collaborated with numerous artists, most notably with rapper Twista on songs such as "Overnight Celebrity" and "Slow Jamz" (also featuring Jamie Foxx) — the latter would reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart, becoming the first number one hit for all artists involved. West is also featured on Brandy's single, "Talk About Our Love." Others with whom West has collaborated include Jay-Z, Chamillionaire, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Ludacris, Dilated Peoples, Mariah Carey, Miri Ben-Ari (whose violin arrangements featured heavily on The College Dropout), and John Legend (who also features on West's first album, providing background vocals). Kanye West is also credited with revitalizing the careers of such rappers as Common and Twista, as well as more recently producing the critically acclaimed The Game track "Dreams."
In early 2005, West coined the term "white crunk" to describe the gritty drum sounds of Scottish alternative dance-rock group Franz Ferdinand, whom he claims is among his favorite bands. West and the band met at the 2005 MTV Europe Music Awards, where they sat down together to share praise and advice. West feels that the white crunk vibe has affected his new work, and is best exemplified on the track "Diamonds from Sierra Leone", from his 2005 album Late Registration. The band itself is also greatly influenced by Kanye and sought advice from him on how to improve production for their 2005 album You Could Have It So Much Better. Currently he is working with Common for his next album, Finding Forever, and rappers Consequence and Really Doe for their GOOD Music debuts.