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Over the last year, I’ve been curating a list (with a lengthy description of each track) of the most overlooked, underrated, and slept on tracks. Here’s 50 Pop Songs You Missed in 2019.

2020.02.03 17:59 ThatParanoidPenguin Over the last year, I’ve been curating a list (with a lengthy description of each track) of the most overlooked, underrated, and slept on tracks. Here’s 50 Pop Songs You Missed in 2019.

Here’s the Spotify playlist!
You may remember this from the last few years (here’s 2018’s post), and each year I spend some time taking note of songs that I feel don’t get enough attention on here. I try to curate a healthy variety of different types of pop tracks, and this year, I’ve ended up with what I consider to be the most diverse list of tracks I’ve done yet.
If you’re looking for music you haven’t heard yet, look no further - I’ve even provided a similar artist for each track, so if you just want to find music that sounds like your favorite artist, you can do just that.
Hope you enjoy the list, and hopefully I’ll have the time to do this in 2020! Thanks for reading!
Without further ado, here’s the music:
Sharon Van Etten - Seventeen
  • for fans of Angel Olsen
Sharon Van Etten’s Remind Me Tomorrow isn’t the best album in 2019 to feature a disheveled bedroom on the cover (Weyes Blood takes that crown, who knows how long it will take to pump the water out of that room), and Seventeen is the star of the album. A powerhouse indie pop track with a ton of pulsating uncertainty, Seventeen is a love letter to New York City. It’s a city that changes constantly, and it’s hard to remain the same when everything around you isn’t. It erupts into a burst of emotion, a rallying cry, a pleading to a past self, and it’s easily one of the best songs of the year.
Little SIMZ - Selfish (feat. Cleo Sol)
  • for fans of Noname
It’s been a great year for UK hip hop, with great releases from Slowthai, Dave, Loyle Carner, and more, but Little Simz may have the crown, as there’s a myriad of cuts on Grey Area that shine above the rest. Most of Little Simz’ stellar record Grey Area is hip hop, but on Selfish she dabbles in a sultry poppy R&B jam. It’s smooth, hazy, and most of all, packed with emotion as Little Simz admits her wrongdoing.
Nilüfer Yanya - In Your Head
  • for fans of Big Thief
British singer Nilüfer Yanya made a bold statement with In Your Head, the lead single to 2019’s wonderful Miss Universe. It’s a brash, bombastic ode to internal monologues and anxious cacophony. It’s a rough track with some raw delivery, and while the chorus is as rock as it gets, it’s perpetually infectious, echoing and blossoming with character.
ALMA - When I Die
  • for fans of Tove Lo
Ironically enough, I started this list before ALMA and Tove Lo collaborated on Worst Behaviour, which is also a pretty enjoyable pop track. However, earlier in 2019, ALMA released this versatile banger that wavers back and forth between a dreamy pop track and a club rager, a perfect fit for an artist who has a fair share of both.
Anna of the North - Leaning On Myself
  • for fans of Shura
Anna of the North is an artist who really should’ve been an internet darling - she excels at chill, ethereal pop music, and Leaning On Myself is one of her best, a daze of self-acceptance that doesn’t reinvent her formula but instead caters to her spacey, airy delivery. It’s a bit druggy, a bit dreamy, and has a lot of self-love.
Mahalia - Do Not Disturb
  • for fans of Kehlani
Mahalia deserves to be in the conversation with the likes of artists like Kehlani, SZA, Ella Mai, and all the R&B pop girls, because her 2019 album Love And Compromise is one of the most cohesive and consistent records of the year. On Do Not Disturb, she makes a chant out of her decision to shut herself out digitally. It’s a catchy track, as are most of the songs on the album, and she pleads over a lush and beautiful instrumental, carefully navigating off rhymes that sound perfect together.
Claud - Easy
  • for fans of Clairo
Non-binary Brooklyn-based bedroom pop singer Claud is the newest in a series of twinkly, lovely DIY pop artists, and Easy is one of the best examples of the genre. Drum machines lace a catchy melody, and their delivery is pale yet lush. It’s got a hint of Frankie Cosmos, a bit of Clairo, and a lot of heart.
Uffie - Nathaniel
  • for fans of Poppy
Yes, it’s that Uffie! Her first album in 9 years may be a bit hit or miss, but the outro, Nathaniel, is a certified banger. It’s loaded with dilating, winding synths, and her vocals echo and bounce around the track, cutting and crushing over the jangly instrumental. It’s a light, sunny track, and exactly the type of comeback I would want Uffie to make in 2019.
Hatchie - Without A Blush
  • for fans of Allie X
Hatchie sounds ripped straight out of the 80s on Without A Blush, complete with a bell-esque synth that dings and drones on. It’s a smoky synthpop track that feels born out of a world with Sky Ferreira and Allie X, and yet, Hatchie makes it her own. She’s definitely been an artist the sub has been sleeping on, and Without A Blush is just another example of her exemplary songwriting that deserves to be recognized.
Stella Donnelly - Die
  • for fans of Kero Kero Bonito
With a pinch of distortion and the twinge of the song title, Stella Donnelly grapples with duality of a happy song with depressing lyrics. Exploring a failing relationship, she pleads to her partner to simply tell the truth. It’s an upbeat, infectious anthem that serves as a great example of Stella Donnelly’s signature quirkiness.
SASAMI - I Was A Window (feat. Dustin Payseur)
  • for fans of Mitski
It’s hard to stand out in the crowded, ever changing genre of dark, DIY bedroom indie rock. Where SASAMI succeeds in the wake of others’ shortcomings is her haunting delivery over rough, distorted guitars that feel part Beach House, part Mitski, and all revealing. It’s a track about taking out self-revelations and insecurities on those you love, and the title is equally intriguing and powerful, becoming a chant in the song’s gripping echo of an outro.
Jamila Woods - Eartha
  • for fans of Solange
Jamila Woods’ Legacy! Legacy! is a stunning record, one forgotten in the throes of early 2019’s pop releases. However, that doesn’t mean it’s too late to enjoy one of the year’s best records, and what better way to start than checking out this poppy, sultry, honest-to-god jam. Pushy percussion and Jamila’s lovely vocals bring this song so much life, and lush synths give this song a cool funk that feels very her, light and summery.
Elise Hayes - Giving Up
  • for fans of Tessa Violet
Definitely one of the smaller artists on this list, Elise Hayes is an artist I stumbled upon on Spotify who has a very cute, very colorful sound - think Sigrid meets Tessa Violet, and I’m into it. There’s a sticky hook, a twang of acoustic guitar, some killer synths and sounds, and a whole lot of charisma.
Lolo Zouaï - Ride
  • for fans of Banks
Lolo Zouaï’s title track on High Highs To Low Lows may have become her biggest hit to date, but Ride is a hell of a track, a bad bitch anthem that proudly asks you to “watch [her] fuck it up.” It’s bustling with energy and intrigue as Lolo taunts and teases with a bass-heavy rhythmic chorus laced with croons and calls that would make a siren jealous.
Maude Latour - Superfruit
  • for fans of Lorde
There’s more to the Lorde comparisons than both artists’ mention of orange juice and dismissal of small talk. Instantly, you hear a bit of the New Zealand singer’s whispery delivery and youthful lyricism in Maude Latour’s Superfruit, a poppy, pensive track that bounces between joyful and abated. “And this is real life, by the poolside/Have I told you that I’m really fucking scared to die” really sums it up.
Burns - Energy (with A$AP Rocky & Sabrina Claudio)
  • for fans of Mura Masa
It’s surprising that Burns hasn’t garnered more attention with this track - A$AP Rocky and Sabrina Claudio are surprisingly fitting on here, and while Rocky is no stranger to a dance beat (his song with Mura Masa is quite great), he sounds so comfortable alongside Sabrina, who gives a mellow yet tender performance over the jazzy and warm instrumental.
SG Lewis - Flames (feat. Ruel)
  • for fans of 5 Seconds of Summer
SG Lewis and Ruel team up for a synthwave banger that would make The Weeknd blush. While Ruel’s vocals are more akin to songs on his discography, the two flood the track with sounds that could go toe to toe with Stranger Things’ signature synths. It’s an instrumental-focused track, but Ruel is more than welcome to bring the instrumental some life.
Ingrid Michaelson - Missing You
  • for fans of Betty Who
Ingrid Michaelson is making music popheads would adore if they actually heard it. Much like Carly’s seminal release of Emotion, Stranger Songs is Ingrid’s slice of 80’s bliss. Missing You is a wistful, simmering pop bop full of passion and regret. Sure, the missing/kissing rhyme has been done many times before, but never quite as good as it’s done here.
Yuna - Blank Marquee (feat. G-Eazy)
  • for fans of Mark Ronson
I think if you listen to one song on this list, maybe consider making it this one. Before you’re scared of the G-Eazy feature, just know that not only does he fit on this song, he actually enhances the narrative - his brief appearance adds another layer to the back and forth of the hook. And Yuna, she absolutely murders this song. Her whispery, sassy disposition sells the shit out of this song, and the spiteful chorus is literally perfect, a funky, punchy display of dominance and independence that makes for one of my favorite hooks of the year. It’s a total jam, and it’s beyond infectious. I can’t help but dance to this one.
Kiana Ledé - Bouncin (feat. Offset)
  • for fans of Summer Walker
In a post-Girls Need Love world, you would think a poppy rap track with an Offset feature (that wasn’t from Tinashe) would be a surefire hit, but despite this song being catchy as hell, Kiana Ledé hasn’t been that lucky. However, this song has it all - charisma, a sticky hook, and a solid rap feature that should have it blasting out of every BMW in Brooklyn, but here we are. When this girl blows up, at least you can say you heard her first.
Shygirl - Uckers
  • for fans of Azealia Banks
The main hook of this track is a looping, unfurling bloodcurdling screech that makes for one of the most interesting beats of 2019. It’s like Cupcakke meets Clipping. and it’s every bit as jarring and magical as it sounds, somehow managing to sound both sexy and disturbing.
Vagabon - Flood
  • for fans of Chromatics
Vagabon is a New York indie rock artist entirely writing and producing her music. 2019’s self-titled release was one of the most underrated albums of the year, lush with ominous instrumentation and haunting delivery. Flood is the wistful lead single, a plead to a lost soul backed by stoning guitars and menacing synths.
Michael Kiwanuka & Tom Misch - Money
  • for fans of Leon Bridges
This funky, soulful jam is a UK dream collaboration from singer-songwriter Michael Kiwanuka and producer Tom Misch. It’s nostalgic and retro, but doesn’t feel dated, as cinematic strings and sorrowful background synths back Kiwanuka’s pleads to understand the devilish intent of greed. If you’re into disco and disco-influenced pop, look no further.
dvsn - Miss Me?
  • for fans of Miguel
OVO’s R&B act dvsn may be the label’s best kept secret. Miss Me? is a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement of the duo’s brief hiatus while also asking their love “do you miss me?” It’s a sweet, downtempo Toronto trap tune, and like their contemporaries PARTYNEXTDOOR and The Weeknd, there’s just something about a sad, pitch-shifted love song that hits way harder than it should.
VÉRITÉ - Youth
  • for fans of Sigrid
VÉRITÉ has gotten some attention on Popheads, but not nearly enough. It was a toss-up to feature this wobbly electronic track or the damning, vengeful anthem Think Of Me. In the end, though, I had to go with the bombastic drop of Youth. “I waste my youth on you,” she exclaims, and you are forced to believe her. Armed with a fiery instrumental that sounds like drowning as well as a revenge-addled chorus, Youth is one of the most vulnerable tracks to release in 2019.
Miquela - Money
  • for fans of Rina Sawayama
You may know Miquela as the sentient robot/fashion model/cyborg influencer that’s been making the waves on Instagram. The B-side to this double single, Sleeping In, was produced by none other than PC Music’s Danny L Harle, but this A-side, Money, is a sugary, sassy pop bop. It’s quite odd to realize this is the result of an inorganic character, but with a hook this strong, it’s hard not to dance along.
Kitten - Memphis
  • for fans of The Japanese House
You may know Kitten’s front woman, Chloe Chaidez, as the guitarist in Charli XCX’s favorite girl band, Nasty Cherry. In Kitten, Chloe channels the weirdest of modern electronic mashed with late 90s punk pop. Oh, and the instrumental in the chorus literally samples the sounds of a dying DSL modem. And the craziest part? It works. Chloe’s nonchalant sing-talk delivery fits the wild instrumentation quite well, and as a result, Memphis is one of the most interesting, experimental pop tracks of the year.
Emotional Oranges - Just Like You
  • For fans of The 1975
Emotional Oranges’ aesthetic is as simple as it looks - they like oranges and they’re emotional. More seriously, the California pop duo has exploded in the last year, releasing two exceptional records stacked with simmering, sexy songs that bounce between sultry R&B and uptempo pop. Just Like You is a downright sensual synthpop single, sounding like if Oh Wonder and The 1975 had a baby, and that baby listening to Terror Jr. growing up. A lustful slow burn, the track dances around with innuendos and references to “navels,” a clever nod to the duo’s dedication to the fruit, while also keeping that steamy feeling of missing someone’s body as much as you miss them.
Deb Never - Swimming
  • for fans of Dominic Fike
Deb Never, alongside 100 Gecs, Dominic Fike, Slowthai, and JPEGMAFIA completes the spectrum of weird indie pop/rap artists to open for Brockhampton. However, as talented and incredible as all of these musicians are, Deb Never may be the most underrated and exciting. The angsty singer-songwriter has a very eclectic and visceral style, blending raw trap elements with alternative rock guitars on Swimming, a dark and brooding single that may be her best yet.
Wafia - Hurts (feat. Louis The Child & Whethan)
  • for fans of Zara Larsson
Wafia is best known for her contribution on Louis The Child’s hit single Better Not, and on Hurts, she enlists the DJ duo along with rising producer Whethan to create a slick, futuristic bop with sliding synths and solid vocals. It’s a bit of a vibe, and for a song with so many people producing and writing and singing, things can fall apart, but Hurts never feels like it has too many cooks in the kitchen - it seems like it has just enough.
Roy Blair - I Don’t Know About Him
  • for fans of Kevin Abstract
Roy Blair was Brockhampton frontman Kevin Abstract’s background singer when he was simply a small internet solo act. Roy’s got music of his own, and 2017’s Cat Heaven is a rather slept on indie pop release with some great songs. He graced 2019 with a 3 song EP called Graffiti, where he he delves in a more experimental route, following in the footsteps of other alternative pop artists. The result is a somber, expressive collection of tracks that impress and surprise. I Don’t Know About Him is the first of the three, and perhaps the best. Rife with pitch-adjusted vocal samples, a chant of a chorus, and punchy production, this may be one of the most alluring indie pop tracks you’ll hear all year.
HOLYCHILD - Over You
  • for fans of Broods
HOLYCHILD recently announced they’re going on an indefinite hiatus, but not before dropping a damn solid sendoff of an album. The pulsating, explosive intro, Over You, is a gorgeous synthpop smash - its instrumental marches on and on, providing ample background for anthemic vocals to do their thing.
REI AMI - Snowcone
  • for fans of Doja Cat
REI AMI is my personal favorite new artist of 2019. She only has 3 singles out, but has carved a unique space for herself, with a love for beat switches that halve her tracks. The first half of Snowcone is a certified bad bitch anthem, with quippy and sassy lyrics, cutesy yet menacing delivery, and a raw beat with some clever moments in production. The second half couldn’t be any more different, as she finds herself vulnerable and alone, “a thrift store sweater with the holes.” There’s a nice duality to this one that is shocking in a first listen but seems almost necessary every time after that.
Bermuda - Under The Bridge (Only Pretty People Can Hear This Song)
  • for fans of Kim Petras
This bizarre track is the debut from Lil Miquela’s “hacker.” And just like the digital influencer, Bermuda is a computer-generated personality. It’s exactly what it sounds like, a poppy, autotuned cover of the Red Hot Chili Peppers song. On its own, it may not be an interesting piece of music. It’s not quite as abrasive or absent garde as an 100 Gecs track, nor is it as polished as Miquela’s PC music-friendly tracks, but it’s a relic of the zeitgeist. It’s a catchy, infectious clout chasing debut from an artist who doesn’t exist, one that might even be birthed from Miquela’s creators. Why would you make a debut single a pop cover of an early 90s rock track? Who knows. Maybe things aren’t that complicated. Maybe this is just a synthy, self-aware bop.
Tei Shi - Even If It Hurts (feat. Blood Orange)
  • for fans of Empress Of
Tei Shi has mostly been slept on in the pop/R&B spectrum despite releasing quite a few stunning singles across her two solid releases. Even If It Hurts is a smoky collaboration with Blood Orange in the vein of his 2018 album Negro Swan (of which they had a song together called Hope), and fit the most part, it shares a lot of qualities with the record: the dreamy, lush synths that lose you in a daze, the percussion that punches and drags like chains across pavement, and the whispery echoes of vocals that sound both in your face and distant at the same time. It’s easily one of the best songs of the year, and perhaps one of the best in Tei Shi’s career.
Deaton Chris Anthony - Racecar (feat. Clairo, Coco & Clair Clair)
  • for fans of Yaeji
For as small of an artist as Deaton Chris Anthony may be, he seems to have already caused quite the buzz online. In the last few months, he’s met up with Charli XCX, got Tony Hawk to star in a music video, and had this alt pop crew cut named one of the best tracks of the year by Gorilla vs. Bear (think Pitchfork but better). And this Clairo-featuring track is exactly that, a 3 minute rollercoaster ride that swerves and evades any sense of cliche as it dances around vaporwave, brat pop, sassy rap, and everywhere in between. It’s a lot to unpack, but luckily, you’ll be dying to hit replay to figure it all out.
Chelsea Cutler - You Are Losing Me
  • for fans of Sasha Sloan
This soft, Spotify-core vocal chop pop tune is a certified jam, a tried-and-true playful act of resistance. It’s got a really great drop, which bounces and shines in contrast to Chelsea’s hazy, hurtful delivery. It’s a testament to honesty and vulnerability, and while there’s a lot of tracks out there that sound like this, they’re often sterile, whereas You Are Losing Me almost feels unstable, ready to burst at any moment.
Chromatics - Whispers In The Hall
  • for fans of Beach House
For those unfamiliar with the synthpop group Chromatics, they’re one of the most influential modern dream pop groups out there, taking heavy inspiration from film scores and Italian disco. Their music has always skated on the line of horror and suspense, but on 2019’s Closer To Gray, they finally lean right into the spooky side of electronic music, with a downright menacing baseline, a Carpenter-esque melody, and a chaotic hell of an outro. It’s every bit as scary as the cover and title would suggest, and it’s every bit glorious as well.
FLUXX.WORLD - Sit W Me
  • for fans of 100 gecs
Probably the smallest group in this list, FLUXX.WORLD only has a handful of tracks to their name, but released one of my favorite tracks of the year with Sit W Me. It’s a winding, dizzying hyperpop song with a repetitive drawl, an immaculate chorus, and production that would make Charli XCX blush. It’s a fever dream, the closest thing 2019 has gotten to drone pop, and I love it. Definitely check this one out.
Poliça - Trash In Bed
  • for fans of Robyn
Minneapolis synthpop band Poliça has gone under the radar even in indie circles despite releasing some pretty great albums over the last decade, and if Trash In Bed is any indication, they’re going to continue that streak. This dark, brooding pop track oozes mystique, an omen to a past lover. It’s bleak, but enjoyable.
LIZ - Laguna Nights
  • for fans of Slayyyter
LIZ has gotten some traction here, but not quite as much as the other PC Music affiliates. Laguna Nights may be the most pure pop track on the record, but it’s a great one. Britney vibes are abound, and so are references to mood rings as well as the TV show of which the song shares a similar name. Endlessly catchy, poppy, and glittery. What more could you ask for?
Kilo Kish - Bite Me
  • for fans of Grimes
Vicious. That’s the one word I would use to describe Kilo Kish and her brand of industrial pop. Bite Me is every bit as visceral as it sounds, complete with pouncing drums, primal screams, and other various background sounds that make this such a scary, intriguing track. It all accumulated into a rush of an outro, as it feels like the entire song is packed into a 15 second snippet that erupts with increasing intensity.
Perfume Genius - Pop Song
  • for fans of Caroline Polachek
If you don’t listen to Perfume Genius, you’re going to fix that today. One of the best indie pop musicians currently in the game, Perfume Genius is always finding new ways to express himself through lovely and lush compositions. The smugly named Pop Song May be one of his best, a foray into an atmospheric garden of ambient noises and gentle vocals. Don’t let that fool you, though, as this song is grim, violent, and mellow underneath the otherwise gorgeous sheen of instruments that grace this song’s exterior. It’s a five minute song with one single hook repeated twice but it never outstays its welcome, and by the time you’re finished, you would like to play it again.
Låpsley - My Love Was Like The Rain
  • for fans of James Blake
Låpsley is one of the most underrated English songwriters out there. She wrote and produced every track on her bedroom pop debut album Long Way Home, which was brimming with deep, ocean-like downtempo pop tracks. She returns after a hiatus to bring us even more warm synths and haunting vocals on My Love Was Like The Rain. It’s a bit Billie Eilish meets Jamie xx with Adele at the helm, but it’s all full of feeling.
Banoffee - Tennis Fan (feat. Empress Of)
  • for fans of King Princess
Banoffee is still an unknown for many fans of Charli XCX or SOPHIE, but the LA songwriter will be making waves in 2020 with her eclectic delivery and lighthearted lyrical metaphors. Tennis Fan is downright infectious, coupling dancey production with bouncy vocals reminiscent of something from MØ. Top it off with a fire Empress Of feature, and you have a recipe for pop perfection.
EDEN - Projector
  • for fans of Jon Bellion
EDEN makes sad, electronic heavy pop music that’s very similar in vein to someone like James Blake, but his demeanor is far more deadpan, and his production is rather hazy and shoegazey. Projector is full of sorrowful beeps and bloops, downright depressing delivery, and an ominous fog that surrounds the entire track.
Flo Milli - In The Party
  • for fans of Doja Cat
Flo Milli may be the rapper to watch in 2020. Charisma and personality is a huge part of success in hip hop, and the Alabama rapper has it in spades. With a rapid fire, sassy flow like Rico Nasty and raw, hard beats, she has carved out a hell of a lane for herself, and already secured a Tok Tok hit with her debut single Beef FloMix. In The Party is a poppier, more audacious single, with Flo Milli serving various bad bitch aphorisms over a blunt, bodacious beat. It’s a cheerleader anthem for homewreckers and it’s as much of a banger as it sounds like it is.
Eluera - Good When We Fight
  • for fans of Tove Styrke
Eluera is an Australian lo-fi pop artist with a whispery, downtempo songwriting style that’s downright alluring. Paired with a punchy instrumental on her new single, Good When We Fight, she’s making moves. It’s got a damn nice chorus, a hint of vulnerability, and a lot of character. Definitely a must-listen for fans of the light, post-Lorde pop singers.
Torres - Good Scare
  • for fans of Marina
Torres is that one artist who has come so close to releasing that one album to put her on the map. After three great albums (all of which have managed to score an exact 8.0 on Pitchfork), Torres may finally have found her record. Good Scare, the lead single, is an indie pop bombshell, the type of slow burn that is electrifying, revealing, and unyielding. Hopefully the rest of the album can follow.
Teyana Taylor - We Got Love
  • for fans of Tinashe
Teyana Taylor is an artist with quite the crazy career - a debut that should’ve been massive but was anything but, an album infinitely delayed and finally retooled by Kanye West as part of his Wyoming sessions, a smattering of singles reworked and released over the course of 2019, and being so coveted as an opener on Jeremih’s tour she literally kicked out the main act from his own tour. So for all intents and purposes, We Got Love feels like a victory lap. It was meant to be on her last album, K.T.S.E., then intended for Kanye West’s own scrapped record Yandhi, but was shelved and shelved again, and here it is. And it’s great. A soulful Kanye production, We Got Love is a holy, beautiful rap with an endearing hook and ton of positivity and love. It sounds like a classic, nostalgic track hook release, and it’s easily up there with Teyana’s best tracks, with short quips that have West’s lyrical stamp, an organ that feels oh so churchlike, and a background choir sample that elevates this track to another level. Definitely one of my favorite songs of the year.
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2017.05.05 18:07 ilovetoeatpie The Life of Pablo

Kanye Omari West (/ˈkɑːnjeɪ/;[1] born June 8, 1977) is an American rapper, songwriter, record producer, fashion designer, and entrepreneur. Born in Atlanta and raised in Chicago, West briefly attended art school before becoming known as a producer for Roc-A-Fella Records in the early 2000s, producing hit singles for artists such as Jay Z and Alicia Keys. Intent on pursuing a solo career as a rapper, West released his debut album The College Dropout in 2004 to widespread critical and commercial success, and founded the record label GOOD Music. He went on to pursue a variety of different styles on subsequent albums Late Registration (2005), Graduation (2007), and 808s & Heartbreak (2008). In 2010, he released his fifth album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy to rave reviews from critics, and the following year he collaborated with Jay Z on the joint LP Watch the Throne (2011). West released his abrasive sixth album, Yeezus, to further critical praise in 2013. His seventh album, The Life of Pablo, was released in 2016.
West is among the most acclaimed musicians of the 21st century, and is one of the best-selling artists of all time, having sold more than 32 million albums and 100 million digital downloads worldwide.[5][6] He has won a total of 21 Grammy Awards, making him one of the most awarded artists of all time and the most Grammy-awarded artist to have debuted in the 21st century.[7] Three of his albums have been included and ranked on Rolling Stone's 2012 update of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time" list. He has also been included in a number of Forbes annual lists.[8] Time named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2005 and 2015.
West was born on June 8, 1977 in Atlanta, Georgia.[9][10] His parents divorced when he was three years old. After the divorce, he and his mother moved to Chicago, Illinois.[11][12] His father, Ray West, is a former Black Panther and was one of the first black photojournalists at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Ray West was later a Christian counselor,[12] and in 2006, opened the Good Water Store and Café in Lexington Park, Maryland with startup capital from his son.[13][14] West's mother, Dr. Donda C. (Williams) West,[15] was a professor of English at Clark Atlanta University, and the Chair of the English Department at Chicago State University before retiring to serve as his manager. West was raised in a middle-class background, attending Polaris High School[16] in suburban Oak Lawn, Illinois after living in Chicago.[17]
West demonstrated an affinity for the arts at an early age; he began writing poetry when he was five years old.[20] His mother recalled that she first took notice of West's passion for drawing and music when he was in the third grade.[21] Growing up in Chicago, West became deeply involved in its hip hop scene. He started rapping in the third grade and began making musical compositions in the seventh grade, eventually selling them to other artists.[22] At age thirteen, West wrote a rap song called "Green Eggs and Ham" and began to persuade his mother to pay $25 an hour for time in a recording studio. It was a small, crude basement studio where a microphone hung from the ceiling by a wire clothes hanger. Although this wasn't what West's mother wanted, she nonetheless supported him.[20] West crossed paths with produceDJ No I.D., with whom he quickly formed a close friendship. No I.D. soon became West's mentor, and it was from him that West learned how to sample and program beats after he received his first sampler at age 15.[23]:557
After graduating from high school, West received a scholarship to attend Chicago's American Academy of Art in 1997 and began taking painting classes, but shortly after transferred to Chicago State University to study English. He soon realized that his busy class schedule was detrimental to his musical work, and at 20 he dropped out of college to pursue his musical dreams.[24] This action greatly displeased his mother, who was also a professor at the university. She later commented, "It was drummed into my head that college is the ticket to a good life... but some career goals don't require college. For Kanye to make an album called College Dropout it was more about having the guts to embrace who you are, rather than following the path society has carved out for you."[23]:558
1996–2002: Early work and Roc-A-Fella Records Kanye West began his early production career in the mid-1990s, making beats primarily for burgeoning local artists, eventually developing a style that involved speeding up vocal samples from classic soul records. His first official production credits came at the age of nineteen when he produced eight tracks on Down to Earth, the 1996 debut album of a Chicago rapper named Grav.[25] For a time, West acted as a ghost producer for Deric "D-Dot" Angelettie. Because of his association with D-Dot, West wasn't able to release a solo album, so he formed and became a member and producer of the Go-Getters, a late-1990s Chicago rap group composed of him, GLC, Timmy G, Really Doe, and Arrowstar.[26][27] His group was managed by John "Monopoly" Johnson, Don Crowley, and Happy Lewis under the management firm Hustle Period. After attending a series of promotional photo shoots and making some radio appearances, The Go-Getters released their first and only studio album World Record Holders in 1999. The album featured other Chicago-based rappers such as Rhymefest, Mikkey Halsted, Miss Criss, and Shayla G. Meanwhile, the production was handled by West, Arrowstar, Boogz, and Brian "All Day" Miller.[26]
West spent much of the late 1990s producing records for a number of well-known artists and music groups.[28] The third song on Foxy Brown's second studio album Chyna Doll was produced by West. Her second effort subsequently became the very first hip-hop album by a female rapper to debut at the top of the U.S. Billboard 200 chart in its first week of release.[28] West produced three of the tracks on Harlem World's first and only album The Movement alongside Jermaine Dupri and the production duo Trackmasters. His songs featured rappers Nas, Drag-On, and R&B singer Carl Thomas.[28] The ninth track from World Party, the last Goodie Mob album to feature the rap group's four founding members prior to their break-up, was co-produced by West with his manager Deric "D-Dot" Angelettie.[28] At the close of the millennium, West ended up producing six songs for Tell 'Em Why U Madd, an album that was released by D-Dot under the alias of The Madd Rapper; a fictional character he created for a skit on The Notorious B.I.G.'s second and final studio album Life After Death. West's songs featured guest appearances from rappers such as Ma$e, Raekwon, and Eminem.[28]
West received early acclaim for his production work on Jay-Z's The Blueprint; the two are pictured here in 2011. West got his big break in the year 2000, when he began to produce for artists on Roc-A-Fella Records. West came to achieve recognition and is often credited with revitalizing Jay-Z's career with his contributions to the rap mogul's influential 2001 album The Blueprint.[29] The Blueprint is consistently ranked among the greatest hip-hop albums, and the critical and financial success of the album generated substantial interest in West as a producer.[30] Serving as an in-house producer for Roc-A-Fella Records, West produced records for other artists from the label, including Beanie Sigel, Freeway, and Cam'ron. He also crafted hit songs for Ludacris, Alicia Keys, and Janet Jackson.[29][31][32][33]
Despite his success as a producer, West's true aspiration was to be a rapper. Though he had developed his rapping long before he began producing, it was often a challenge for West to be accepted as a rapper, and he struggled to attain a record deal.[32] Multiple record companies ignored him because he did not portray the 'gangsta image' prominent in mainstream hip hop at the time.[23]:556 After a series of meetings with Capitol Records, West was ultimately denied an artist deal.[22]
According to Capitol Record's A&R, Joe Weinberger, he was approached by West and almost signed a deal with him, but another person in the company convinced Capitol's president not to.[22] Desperate to keep West from defecting to another label, then-label head Damon Dash reluctantly signed West to Roc-A-Fella Records. Jay-Z later admitted that Roc-A-Fella was initially reluctant to support West as a rapper, claiming that many saw him as a producer first and foremost, and that his background contrasted with that of his labelmates.
West's breakthrough came a year later on October 23, 2002, when, while driving home from a California recording studio after working late, he fell asleep at the wheel and was involved in a near-fatal car crash.[35] The crash left him with a shattered jaw, which had to be wired shut in reconstructive surgery. The accident inspired West; two weeks after being admitted to the hospital, he recorded a song at the Record Plant Studios with his jaw still wired shut.[35] The composition, "Through The Wire", expressed West's experience after the accident, and helped lay the foundation for his debut album, as according to West "all the better artists have expressed what they were going through".[36][37] West added that "the album was my medicine", as working on the record distracted him from the pain.[38] "Through The Wire" was first available on West's Get Well Soon... mixtape, released December 2002.[39] At the same time, West announced that he was working on an album called The College Dropout, whose overall theme was to "make your own decisions. Don't let society tell you, 'This is what you have to do.'"[40]
Carrying a Louis Vuitton backpack filled with old disks and demos to the studio and back, West crafted much of his production for his debut album in less than fifteen minutes at a time. He recorded the remainder of the album in Los Angeles while recovering from the car accident. Once he had completed the album, it was leaked months before its release date.[32] However, West decided to use the opportunity to review the album, and The College Dropout was significantly remixed, remastered, and revised before being released. As a result, certain tracks originally destined for the album were subsequently retracted, among them "Keep the Receipt" with Ol' Dirty Bastard and "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" with Consequence.[42] West meticulously refined the production, adding string arrangements, gospel choirs, improved drum programming and new verses.[32] West's perfectionism led The College Dropout to have its release postponed three times from its initial date in August 2003.[43][44]
The College Dropout was eventually issued by Roc-A-Fella in February 2004, shooting to number two on the Billboard 200 as his debut single, "Through the Wire" peaked at number fifteen on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for five weeks.[45] "Slow Jamz", his second single featuring Twista and Jamie Foxx, became an even bigger success: it became the three musicians' first number one hit. The College Dropout received near-universal critical acclaim from contemporary music critics, was voted the top album of the year by two major music publications, and has consistently been ranked among the great hip-hop works and debut albums by artists. "Jesus Walks", the album's fourth single, perhaps exposed West to a wider audience; the song's subject matter concerns faith and Christianity. The song nevertheless reached the top 20 of the Billboard pop charts, despite industry executives' predictions that a song containing such blatant declarations of faith would never make it to radio.[46][47] The College Dropout would eventually be certified triple platinum in the US, and garnered West 10 Grammy nominations, including Album of the Year, and Best Rap Album (which it received).[48] During this period, West also founded GOOD Music, a record label and management company that would go on to house affiliate artists and producers, such as No I.D. and John Legend. At the time, the focal point of West's production style was the use of sped-up vocal samples from soul records.[49] However, partly because of the acclaim of The College Dropout, such sampling had been much copied by others; with that overuse, and also because West felt he had become too dependent on the technique, he decided to find a new sound.[50] During this time, he also produced singles for Brandy, Common, John Legend, and Slum Village.[51]
Beginning his second effort that fall, West would invest two million dollars and take over a year to craft his second album.[52] West was significantly inspired by Roseland NYC Live, a 1998 live album by English trip hop group Portishead, produced with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.[53] Early in his career, the live album had inspired him to incorporate string arrangements into his hip-hop production. Though West had not been able to afford many live instruments around the time of his debut album, the money from his commercial success enabled him to hire a string orchestra for his second album Late Registration.[53] West collaborated with American film score composer Jon Brion, who served as the album's co-executive producer for several tracks.[54] Although Brion had no prior experience in creating hip-hop records, he and West found that they could productively work together after their first afternoon in the studio where they discovered that neither confined his musical knowledge and vision to one specific genre.[55] Late Registration sold over 2.3 million units in the United States alone by the end of 2005 and was considered by industry observers as the only successful major album release of the fall season, which had been plagued by steadily declining CD sales.[56]
2007–09: Graduation, 808s & Heartbreak, and VMAs controversy Main articles: Graduation (album) and 808s & Heartbreak Fresh off spending the previous year touring the world with U2 on their Vertigo Tour, West felt inspired to compose anthemic rap songs that could operate more efficiently in large arenas.[59] To this end, West incorporated the synthesizer into his hip-hop production, utilized slower tempos, and experimented with electronic music and influenced by music of the 1980s.[60][61] In addition to U2, West drew musical inspiration from arena rock bands such as The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin in terms of melody and chord progression.[61][62] To make his next effort, the third in a planned tetralogy of education-themed studio albums,[63] more introspective and personal in lyricism, West listened to folk and country singer-songwriters Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash in hopes of developing methods to augment his wordplay and storytelling ability.[53]
West working in the studio in 2008, accompanied by mentor No I.D. (left). West's third studio album, Graduation, garnered major publicity when its release date pitted West in a sales competition against rapper 50 Cent's Curtis.[64] Upon their September 2007 releases, Graduation outsold Curtis by a large margin, debuting at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart and selling 957,000 copies in its first week.[65] Graduation once again continued the string of critical and commercial successes by West, and the album's lead single, "Stronger", garnered the rapper his third number-one hit.[66] "Stronger", which samples French house duo Daft Punk, has been accredited to not only encouraging other hip-hop artists to incorporate house and electronica elements into their music, but also for playing a part in the revival of disco and electro-infused music in the late 2000s.[67] Ben Detrick of XXL cited the outcome of the sales competition between 50 Cent's Curtis and West's Graduation as being responsible for altering the direction of hip-hop and paving the way for new rappers who didn't follow the hardcore-gangster mold, writing, "If there was ever a watershed moment to indicate hip-hop's changing direction, it may have come when 50 Cent competed with Kanye in 2007 to see whose album would claim superior sales."[68]
West's life took a different direction when his mother, Donda West, died of complications from cosmetic surgery involving abdominoplasty and breast reduction in November 2007.[69] Months later, West and fiancée Alexis Phifer ended their engagement and their long-term intermittent relationship, which had begun in 2002.[70] The events profoundly affected West, who set off for his 2008 Glow in the Dark Tour shortly thereafter.[71] Purportedly because his emotions could not be conveyed through rapping, West decided to sing using the voice audio processor Auto-Tune, which would become a central part of his next effort. West had previously experimented with the technology on his debut album The College Dropout for the background vocals of "Jesus Walks" and "Never Let Me Down." Recorded mostly in Honolulu, Hawaii in three weeks,[72] West announced his fourth album, 808s & Heartbreak, at the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards, where he performed its lead single, "Love Lockdown". Music audiences were taken aback by the uncharacteristic production style and the presence of Auto-Tune, which typified the pre-release response to the record.[73]
West performing in August 2008 on the Glow in the Dark Tour. 808s & Heartbreak, which features extensive use of the eponymous Roland TR-808 drum machine and contains themes of love, loneliness, and heartache, was released by Island Def Jam to capitalize on Thanksgiving weekend in November 2008.[74][75] Reviews were positive, though slightly more mixed than his previous efforts. Despite this, the record's singles demonstrated outstanding chart performances. Upon its release, the lead single "Love Lockdown" debuted at number three on the Billboard Hot 100 and became a "Hot Shot Debut",[76] while follow-up single "Heartless" performed similarly and became his second consecutive "Hot Shot Debut" by debuting at number four on the Billboard Hot 100.[77] While it was criticized prior to release, 808s & Heartbreak had a significant effect on hip-hop music, encouraging other rappers to take more creative risks with their productions.[78]
West's controversial incident the following year at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards was arguably his biggest controversy, and led to widespread outrage throughout the music industry.[79] During the ceremony, West crashed the stage and grabbed the microphone from winner Taylor Swift in order to proclaim that, instead, Beyoncé's video for "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)", nominated for the same award, was "one of the best videos of all time". He was subsequently withdrawn from the remainder of the show for his actions. West's tour with Lady Gaga was cancelled in response to the controversy.[80]
2010–12: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and collaborations
Following the highly publicized incident, West took a brief break from music and threw himself into fashion, only to hole up in Hawaii for the next few months writing and recording his next album.[82] Importing his favorite producers and artists to work on and inspire his recording, West kept engineers behind the boards 24 hours a day and slept only in increments. Noah Callahan-Bever, a writer for Complex, was present during the sessions and described the "communal" atmosphere as thus: "With the right songs and the right album, he can overcome any and all controversy, and we are here to contribute, challenge, and inspire."[82] A variety of artists contributed to the project, including close friends Jay-Z, Kid Cudi and Pusha T, as well as off-the-wall collaborations, such as with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver.[83]
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, West's fifth studio album, was released in November 2010 to widespread acclaim from critics, many of whom considered it his best work and said it solidified his comeback.[84] In stark contrast to his previous effort, which featured a minimalist sound, Dark Fantasy adopts a maximalist philosophy and deals with themes of celebrity and excess.[49] The record included the international hit "All of the Lights", and Billboard hits "Power", "Monster", and "Runaway", the latter of which accompanied a 35-minute film of the same name.[85] During this time, West initiated the free music program GOOD Fridays through his website, offering a free download of previously unreleased songs each Friday, a portion of which were included on the album. This promotion ran from August 20 – December 17, 2010. Dark Fantasy went on to go platinum in the United States,[86] but its omission as a contender for Album of the Year at the 54th Grammy Awards was viewed as a "snub" by several media outlets.[87]
Following a headlining set at Coachella 2011 that was described by The Hollywood Reporter as "one of greatest hip-hop sets of all time",[88] West released the collaborative album Watch the Throne with Jay-Z. By employing a sales strategy that released the album digitally weeks before its physical counterpart, Watch the Throne became one of the few major label albums in the Internet age to avoid a leak.[89][90] "Niggas in Paris" became the record's highest charting single, peaking at number five on the Billboard Hot 100.[85] In 2012, West released the compilation album Cruel Summer, a collection of tracks by artists from West's record label GOOD Music. Cruel Summer produced four singles, two of which charted within the top twenty of the Hot 100: "Mercy" and "Clique".[85] West also directed a film of the same name that premiered at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival in custom pyramid-shaped screening pavilion featuring seven screens.[91]
2013–15: Yeezus and Adidas collaboration
Sessions for West's sixth solo effort begin to take shape in early 2013 in his own personal loft's living room at a Paris hotel.[92] Determined to "undermine the commercial",[93] he once again brought together close collaborators and attempted to incorporate Chicago drill, dancehall, acid house, and industrial music.[94] Primarily inspired by architecture,[92] West's perfectionist tendencies led him to contact producer Rick Rubin fifteen days shy of its due date to strip down the record's sound in favor of a more minimalist approach.[95] Initial promotion of his sixth album included worldwide video projections of the album's music and live television performances.[96][97] Yeezus, West's sixth album, was released June 18, 2013 to rave reviews from critics.[98] It became the rapper's sixth consecutive number one debut, but also marked his lowest solo opening week sales.[99] Def Jam issued "Black Skinhead" to radio in July 2013 as the album's lead single.[100]
On September 6, 2013, Kanye West announced he would be headlining his first solo tour in five years, to support Yeezus, with fellow American rapper Kendrick Lamar accompanying him as supporting act.[101][102] The tour was met with rave reviews from critics.[103] Rolling Stone described it as "crazily entertaining, hugely ambitious, emotionally affecting (really!) and, most importantly, totally bonkers."[103] Writing for Forbes, Zack O'Malley Greenburg praised West for "taking risks that few pop stars, if any, are willing to take in today's hyper-exposed world of pop," describing the show as "overwrought and uncomfortable at times, but [it] excels at challenging norms and provoking thought in a way that just isn't common for mainstream musical acts of late."[104]
In June 2013, West and television personality Kim Kardashian announced the birth of their first child, North. In October 2013, West and Kardashian announced their engagement to widespread media attention.[105] November 2013, West stated that he was beginning work on his next studio album, hoping to release it by mid-2014,[106] with production by Rick Rubin and Q-Tip.[107] In December 2013, Adidas announced the beginning of their official apparel collaboration with West, to be premiered the following year.[108] In May 2014, West and Kardashian were married in a private ceremony in Florence, Italy, with a variety of artists and celebrities in attendance.[105] West released a single, "Only One", featuring Paul McCartney, on December 31, 2014.[109]
Having initially announced a new album entitled So Help Me God slated for a 2014 release, in March 2015 West announced that the album would instead be tentatively called SWISH.[114] Later that month, West was awarded an honorary doctorate by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for his contributions to music, fashion, and popular culture, officially making him an honorary DFA.[115] The next month, West headlined at the Glastonbury Festival in the UK, despite a petition signed by almost 135,000 people against his appearance.[116] Toward the end of the set, West proclaimed himself: "the greatest living rock star on the planet."[117] Media outlets, including social media sites such as Twitter, were divided on his performance.[118][119] NME stated, "The decision to book West for the slot has proved controversial since its announcement, and the show itself appeared to polarise both Glastonbury goers and those who tuned in to watch on their TVs."[119] The publication added that "he's letting his music speak for and prove itself."[120] The Guardian said that "his set has a potent ferocity – but there are gaps and stutters, and he cuts a strangely lone figure in front of the vast crowd."[121] In December 2015, West released a song titled "Facts".[122]
2016–present: The Life of Pablo and Turbo Grafx 16
West announced in January 2016 that SWISH would be released on February 11, and that month released new songs "Real Friends" and a snippet of "No More Parties in L.A." with Kendrick Lamar. This also revived the GOOD Fridays initiative in which Kanye releases new singles every Friday. On January 26, 2016, West revealed he had renamed the album from SWISH to Waves, and also announced the premier of his Yeezy Season 3 clothing line at Madison Square Garden.[123] In the weeks leading up to the album's release, West became embroiled in several Twitter controversies[124] and released several changing iterations of the track list for the new album. Several days ahead of its release, West again changed the title, this time to The Life of Pablo.[125] On February 11, West premiered the album at Madison Square Garden as part of the presentation of his Yeezy Season 3 clothing line.[126] Following the preview, West announced that he would be modifying the track list once more before its release to the public,[127] and further delayed its release to finalize the recording of the track "Waves" at the behest of co-writer Chance the Rapper. He released the album exclusively on Tidal on 14 February 2016 following a performance on SNL.[128][129] Following its official streaming release, West continued to tinker with mixes of several tracks, describing the work as "a living breathing changing creative expression"[130] and proclaiming the end of the album as a dominant release form.[131] Although a statement by West around Life of Pablo's initial release indicated that the album would be a permanent exclusive to Tidal, the album was released through several other competing services starting in April.[132]
On February 24, 2016, West stated on Twitter that he was planning to release another album in the summer of 2016, tentatively called Turbo Grafx 16 in reference to the 1990s video game console of the same name.[133][134] On June 3, 2016, West premiered the first single "Champions" off the GOOD Music album Cruel Winter, which was six minutes and featured Travis Scott, Big Sean, Gucci Mane, Desiigner, Yo Gotti, Quavo, and 2 Chainz.[135][136] He told the radio host, Big Boy, that the beat had been in works for a year and a half.[135] In June, West released a controversial video for "Famous," which depicted wax figures of several celebrities (including West, Kardashian, Taylor Swift, president and businessman Donald Trump, comedian Bill Cosby, and former president George W. Bush) sleeping nude in a shared bed.[137] In August 2016, West embarked on the Saint Pablo Tour in support of The Life of Pablo.[138] The performances featured a mobile stage suspended from the ceiling.[138] West postponed several dates in October following the Paris robbery of his wife Kim Kardashian.[139] On November 21, 2016, West cancelled the remaining 21 dates on the Saint Pablo Tour, following a week of no-shows, curtailed concerts and rants about politics.[140] He was later admitted for psychiatric observation at UCLA Medical Center.[141][142] He stayed hospitalized over the Thanksgiving weekend stemming from a temporary psychosis stemming from sleep deprivation and extreme dehydration.[143]The current West seems to be based on trying to create a world that he wants his daughter, North, to grow up in. In an interview for Paper (magazine) West states that all that time, all the seemingly sporadic actions and outbursts, he was fighting for his daughter Nori’s future “‘Let's just tap back into the real world for a second we can have children. Let’s be thankful, we can raise our kids, let’s be thankful. But how about we raise our kids in a truthful world, not a world based on brands and concepts of perception? Perception is not reality. When I look in North's eyes, I'm happy about every mistake I've ever made. I'm happy that I fought to bring some type of reality to this world we choose to stay in right now, driven by brands and corporations.'"[144]
Early in his career, West made clear his interest in fashion and desire to work in the clothing design industry.[36][92] In September 2005, West announced that he would release his Pastelle Clothing line in spring 2006, claiming "Now that I have a Grammy under my belt and Late Registration is finished, I am ready to launch my clothing line next spring."[186] The line was developed over the following four years – with multiple pieces teased by West himself – before the line was ultimately cancelled in 2009.[187][188] In 2009, West collaborated with Nike to release his own shoe, the Air Yeezys, with a second version released in 2012. In January 2009, West introduced his first shoe line designed for Louis Vuitton during Paris Fashion Week. The line was released in summer 2009.[189] West has additionally designed shoewear for Bape and Italian shoemaker Giuseppe Zanotti.[190]
On October 1, 2011, Kanye West premiered his women's fashion label, DW Kanye West[191] at Paris Fashion Week. He received support from DSquared2 duo Dean and Dan Caten, Olivier Theyskens, Jeremy Scott, Azzedine Alaïa, and the Olsen twins, who were also in attendance during his show. His debut fashion show received mixed-to-negative reviews,[192] ranging from reserved observations by Style.com[193] to excoriating commentary in The Wall Street Journal,[194] The New York Times,[195] the International Herald Tribune, Elleuk.com, The Daily Telegraph, Harper's Bazaar and many others.[196][197][198] On March 6, 2012, West premiered a second fashion line at Paris Fashion Week.[199][200] The line's reception was markedly improved from the previous presentation, with a number of critics heralding West for his "much improved" sophomore effort.[201]
An advertisement for West's 2015 shoe collaboration with Adidas, the Yeezy 350. On December 3, 2013, Adidas officially confirmed a new shoe collaboration deal with West.[108] After months of anticipation and rumors, West confirmed the release of the Adidas Yeezy Boosts. In 2015, West unveiled his Yeezy Season clothing line, premiering Season 1 in collaboration with Adidas early in the year.[202] The line received positive critical reviews, with Vogue observing "a protective toughness, a body-conscious severity that made the clothes more than a simple accessory."[203] The release of the Yeezy Boosts and the full Adidas collaboration was showcased in New York City on February 12, 2015, with free streaming to 50 cinemas in 13 countries around the world.[204] An initial release of the Adidas Yeezy Boosts was limited to 9000 pairs to be available only in New York City via the Adidas smartphone app; the Adidas Yeezy Boosts were sold out within 10 minutes.[205] The shoes released worldwide on February 28, 2015, were limited to select boutique stores and the Adidas UK stores. He followed with Season 2 later that year at New York Fashion Week.[110] On February 11, West premiered his Yeezy Season 3 clothing line at Madison Square Garden in conjunction with the previewing of his album The Life of Pablo.[126] In June 2016, Adidas announced a new long-term contract with Kanye West which sees the Yeezy line extend to a number of stores and enter sports performance products.[206] The Yeezys will be seen in basketball, football, soccer, and more.[206]
West founded the record label and production company GOOD Music in 2004, in conjunction with Sony BMG, shortly after releasing his debut album, The College Dropout. John Legend, Common, and West were the label's inaugural artists.[208] The label houses artists including West, Big Sean, Pusha T, Teyana Taylor, Yasiin Bey / Mos Def, D'banj and John Legend, and producers including Hudson Mohawke, Q-Tip, Travis Scott, No I.D., Jeff Bhasker, and S1. GOOD Music has released ten albums certified gold or higher by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). In November 2015, West appointed Pusha T the new president of GOOD Music.[209]
West, alongside his mother, founded the "Kanye West Foundation" in Chicago in 2003, tasked with a mission to battle dropout and illiteracy rates, while partnering with community organizations to provide underprivileged youth access to music education.[226] In 2007, the West and the Foundation partnered with Strong American Schools as part of their "Ed in '08" campaign.[227][228] As spokesman for the campaign, West appeared in a series of PSAs for the organization, and hosted an inaugural benefit concert in August of that year.[229]
West has been an outspoken and controversial celebrity throughout his career, receiving both criticism and praise from many, including the mainstream media, other artists and entertainers, and two U.S. presidents.[36][92] On September 2, 2005, during a benefit concert for Hurricane Katrina relief on NBC, A Concert for Hurricane Relief, West (a featured speaker) accused President George W. Bush of not "car[ing] about black people". When West was presenting alongside actor Mike Myers, he deviated from the prepared script to criticize the media's portrayal of hurricane victims, saying:
I hate the way they portray us in the media. You see a black family, it says, 'They're looting.' You see a white family, it says, 'They're looking for food.' And, you know, it's been five days [waiting for federal help] because most of the people are black. And even for me to complain about it, I would be a hypocrite because I've tried to turn away from the TV because it's too hard to watch. I've even been shopping before even giving a donation, so now I'm calling my business manager right now to see what is the biggest amount I can give, and just to imagine if I was down there, and those are my people down there. So anybody out there that wants to do anything that we can help—with the way America is set up to help the poor, the black people, the less well-off, as slow as possible. I mean, the Red Cross is doing everything they can. We already realize a lot of people that could help are at war right now, fighting another way—and they've given them permission to go down and shoot us!
Myers spoke next and continued to read the script. Once it was West's turn to speak again, he said, "George Bush doesn't care about black people." At this point, telethon producer Rick Kaplan cut off the microphone and then cut away to Chris Tucker, who was unaware of the cut for a few seconds. Still, West's comment reached much of the United States.[243][244] Bush stated in an interview that the comment was "one of the most disgusting moments" of his presidency.[58] In November 2010, in a taped interview with Matt Lauer for the Today show, West expressed regret for his criticism of Bush. "I would tell George Bush in my moment of frustration, I didn't have the grounds to call him a racist", he told Lauer. "I believe that in a situation of high emotion like that we as human beings don't always choose the right words." The following day, Bush reacted to the apology in a live interview with Lauer saying he appreciated the rapper's remorse. "I'm not a hater", Bush said. "I don't hate Kanye West. I was talking about an environment in which people were willing to say things that hurt. Nobody wants to be called a racist if in your heart you believe in equality of races."[245] Reactions were mixed, but some felt that West had no need to apologize. "It was not the particulars of your words that mattered, it was the essence of a feeling of the insensitivity towards our communities that many of us have felt for far too long", argued Def Jam co-founder Russell Simmons.[246] Bush himself was receptive to the apology, saying, "I appreciate that. It wasn't just Kanye West who was talking like that during Katrina, I cited him as an example, I cited others as an example as well. You know, I appreciate that."[247]
On September 13, 2009, during the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards while Taylor Swift was accepting her award for Best Female Video for "You Belong with Me", West went on stage and grabbed the microphone to proclaim that Beyoncé's video for "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)", nominated for the same award, was "one of the best videos of all time". He was subsequently removed from the remainder of the show for his actions.[79][268][269] When Beyoncé later won the award for Best Video of the Year for "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)", she called Swift up on stage so that she could finish her acceptance speech.[268] West was criticized by various celebrities for the outburst,[79][270][271][272] and by President Barack Obama, who called West a "jackass".[273][274][275][276] In addition, West's VMA disruption sparked a large influx of Internet photo memes with blogs, forums and "tweets" with the "Let you finish" photo-jokes.[277] He posted a Tweet soon after the event where he stated, "Everybody wanna booooo me but I'm a fan of real pop culture... I'm not crazy y'all, I'm just real."[278] He then posted two apologies for the outburst on his personal blog; one on the night of the incident, and the other the following day, when he also apologized during an appearance on The Jay Leno Show.[271][279] After Swift appeared on The View two days after the outburst, partly to discuss the matter, West called her to apologize personally. Swift said she accepted his apology.[280][281][282]
West began an on-and-off relationship with designer Alexis Phifer in 2002, and they became engaged in August 2006. The pair ended their 18-month engagement in 2008.[304] West subsequently dated model Amber Rose from 2008 until the summer of 2010.[305] West began dating reality star and longtime friend[306] Kim Kardashian in April 2012.[307] West and Kardashian became engaged in October 2013,[308][309] and married on May 24, 2014 at Fort di Belvedere in Florence, Italy.[310] Their private ceremony was subject to widespread mainstream coverage, with West taking issue with the couple's portrayal in the media.[311] They have two children: daughter North "Nori" West (born June 15, 2013)[312][313] and son Saint West (born December 5, 2015).[314] In April 2015, West and Kardashian traveled to Jerusalem to have North baptized in the Armenian Apostolic Church at the Cathedral of St. James.[315] The couple's high status and respective careers have resulted in their relationship becoming subject to heavy media coverage; The New York Times referred to their marriage as "a historic blizzard of celebrity."[316]
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