Kanye Omari West (born June 8, 1977) is an American rapper, record producer, author and singer. He released his debut album The College Dropout in 2004, his second album Late Registration in 2005, his third album Graduation in 2007, and his fourth album 808s & Heartbreak in 2008. His first three albums (and his fourth to a lesser extent) have received numerous awards and critical acclaim. All have been very commercially successful, with 808s & Heartbreak becoming his third consecutive #1 album in the U.S. upon release. West also runs his own record label GOOD Music. West's mascot and trademark is "Dropout Bear" a teddy bear which has appeared on the covers of three of his four albums as well as various single covers and music videos.
West gained fame by producing for Roc-A-Fella Records, where he eventually achieved recognition for his work on Jay-Z's album, The Blueprint as well as hit singles for musical artists including Alicia Keys, Ludacris, and Janet Jackson. His style of production originally utilized pitched-up vocal samples from soul songs incorporated with his own drums and instruments. However, subsequent albums saw him broadening his musical palette and expressing influences ranging from '70s R&B, to synth-pop, and classical music. About.com ranked Kanye West #8 on their "Top 50 Hip-Hop Producers" list. On May 16, 2008, Kanye West was crowned by MTV as the year's #1 "Hottest MC in the Game.
Kanye West was born in Atlanta, Georgia, where he lived with both of his parents. When he was three years old, his parents divorced, and he and his mother moved to Chicago, Illinois. His father was Ray West, a former Black Panther who was one of the first black photojournalists at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and is now a Christian counselor. West's mother, Dr. Donda West, 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 West's manager. He was raised in a middle-class background, attending Polaris High School in suburban Oak Lawn, Illinois after living in Chicago. West took some art classes at the American Academy of Art, a Chicago art school, and also enrolled at Chicago State University, but dropped out due to poor grades and a primary interest in working on his music career. While attending school, West produced for local artists. He later gained fame by producing hit singles for major hip hop/R&B artists, including Jay-Z, Talib Kweli, Cam'ron, Paul Wall, Common, Mobb Deep, Jermaine Dupri, Scarface, The Game, Alicia Keys, Janet Jackson, John Legend among others. He also "ghost-produced" for his mentor Deric Angelettie, according to his song "Last Call" and the credits of Nas' "Poppa Was a Playa".
Kanye West's tattoos consist of a dragon on the outer part of his left arm, and on the inner he has a poem written by Maya Angelou