Kanye West is one of the most controversial, fascinating and iconic people on the planet. In most households the rapper is known on a first name basis, much to the likes of Elvis, Madonna and Cher. Great company you’d think, however, If we look back on his journey a bit, where he began as a Roc-a-Fella Record’s producer in the late 90′s (for later-to-be mentor and friend Jay-Z) we are able to see just how far Kanye West has come to get to this iconic point in his career.
Unlike most artists, Kanye has been able to maintain a very high level of relevance by topping the charts with every album he releases. As a fan, I’ve been able to attribute this ability to stay relevant by realizing Kanye has a knack of evolving as an artist without re-inventing his personality and keeping his ‘self’ intact.
I will take a look at the evolution of Kanye West, using each of his albums to define a different era.
1. The College Dropout Era
The time leading up to the release of Kanye’s debut album The College Dropout Kanye was busy working on beats and getting credibility within the industry as a producer. At this time, nobody was really respecting Kanye as a rap artist. This dilemma helped set the stage for what turned out to be a (classic) album that took the hip-hop world by storm and completely changed the game. This pink-polo wearing hip-hop producer had America on its heals after the release and became one of the hottest up-and-coming rappers in the game after its release.
2. Late Registration Era
Like many artists are aware, the pressure of having a successful sophmore album after having a successful debut album is very, very difficult. Kanye managed to release a similar style (sample-wise) to his debut album however the sound was bit different than The College Dropout. Sound-wise Kanye went with a much more lyrics/flow driven album as opposed to the high-sounding soul samples that were used in The College Dropout. Kanye’s began growing at a rapid pace in this era.
Highlights from this era
- George Bush doesn’t care about black people comment was made
- At the Grammys he said West said he would “really have a problem” if he did not win the Album of the Year
3. Graduation Era
Kanye continues to keep his style similar to the previous but adding a more electronic style as opposed to the orchestra style music from his previous album, Graduation. The album delivered (surprisingly well) after Kanye made a few controversial statements in the media, proving so by selling nearly a million in it’s first week.
At this time, style-wise, the backpack rapping polo wearing Kanye was just about gone and in came the musically evolved Kanye West who developed a love for fashion.
Highlights from this era
- Kanye’s mother, Donda West died
- Kanye West and Alexis Phifer break-up
4. 808s and Heartbreak Era (808s)
808s and Heartbreak was a new era that was based mostly around that fact that Kanye had just lost his mother, and broke up with long-time girlfriend Alexis Phifer. These two losses filled the void (that void being this album) making a very sad and tragic album that centered around sadness and heartbreak.
This album was the most different from all others and used tribal drums, electronic and auto-tuned (kanye) voices to produce major hits that include “Love Lockdown”, “Heartless”, “Amazing”, and “Paranoid”.
5. My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy Era (MBDTF)
A year before this era began, the infamous moment where Kanye West interupted Taylor Swift at the VMA’s happend. To the surprise of most, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy debuted at #1 on the charts and sold around 500,000 copies in the first week.
Musically, this album was Kanye at his best. This album was little bit of everything and took the hip-hop community by surprise landing top scores on most reputable review blogs. His rapping style was gritty and emotional and he maintained a very dark tone throughout that made this album an instant classic.
What’s your favorite Kanye era? Let us know in the comments!