Kanye West performs during Puff Daddy and Bad Boy Family Reunion Tour at Madison Square Garden on September 4, 2016 in New York City.

Kanye West celebrates his birthday on June 8. The rapper, singer-songwriter, producer, and fashion designer was born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1977. He moved to Chicago, Illinois, after his parents divorced when he was three years old.

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West started rapping in the third grade and began making musical compositions by middle school. After receiving a scholarship to attend Chicago’s American Academy of Art in 1997 and transferring to Chicago State University shortly after, West dropped out of college to pursue a professional music career.

The artist started as a producer and, by 2000, was working as an in-house producer for Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella Records. During his time there, he contributed to Jay’s 2001 album The Blueprint, Ludacris’ 2003 album Chicken-n-Beer, Alicia Keys’ 2003 album The Diary of Alicia Keys, and Janet Jackson’s 2004 album Damita Jo. At first, West was valued more as a producer; he wasn’t taken seriously as a rapper. He wasn’t signed to Hov’s label until 2002.

Ye dropped two albums a year apart while signed to Roc-A-Fella: The College Dropout (2004) and Late Registration (2005). The albums featured hits like “Jesus Walks,” “Slow Jamz,” “Through the Wire,” “All Falls Down,” “Touch the Sky,” “Heard ‘Em Say,” and “Gold Digger.”

Kanye kept the momentum going after winning Grammys for Best Rap Album (The College Dropout), Best Rap Song (“Jesus Walks”), and Best R&B Song (“You Don’t Know My Name”), he released two more albums a year apart in 2007 and 2008. The artist took a break from making music before releasing his fifth studio album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, in 2010. In 2011, Kanye and Jay collaborated on their joint album Watch the Throne, which spawned hit singles like “No Church in the Wild” and “N—-s in Paris.”

The artist went on to release eight more studio albums, three of which are collaborations with Kid Cudi (Kids See Ghosts) and Ty Dolla $ign (Vultures 1 and 2). Though Ye has been consistent with making music, he has made plenty of controversial comments that have landed him in the hot seat, as well as brand deals and tours being canceled.

Recently, Ye was sued for sexual harassment by a former assistant. He has since responded to the claims, telling People magazine, calling the allegations “baseless” and “frivolous filing.” West is reportedly filing his own lawsuit against the former employee.

8 of Kanye West’s Best Songs Ranked:

  • 8. Ghost Town (feat. PARTYNEXTDOOR)

    The sample king himself made this Ye track one of the few songs we liked from the 2018 album, Ye. Kanye uses Shirley Ann Lee’s “Someday,” which plays in the beginning, as well as a sample of the Royal Jesters’ “Take Me for a Little While.” What we love most about this song is how soulful it is, as Kid Cudi sings, “I’ve been tryin’ to make you love me, but everything I try just takes you further from me.” Then Kanye adds, “I’m on one, two, three, four, five. No half-truths, just naked minds caught between space and time. This not what we had in mind, but maybe some day…”

  • 7. Love Lockdown

    808s and Heartbreak had tons of bangers, and the best one of all is “Love Lockdown.” West’s track embodies the change in his sound in 2008, complete with auto-tune singing, electropop influence, and of course, the use of an 808 drum machine. This song never gets old, with lines like, “I’m not loving you, way I wanted to. See, I wanna move, but can’t escape from you.”

  • 6. Blood On the Leaves

    This 2013 Yeezus track samples Nina Simone’s cover of Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit.” In the song, West calls back to the horrific themes of lynching in “Strange Fruit” while offering a modern struggle of how fame can cause the destruction of his relationships. About one minute into the track, the song unleashes horns along with animal growls that play sporadically throughout the rest of the song.

  • 5. Devil In a New Dress (feat. Rick Ross)

    From Kanye’s fifth studio album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010), the eighth song has the rapper struggling with sinful thoughts about his girl. The track has a chill vibe, as Ye sings, “We ain’t married, but tonight I need some consummation. May the lord forgive us, may the Gods be with us.” The track is a play on the song “Devil with a Blue Dress On” by Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels.

  • 4. Jesus Walks

    Ye has long incorporated themes of faith and systemic issues that impact minority groups. With his most notorious track revolving around the former, “Jesus Walks” was released in 2004 as the 7th track on The College Dropout. The track won “Best Rap Song” at the Grammys that year, and with its strong imagery in the music video and the song’s lyrics, it was well-deserved. The rapper states in the beginning, “We at war with terrorism, racism, most of all, we at war with ourselves.”

  • 3. Bound 2

    Though this music video is kind of cringe and has been parodied over and over, the song itself is so good. “Bound 2” is the closing track of Ye’s sixth album, 2013’s Yeezus. The soulful track stands out compared to the rest of the album’s electronic influence and samples Ponderosa Twins Plus One’s 1971 song “Bound.” He was actually sued by Ricky Spencer (of the Ponderosa Twins Plus One), claiming that he hadn’t authorized the use of the song. West settled with the artist.

  • 2. I Wonder

    As one of our favorite Kanye songs to blast in the car and sing along to, “I Wonder” comes from the rapper’s third studio album, Graduation. The song’s simplicity lets its emotional message shine through, which West has commented on. He said in an interview with Concrete Loop that he simplified the lyrics so his fans could identify with the record. “I was like you know what? I don’t need to over rap.” He added, “I didn’t even try. I just zoned out, I’d go into the studio and vibe to the beat and it just came to me — God gave me the words.”

  • 1. Through the Wire

    In the 2022 documentary series jeen-yuhs we learn that Kanye recorded the song with his mouth still wired shut. The rapper recorded the 2004 song despite his doctor advising that he shouldn’t, which he notes in the song’s lyrics: “They can’t stop me from rapping can they? Can they, Hop? I spit it through the wire, man. It’s too much stuff on my heart right now, man. I’ll gladly risk it all right now.” The song samples Chaka Khan’s 1984 song, “Through The Fire.” This song was West’s first single ahead of his release of his debut album.

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