By: Staff MAR.10.18 @provkmag
The most influential figure of the past decade in pop culture, who’s helped shape the music we listen to, the art we look at, the clothing we wear and the sneaker we crave. There is no other figure in recent history to have such an impact in the things we cover here on PROVK, music, art and fashion. From his years as a producer collaborating with artists like Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, Common, Drake, Pusha T, Beyonce, T.I., John Legend, Kid Cudi, Lorde, Mos Def, Maroon 5, to bringing clothing designers like Virgil Abloh and Jerry Lorenzo to the forefront of the fashion world, there is no denying Kanye has the midas touch. Over the past few years he is now focused, as he embarked on revolutionizing the fashion industry. With ambitions only a man who declares himself a God could attempt to take on.
Kanye Omari West was born in June 8, 1977 in Atlanta, Georgia. His parents divorced when he was three years old, he and his mother shortly thereafter moved to Chicago. His father, Ray West was a former Black Panther and a photojournalist. He would later become a Christian counselor looking to help in charitable endeavors. Kanye’s mother, Dr. Donda C. West, was a professor of English at Clark Atlanta University and later chair of the English Department of Chicago State University. At age 10 he and his mother moved to Nanjing, China, where his mother was teaching at Nanjing University in participation of an exchange program. Even in China, West was an excellent student. Showing his propensity toward the arts, Kanye began writing poetry at the age of five. He and his mother moved back to Chicago and during his teenage years he wrote songs and created musical compositions. Having received three scholarship offers to attend Art school, he choose to attend American Academy of Art where he was a classically trained painter. It was his love of making music that persuaded him to drop out and pursue a music career.
Early success came as a producer, first creating beats for local Chicago rappers and later being involved with Foxy Brown’s second studio album Chyna Doll. This led to work with a number of famous hip hop artists of the 90s. Despite all of the success as a producer, he had aspirations to becoming a rapper. It wasn’t until his car accident in October 23, 2002, after working late in a studio and falling asleep behind the wheel and having a near death experience where Kanye as he put it, finally had the time to work on his own album. With a shattered jaw wired shut through reconstructive surgery, Kanye recorded “Through the Wire.” This was the launch of a career as a recording artists. Hit albums like The College Dropout, Later Registration and Graduation followed. It was his fourth studio album “808s & Heartbreak” were Kanye pushed music boundaries. This album would go on to influence a new generation of artists. This was then followed by what many consider one of the, if not “the” greatest hip hop album of all time, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” Music compositions that had never been heard in music, and introduction to artists like Nicki Manaj. He has introduced us to artists like Kendrick Lamar, after asking him to open his Yeezus tour in 2013.
But Kanye hasn’t rested on his musical success. He’s not interested in just making music, he sees his creativity as a tool to embarke in many forms of producing product. His love of fashion is where he is looking to make waves. In 2015 he began collaborating with Adidas and created the Yeezy 750 Boost with huge commercial success. Yeezy releases are still one of the most coveted products for sneakerheads everywhere. This wasn’t his first collaboration in fashion, having created for Nike and clothing brands like A.P.C. In October 29, 2015 Kanye released Yeezy Season 1, a clothing collection with ready to wear military style clothing. His influence in fashion is evident by the growth of companies like Off-White and Fear of God. Off-White lead by Kanye’s creative director Virgil Abloh is a fashion house that has merged 90s inspired streetwear with high fashion. Jerry Lorenzo founded Fear of God, but it wasn’t until Kanye asked Lorenzo to collaborate with him in merchandise that Fear of God had taken off.
"You don't have to be scared of me, because I am loyal. Why are people so scared of creative ideas and so scared of truth? All I want to do is do good."
Kanye’s influence in pop culture doesn’t end in music and fashion. He’s worked with visual artists like Takashi Murakami, KAWS and George Condo, bringing art to the masses. With album covers designed by these artists and creatively working together in music videos and other ventures, Kanye has made these artists mainstream for a whole new segment of the population that wouldn’t have otherwise heard of them. Music, fashion and art, Kanye sets the tone for where culture moves to. He’s been credited by artists like Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Pusha T and more as the influencial figure in their music career. For some it’s hard to look past any controversial statements Kanye makes or “outlandish” actions he’s taken, but there is no question of his influence in pop culture and the creativity that surrounds us.