Kanye Omari West is full of contradiction. Born in Atlanta, Ga., Kanye was raised in Chicago’s middle-class South Shore neighborhood. His parents had separated by the time the producer was three. At the age of 10, the rapper spent a year in China as the only foreigner in his class. However, when he returned to Chicago he was drawn to the hip-hop scene and joined himself to the producer and DJ who goes by the name No I.D. in hopes of someday making his mark in the music industry. It was not long before it became obvious to fans that Kanye is from another Chicago.
Ask the “Dark Twisted Fantasy” singer who he is and Kanye will quickly tell you that he is a 21st-century phenomenon who changed the rap game. The designer managed to merge his nerdy persona into the gangster ethos with distinct and deeply introspective thoughts and delivery. In 2002, the musical genius was given his first opportunity to record a solo album after which there was no looking back. The industry loved him for his knack for innovation and risk-taking creativity.
Chicago, the place where the fashion icon was reared, is known for its gang violence. The carnage has earned the city the name “Chiraq” because of the high ratio of killings in the streets. Other rappers who were raised in areas that are gang-infested and a part of their city’s culture became gang affiliates early in life. However, there are a few rappers who managed to avoid that life altogether. Kanye, is one of them. Hence, much of his commentary about life differs from his entertainment peers. In the song, “Murder to Excellence” Kanye raps about the death toll in 2008 in with these lyrics:
I feel the pain in my city wherever I go/314 soldiers died in Iraq, 509 died in Chicago…
Although a native of Chicago, his music went against the gangster rap stereotype of hip-hop. The “Late Registration” rapper’s lyrics often spoke about the “goings on” in the city, however, his demeanor and behavior – early on – suggested Kanye was from another Chicago. The musician’s once stellar career is often eclipsed by his talent for putting his entire foot in his mouth while making news for bizarre tweets, award-show invasions, grand pronouncements, unique sense of fashion and more recently, his unusual support of President Trump.
Whether one views Kanye as a creative genius or raging lunatic, he is more than just a musician or egotistical maniac. The producer is undoubtedly a social activist who won 20 plus Grammys, sold more than 32 million albums and 100 million digital downloads, making him one of the most awarded artists of all time. Truth is, “The College Dropout” poet has always been in the news, whether for the numerous awards won or the controversies that he has caused over the years.
The artist’s recent comments about slavery have once again put him in a negative light with many of his fans and co-laborers and in the industry. Kanye is from another Chicago, he was not born in the ghetto nor raised in the projects. His view of the world is often from the “top-down” and therefore causing him to lose touch with reality. Slavery was not a choice and his blatant declaration has offended much of Black America who still feels the sting of oppression.
When Kanye hit the scene many celebrated his arrival and loved his lyrical abilities. Some believe the tide turned after his mother’s sudden death. Others feel he was always arrogant, but after his career began to soar so did his ego. As a businessman and musician, Yeezus has solidified his place in the industry. Many of his decisions are controversial and questionable, yet his success is undeniable.
As a trailblazer in the rap game, Kanye is not a conformist; he basically writes his own rules. The Chi-Town native might boast of a South Side upbringing, but truth is, Kanye West is from another Chicago.
Opinion by Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
Rolling Stone: Kanye West Bio
The Famous People: Kanye West Biography
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