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Photos: Kanye West’s Career Highs — and Lows

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A teenaged Kanye West begins producing music for local Chicago acts. His first official credits come at the age of 19 on the 1996 album Down to Earth, the debut of an artist named Grav. In this early stage of his career, he is also affiliated with the artists GLC, Timmy G and Arrowstar, and they are collectively known as the Go Getters.

By   Amos Barshad 

Kevin Mazur

2005

At the 2005 Grammys, Kanye is nominated for 10 awards and wins three, including Rap Album of the Year. College Dropout loses Album of the Year to Ray Charles' Genius Loves Company.

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2005

Kanye records his follow-up, Late Registration, with Jon Brion — best known for his work with Fiona Apple — co-producing. It's released in August 2005, and it's another instant critical and commercial smash, so potent that its lead single magically transforms Jamie Foxx into a legitimate radio act.

Frank Micelotta/Getty

2006

A proud history of award show interruptions starts small: at the 2006 EMAs, Kanye does what is still at that point known as "pulling an ODB" and jumps the stage when Justice vs. Simian's "We Are Your Friends" beats "Touch the Sky" for Best Music Video Award: "This video cost a million dollars, fam! I had Pam Anderson! I'm jumping across canyons and shit!"

Photograph by Albert Watson for RollingStone.com

2007

When Kanye's Graduation and 50 Cent's Curtis are both scheduled for release on September 11, the two engage in a friendly (both are being released by subsidiaries of Universal Music Group) public sales battle. 50 promises to retire if he loses.

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2007

With 957,000 copies sold in its first week, Graduation beats Curtis handily (50 does not retire). The second single "Stronger" — which co-opts Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" — is a particular critical darling.

Frank Micelotta/Getty

2007

After getting shut out in all five categories he's nominated in, Kanye is captured on video backstage at the 2007 VMAs ranting effusively, to wit: "Fuck MTV. Y'all heard what the fuck I said …Give a black man a chance. I'm tryin' hard. I got the fuckin' No. 1 record. I'm tryin' man. I don't even get a fuckin' chance. They don't want a fuckin' black man in that position."

Frank Micelotta/Getty

2007

Kanye with his mother Donda at his 30th Birthday party in New York City, June 7, 2007.

Donda West dies from complications related to a cosmetic procedure. A week later, at the Paris stop of the Glow in the Dark world tour, Kanye breaks down in tears while the "Hey Mama" beat plays. He continues the tour, regularly stopping the show to dedicate Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" to his mom. His commitment to touring allegedly leads to the breakup with his fiancée, Alexis Phifer, with whom he'd been in a six-year relationship.

Kevin Mazur/WireImage

2008

At the 2008 Grammys, Kanye wins four awards, including Rap Album of the Year. He loses Album of the Year, though — to Herbie Hancock's River: The Joni Letters.

2008

Kanye West performs with Lil Wayne at the Hot 97 Summer Jame in East Rutherford, New Jersey, June 1, 2008.

Tha Carter III is released, cementing Lil Wayne's superstar status. Kanye has a small stake in the process: he produced album standouts "Comfortable" and "Let the Beat Build."

Mike Marsland/Getty

2008

Kanye premieres "Love Lockdown" at the VMAs. Soon after, at an LA listening party featuring lots of naked women, Kanye reveals that 808s&Heartbreak will be all auto-tune singing and no rapping.

Karl Walter/Getty

2008

Amidst much consternation from critics and bloggers, 808s & Heartbreak is released. It has its vocal detractors, but sells well. On a the remix to DJ Class's "I'm the Shit," 'Ye — auto-tuned, of course — says "And I dropped another album / before we finished up the tour / and its still top 10, 'bout 15 weeks later / So that's a middle finger for you 808 haters."

Foc Kan/WireImage

2009

Kanye begins spending a lot of time in public with Amber Rose, a buxom socialite best known for music video appearances and spreads in magazines like Smooth.

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

2009

At the 2009 VMAs, Kanye jumps the stage while Taylor Swift is receiving the award for Best Female Video: 'Yo Taylor, I'm really happy for you, Imma let you finish — but Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time! One of the best videos of all time!" The backlash is swift and severe, and Kanye apologizes profusely, most notably with a droopy appearance on The Jay Leno Show. With the vitriol still strong he lies low, eventually decamping for Japan for a while. Kanye would later claim to have received death threats during this period, and indicate that the fallout from the incident included the cancellation of his tour with Lady Gaga and his clothing line. The footnote: While Kanye has always expressed remorse for the incident itself, he's still mad about Beyonce getting shut out. "We can't let them say the aliens built the pyramids" is a favorite allusion.

2010

After months of rumblings about a return-to-rap album, the silence is broken: Kanye returns, sans Amber but with sharply fitted suits, first at the offices of various social networking companies rapping a cappela, and then with the massive "Power." A barrage of Tweets, epic music videos and awesome free music follows.

By   Amos Barshad 

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