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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 


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."

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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.

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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."

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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.

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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.


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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