Kanye West’s seventh studio album, Waves, is set to release on February 11th alongside season three of his Yeezy line at Madison Square Garden. In true Kanye fashion, the event will be broadcasted to select theaters in the U.S., Australia and Europe. Waves, formerly known as Swish, and formerly formerly known as So Help Me God, has been trending for the entirety of 2016. Due to the release of the tracks “Real Friends” and “No More Parties in L.A.,” the release of the album’s track list and Kanye’s non-stop promotion of the album on Twitter, fans are hyped for Yeezus’ follow up. However, before he became the rap and hip-hop icon he is today, Kanye was just a college dropout trying to make it in the game. In honor of Waves, here are the top ten most interesting facts about Ye’s life before he rose to fame.
1. His First Studio Recorded Song Was Called “Green Eggs and Ham”
At the tender age of 13, Kanye wanted to get serious with rapping and record songs in a studio. His mom, who was an English professor at Chicago State University, supported his pursuit and paid for him to record “Green Eggs and Ham” in a basement studio. The studio was best described as sketchy, but lil’ Yeezy left the studio with a song reminiscent of the 90s and full of yelling.
2. He Worked a Telemarketing Job and Sold Insurance
After he had dropped out of Chicago State University at the end of his freshman year to pursue music, Kanye lived with his mom who demanded he pay his share of rent. So, he pursued odd jobs to make ends meet. Telemarketer and insurance salesman by day and producer by night, Kanye would often stay up until 4 a.m. creating and selling beats.
3. He Entered the Music Industry as a Producer
Kanye didn’t enter the music industry as the talented, clever rapper he is today. He had humble beginnings as a producer, and after selling his first beat for $8,000 to a Chicago rapper, he moved to New Jersey to pitch to rappers in New York City. Eventually, he worked his way up to producing for Jay Z and significantly contributing to The Blueprint. While working with big name stars like Jay Z, Nas, T.I., Ludacris, Beyoncé, and Alicia Keys, Kanye knew he wanted to make a career out of rap—not production. Briefly college-educated and polo-wearing, Kanye West didn’t fit into the Gangsta Rap aesthetic that dominated the industry, leading Jay Z to feel hesitant towards signing him to his Roc- A- Fella label. Jay Z immediately signed Ye once he almost joined Capitol Records, and felt that this action was worth the risk of Kanye’s potential.
4. His Near Fatal Car Crash Established His Career
On October 23rd, 2002, Kanye got into a near fatal car accident that changed the course of his life. After producing mediocre beats at a studio session in L.A., Kanye left the studio at 3 a.m. and crashed into oncoming traffic. Although he was in the hospital for weeks and needed facial reconstruction surgery, the accident wasn’t a big deal simply because no one knew who he was. After his near death experience, Kanye decided to change his style and pursue conscious rap laden with stories—leading him to rap “Through the Wire” with his jaw literally wired shut. “Through the Wire” and the buzz it generated in the industry was exactly what Kanye needed. It both established his career as a rapper and became the lead single for his debut studio album The College Dropout, which went on to win the Grammy for the Best Album of the Year.
5. The College Dropout’s Release Was Delayed for Years
Though The College Dropout gained a lot of buzz from “Through the Wire,” Kanye delayed the release of his album for years. Producing for others while he was recording his own album, he often put The College Dropout on the back burner—even though it went on to be extremely successful.
6. He Celebrated the Success of The College Dropout by Buying an Aquarium
The College Dropout sold 2.6 million copies and won multiple Grammys, so Kanye celebrated his success in one of the ways only Kanye could: by buying an 18th century style aquarium. He didn’t stop there—he also filled the aquarium with 30 koi fish. Goes to show that even early in his career, Kanye knew how to go all out.
7. He Almost Made 50 Cent Quit Music
On September 11th, 2007, both Kanye West and 50 Cent released their respective albums Graduation and Curtis. This matching release date created a rivalry between the two mainstream rappers, prompting 50 to state that he would quit music if his Curtis didn’t outsell Kanye’s album. Graduation debuted at number one and sold nearly one million copies in its first week, which was rarely seen at the time. 50 Cent still went on to release a few albums after Curtis didn’t come out on top and disregarded his previous statement.
8. He Was Supposed to Star in a Sitcom
After Graduation’s release, Kanye was supposed to star in a sitcom about his life, but the show never made its way to television though it was mentioned in the media.
9. He’s the Third Best-Selling Solo Male Digital Artist
So far, Kanye has sold 12 million records and prompted 30 million music downloads in the U.S., making him one of the top digital artists. Along with being the third best-selling solo male artist, he is the sixth best-selling artist overall.
10. He’s Won 122 Music Awards, Including 21 Grammys, So Far
In his relatively short career of only about ten years, Kanye has won an absurd amount of awards. His rise to success and status as a modern day icon has set him apart from various rappers who broke out in the early 2000s. Seeing the successes of Kanye’s most recent albums Yeezus and Watch the Throne with Jay Z, it is clear that the appeal of his music isn’t tapering off anytime soon. Hopefully Waves lives up to the hype and is as influential as Kanye has claimed it will be.