Kanye West: The controversial rapper making waves in music, fashion and politics

Tom Horton, PA
·3-min read

Kanye West was at the forefront of popular culture a long time before he became one half of what was arguably the biggest celebrity power couple on the planet.

The rapper has produced some of the biggest hits of the last 20 years and has repeatedly courted controversy during his time in the public eye.

He has now split from his wife Kim Kardashian West, who he married in 2014, court records in Los Angeles show.

While he was born in Georgia in 1977, West has always been inextricably linked to Chicago, having moved there aged three with his mother following his parents’ divorce.

Kanye West for US President
(Ian West/PA)

West made his first foray into the music industry in the early 2000s, having been a producer for Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella Records.

However he began to work on his own material and made his name as a solo artist with tracks including Jesus Walks and All Falls Down.

His 2004 song Through The Wire came after he was in a car crash which left him with a shattered jaw, which had to be wired shut in reconstructive surgery.

The track featured on his debut album The College Dropout, which was released the same year to rave reviews, while it also achieved huge commercial success.

West has frequently sparked outrage during his career and perhaps the most famous example of this came at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards.

The rapper snatched the microphone from a teenage Taylor Swift during her acceptance speech for best female video and declared Beyonce’s Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It) “one of the best videos of all time”.

Barack Obama, the US president at the time, labelled West a “jackass” over the incident.

Professor Louise Wilson Memorial Service – London
(Jonathan Brady/PA)

Since then West has expanded his career beyond music and in 2015 he collaborated with Adidas for a clothing collaboration which features his Yeezy Boost trainers.

2015 also saw West headline Glastonbury Festival despite more than 100,000 people signing a petition protesting against his scheduled performance.

With his wife looking on, he proclaimed himself the “greatest living rock star on the planet” during his set.

In 2016 West revived his feud with Swift on his album The Life Of Pablo.

In the single Famous he said: “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex. Why? I made that bitch famous.”

Swift described the song as “misogynistic”, however Kardashian West later shared an audio clip of a call between West and the singer in which she appeared to approve a portion of the lyric.

West later cancelled 21 dates of the tour of The Life Of Pablo album after he was admitted to hospital.

The rapper subsequently began to wade into political debates, announcing that if he had voted in the US election it would have been for Donald Trump.

Ahead of a visit to Trump Tower to meet the reality star turned politician, West died his hair blond.

Mark Fast Front Row – London Fashion Week
(Yui Mok/PA)

He continued to be a vocal supporter of the president for several years, saying in 2018 that “the mob can’t make me not love him. We are both dragon energy. He is my brother.”

In the same year West was on the receiving end of widespread criticism after he said slavery was a “choice” during an interview with TMZ.

He also revealed he had become addicted to opioids after having liposuction surgery, which led to him needing hospital treatment in 2016.

In 2020 West began to distance himself from Mr Trump as he began to stake his own claim for the presidency.

On July 4, he tweeted: “We must now realise the promise of America by trusting God, unifying our vision and building our future. I am running for president of the United States.”

However West failed to make the ballot in several states and in November appeared to reveal his intention to run again in 2024.