For rapper and fashion mogul Kanye West, the old adage that there’s no such thing as bad publicity seems to ring especially true. He is a mad genius of hip-hop and fashion who is constantly sharing his unfiltered, stream-of-conscious-style musings with the world. Though his polarizing positions make him a target, he seems to feed off the attention.
But if you take the time to listen, there’s a lot more than meets the eye, or the ear in this case. Here are some of the most fascinating facts that West has rapped about, hinted at and shared in interviews over the years.
He Likes Nicknames
In September, West announced on Twitter that he now prefers to be called “Ye.” “Ye” is also the name of his latest album. Some of his previous album names have also matched his other nicknames, Pablo and Yeezy — notably, 2013’s “Yeezus” and 2016’s “The Life of Pablo.”
Kanye Had An Awkward Phase As A Teen
Even the multitalented, trendsetting West had an awkward phase when he was younger. Rolling Stone reported that in high school, other kids teased him about his braces. It seems like it was worth it, though, because his smile looks great today.
He Attended Two Colleges
He started at American Academy of Art in Chicago and transferred to Chicago State University. West dropped out before graduating and opted to pursue a career in the music industry instead.
He named his 2004 debut album “The College Dropout,” though West received an honorary doctorate degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2015.
He Got His Start As A Producer
West got his start in music with Roc-A-Fella Records as a producer for several of the tracks on Jay Z’s album “The Blueprint.” He wanted more than producing credits, however and convinced the Roc-A-Fella team to give him a shot on the other side as a rapper.
He Was Engaged Once Before Marrying Kim Kardashian
In 2006, West proposed to his then-girlfriend, designer Alexis Phifer, over a romantic dinner while on vacation in Capri, Italy. The two ultimately parted ways in 2008, just months after his mother’s death in November 2007.
At the time of the breakup, a friend of his told People, “Kanye has been going through a rough time.”
Kanye Was In A Car Accident That Nearly Killed Him
In 2002, while driving home from the studio at 4 a.m., West fell asleep at the wheel, crashed into an oncoming car and broke his jaw. (The crash broke both of the other driver’s legs and his pelvis.) He had to have it wired shut to let it heal. He ended up recording his first single, “Through the Wire,” with his jaw still wired shut.
He Had A Close Relationship With His Mother
His parents divorced when he was 3 years old, and his mother, Donda, raised West in Chicago. When he was a rising star, she left her teaching position at the University of Chicago to work as his manager. West frequently brought her as his guest to award shows and events.
His Mother Died Suddenly After Surgery
In 2007, Donda died after returning home following cosmetic surgery. People covered the aftermath and the coroner’s report, writing that the Los Angeles coroner concluded she “died of heart disease while suffering ‘multiple post-operative factors’ after plastic surgery.'” The sudden and tragic loss was understandably difficult for West. He named his new creative content and design company Donda as a tribute to his mother.
His Tastes In Music Are Surprising
During a Rolling Stone interview from 2006, West had a conversation with Willi.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas in which he said, “I love your album. The only albums that I listened to were yours, System of a Down [a heavy metal group] and Fiona Apple.”
He Loves Stuffed Animals
When a Rolling Stone reporter noted the teddy bears on a windowsill in his house, West replied, “People give me bears all the time. I love stuffed animals.” His mascot Dropout Bear appeared on some early album covers, and apparently, the bear was a spontaneous choice for the cover.
“The bear just happened to be at the school where Def Jam had booked the photo shoot for the album,” music exec Plain Pat told Complex.
West Compared His Lyrics To Advice From Mahatma Gandhi
West is never short on confidence. During an interview with Rolling Stone, he shared how he felt about a line in “Everything I Am” that goes, “Everything I’m not made me everything I am.”
“In my humble opinion, that’s a prophetic statement,” he said. “Gandhi would have said something like that.”
He Has Directed Films
West was a director and a writer on the short fantasy film “Cruel Summer,” which tells the story of a car thief who falls in love with a blind princess. The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2012.
MTV compared it to his 2010 short “Runway,” saying it “plays like an extended music video.”
He Relies On Others When Making Creative Choices
West bounces lyrics and new ideas off anyone who happens to be in the studio, and reportedly solicits advice from anyone and everyone. In fact, he has reached out to journalists, girlfriends and delivery drivers in addition to established industry professionals. In a Rolling Stone story, a former girlfriend noted she had to be careful about saying she didn’t like something, because he’d cut it.
He Has Won 21 Grammys
West’s tally of mini gramophones ties him with Jay-Z. However, he has also had an incredible 68 Grammy nominations. West received his first Grammy in 2004 for Best Rap Album for “The College Dropout.”
He Has A Controversial View Of AIDS
West shocked the crowd at an AIDS awareness concert tour with his claim that AIDS was a “man-made disease” that had been “placed in Africa just like crack was placed in the black community to break up the Black Panthers.” During a Rolling Stone interview, he affirmed the widely discredited belief.
“My parents taught me that AIDS was a man-made disease designed to get rid of the undesirable people,” he said.
He’s Been Named One Of The Most Influential People In The World
West has made it onto Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world list twice, in 2005 and in 2015. He also earned GQ magazine’s International Man of the Year title in 2007, and GQ also recognized him as one of the 20 Best-Dressed Men in 2015.
He Has Blowout Birthday Parties
Thanks to his wife, Kim Kardashian West celebrated his recent 41st birthday in superstar style. The bash came complete with magic tricks and Kanye cookies. The guest list included Kardashian’s sisters and West’s musician friends. For his 30th birthday, West celebrated with friends Jay Z, Rihanna and John Legend at a Louis Vuitton store and had a teddy bear cake.
He Collaborates Often
West has collaborated with an incredible array of award-winning recording artists. He doesn’t just stick to R&B stars either. He has worked with Elton John, Lil Wayne, Pusha T, Alicia Keys, T-Pain, Fergie, Bon Iver, Chris Martin and Nicki Minaj among others.
He’s Writing A Book
West is a prolific writer when it comes to lyrics and Twitter, but a book is uncharted territory for the star.
“I’m writing a philosophy book right now called ‘Break the Simulation,'” he told The Hollywood Reporter in April. “And I’ve got this philosophy … about photographs, and I’m on the fence about photographs — about human beings being obsessed with photographs — because it takes you out of the now and transports you into the past or transports you into the future.”
He Sees A Philanthropic Future For His Yeezy Brand
“Yeezy will eventually become like a relief company,” West said of his clothing brand in an interview with Charlamagne Tha God. “If there’s a disaster we’re gonna dress. We’re gonna bring clothes and water. The same design perspective that can sell a $300 sweatshirt — we’re just going to give it. And eventually, that’s who we’ll be. You’ll look up, 5, 10 years from now, and Yeezy will be the biggest service provider of apparel.”
West Doesn’t Watch Much Television
West told an interviewer, “I don’t usually watch normal TV.” However, he said he likes documentaries and had enjoyed watching the 2018 Winter Olympics. He also mentioned wanting to see Wes Andersen’s “Isle of Dogs.”
He Marched For Clean Water
West consistently speaks his mind, no matter how controversial the cause, but this platform was surprisingly tame. In 2007, the superstar surprised about 50 Lexington, Maryland, residents when he joined them in observing World Water Day. West’s father organized the group, and they walked 3-6 miles for the U.N. initiative to raise awareness about clean drinking water.
He Became Addicted To Opioids After Cosmetic Surgery
“I was drugged out,” West said during an interview with TMZ Live. Mid-interview, he stands, turns around and says to the entire TMZ office, “Hey, everyone listen to this, please.”
West then explained how he became addicted to opioids — and media stories about the appearance of celebrities — after cosmetic surgery.
“I didn’t want y’all to call me fat, so I got liposuction. Right? And they gave me opioids.”
He Invested In His Father’s Business
His father Ray West is a former Black Panther and was one of the first black photojournalists at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He also worked as a Christian counselor. In 2006, West helped his father open the Good Water Store and Café in Maryland. The Kanye West Foundation loaned him the money for the cafe.
He Bought Out The Covers Of 9 Publications
The cover buyout in September was a publicity push for the new Yeezy Adidas shoes. The New York Post was one of the publications that sold its cover for the advertisement, which featured the words “We Love” in 11 languages, as you can see in this Instagram shot from juniorrose_0731:
He’s Worth How Much!?
Kim Kardashian’s appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” in July caused a stir when Kimmel asked her about reports that Kylie Kardashian had become a billionaire. Kimmel asked Kim, “You’re not almost a billionaire, are you?” she replied, “I would say my husband is, so that makes me one, right?”
His Relationship With Kim Kardashian Began With Friendship
West made his true feelings for her pretty clear in the lyrics of “Cold” before the famous couple began dating. “And I’ll admit, I had fell in love with Kim, Around the same time she had fell in love with him.”
Complex noted that the lyrics revealed an overlap with Kardashian’s relationship with NBA player Kris Humphries, whom she was married to briefly in 2011. Not long after the song’s release in 2012, their relationship turned romantic.
His Tattoos Are Meaningful
He’s A Vocal Supporter Of President Trump
West donned a red Make America Great Again hat and took to the microphone to support the president following his “Saturday Night Live” appearance Sept. 29. But this was only the rapper’s most recent show of support for Donald Trump. After a meeting with West in 2017, the president told reporters the two have been “friends for a long time.”
‘Ye’ Was His First Album That Did Not Go Platinum
West released “Ye” in June 2018. He completed the album on his ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. All of his seven other studio-produced albums have been certified platinum or higher in the U.S.