Kanye West: His Contribution to Black History

Introduction of Kanye West

Music has been deemed the voice of the people, able to convey the sentiments of a community that has been burdened by the demons of this nation’s past and unified by the plight of a seemingly endless struggle. As a whole, music has been a catalyst at both unifying and dividing us and has the power to influence culture, politics, and greater society. Perhaps no more significant motivation has existed during our generation that conveys music both politically and culturally than Chicago-native Kanye Omari West.

Early Life of Kanye West

Born to Ray West and Dr. Donda C. West on June 8, 1977, in Douglassville, GA, West moved to Chicago at only three-years-old after his parent’s divorce. West showed an interest in creative arts at an early age and began rapping while in grade school and selling music by the time he was in middle school. Under the tutelage of Chicago native, D.J. No I.D. West was able to hone his craft and excel in music production. A modern-day renaissance man has also been equally influential in fashion. He has had multiple entrepreneurial pursuits, from launching his travel agency to opening Fat Burger restaurants in Chicago. An artist at heart, he pursued art and painting before going to Chicago State University to study English. He also attended Columbia College Chicago briefly. As noted by his debut titled album, College Dropout, he left Chicago State University after realizing that his academics heavily interfered with the pursuit of Kanye West’s music career.


At the forefront of a new sound dubbed chipmunk soul, he went on to have a successful career as a music producer and artist after leaving college, showing that there are multiple roads to success. Out of the 70 times he has been nominated for a Grammy, he has won 21 times.

Although controversial at times, Kanye West’s contribution to Black History is significant because he has influenced contemporary rap music more than any other artist by changing Modern Hip-Hop’s sound. He represents our collective perseverance, defeating the odds, and overcoming obstacles. In 2002, while in the hospital from a car accident, West continued to produce and put out music exhibiting his resilience and passion for his craft as an artist. With all of the attention that comes from celebrity life, he is no stranger to contentious situations. Perhaps he was primed for controversy being the son of a Black Panther himself. Mr. Ray West was a part of the Black Panthers in the 60s and 70s and was a man of many talents and titles ranging from medical illustrator to Christian marriage counselor.


Although not as tangible as was in the early days of his success combined with Kanye West’s fractured relations with the city today, what Kanye did for Chicago musically was legendary. He continues to be the inspiration for young creatives seeking to forge a career in the music industry. And while he has been plagued by struggles with bipolar disorder and other mental health-related issues, Kanye’s legacy lies in the gift of his music, resilience, confidence, and perseverance. He shed light on a city with an infinite amount of talent that elevated Chicago as a force to be reckoned with musically. Regardless of his current day presence in the city, he paved the way for artists like Chance The Rapper and Chief Keef, and his role and significance in Chicago hip-hop has been solidified.

For more information on Kanye West for kids, go to SankofaChicago.com

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