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Published:December 22nd, 2013 11:01 EST
SOP Battle of the Bands Featuring Kanye West ft. CyHi Da Prince & Teyana Taylor with "Christmas In Harlem"

SOP Battle of the Bands Featuring Kanye West ft. CyHi Da Prince & Teyana Taylor with "Christmas In Harlem"

By SOP newswire2

The double-platinum, triple-Grammy award success of Kanye West`s debut album, The College Dropout, was a surprise to many in the industry, but not to West himself. The young rapper and producer had confidently touted the classic status of his work, shaped creatively during a harrowing period of recovery from an auto accident. Some charged him with arrogance, but West, as he put it in his autobiographical track "Last Call," used "arrogance as the steam to power my dreams." "I always say you have to be a little postal to push the envelope," he pointed out to Margena A. Christian of Jet. And push the envelope he did: The College Dropout was a brilliantly innovative 21-track production that diverged sharply from the gangster stereotypes of the hip-hop music of its day and, in its hit single "Jesus Walks," merged hip-hop and gospel musical languages in an entirely new way.

Born to Be a Star

Born June 8, 1977 in Atlanta, Kanye West (whose first name is Swahili and has been translated as "only one") was raised on Chicago`s South Side. His father Ray West was a former Black Panther who earned two master`s degrees, becoming an award-winning photojournalist and later a counselor. West`s paternal grandfather, West told Chris Campion of England`s Daily Telegraph newspaper, was "the original hustler. He shined shoes and did whatever he had to do to send all his kids to college." His mother Donda West was an English professor at Chicago State University. A strong thread of activism ran through both sides of the family. West`s parents divorced when he was three, but both remained involved in his upbringing. As a child, West often spent summers with his father in Maryland.

"I was really raised in the church, and raised as a good Black man," West told Kimberly Davis of Ebony. That said, his background was an unusually varied one; when he was ten, his mother landed a one-year teaching job in Nanjing, China, and West became proficient enough in the Chinese language to be an interpreter for his mother in restaurants. "I think that got me ready to be a celeb because, at that time, a lot of Chinese had never seen a black person," he told Campion. "They would come up and stare at me, rub my skin, fishbowl me." West became fascinated by hip-hop music at a young age, successfully badgered his mother into buying him a sophisticated electronic keyboard, and wrote his first raps by the time he was ten. His abilities first became apparent at school talent shows. "I would help the others because I just knew I was going to win anyway," West told Campion. "The teachers used to say, `This ain`t meant to be the Kanye West show.`"

Soon West had his eye on bigger and better things. "I thought I was going to get signed back when I was 13 years old," he explained to Associated Press writer Nekesa Mumbi Moody, "and come out with a record and take [youthful rap group] Kriss Kross out." These ambitions had to take a back seat to West`s education for a while, though. He graduated from Chicago`s Polaris High School, and, having shown skills as a visual artist as well as a verbal one, enrolled at Chicago`s American Academy of Art on a scholarship. He then transferred to Chicago State, declaring an English major but spending most of his time, he told Campion, "in music class or in the lunch room talking to girls."