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Kanye Bio

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Kanye West

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1996

College Dropout

An English major at Chicago State University, where his mother, Donda, chairs the department, West quits school to pursue his music career full-time. "He said, 'Mom, I can do this, and I don't need to go to college, because I've had a professor in the house with me my whole life,'" Donda West tells Time. "I'm thinking, this boy is at it again. He always could twirl a word." (West's parents divorced when he was young.)

2001

September 18

Jay-Z's Architect

After turning out hit singles for Common, Ludacris and Cam'Ron, among others, West gets his big break when Jay-Z asks him to produce several tracks on his chart-topping album The Blueprint.

2002

October 23

Near Death Experience

On his way home from a marathon recording session in L.A., West crashes his Lexus after falling asleep at the wheel. While recovering in the hospital, West pens "Through the Wire," a song about the crash where he jokes about drinking "a Boost for breakfast, a Ensure for dizzert/Somebody ordered pancakes, I just sip the sizzurp." He'll record the song three weeks later with his jaw still wired shut. The finished track convinces Roc-A-Fella Records to let him move in front of the mic and push through approval for his first solo album. "Death," West tells Time, "is the best thing that can ever happen to a rapper. Almost dying isn't bad either."

2004

February 10

Slow Jamz, Fast Start

West's debut album The College Dropout is an immediate hit, selling 441,000 copies in its first week. Not that West needs sales figures to validate his work. "You can't judge The College

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