The 10 best Kanye West moments – in pictures

Ten years on from the launch of his debut album, relive Kanye West's highs and lows…
10 best: Kanye West debut album
Releases a debut album
In the early 00s, Kanye West was a sought-after but largely anonymous producer of hip-hop. Imagine it! A world without the sound of Kanye’s voice... In 2002, a car accident almost killed the Chicagoan and was the prod he needed to release a record of his own. The College Dropout, a brilliant, angry, chaotic debut, came out in February 2004 and by the autumn had sold more than 2 million copies. West went to the American Music Awards expecting to be named best newcomer. “Robbed,” he complained to reporters, when a country singer won instead. “I was the best new artist this year, so get that other bullshit out of here!” Everybody, meet Kanye
Photograph: PR
10 best: Kanye West and Mike Myers A Concert For Hurricane Relief
Goes after Bush
At the start of 2005, West had appeared at the Grammys wearing feathery angel wings… by September the devil was in him. Booked to speak alongside Mike Myers at a telethon raising money for victims of Hurricane Katrina, West went off-script. Hands in pockets, he spoke about the inadequacy of the relief effort in New Orleans and concluded with a single blunt sentence: “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” Myers (like everyone in the studio, you imagine) was not prepared for this. Taking a deep breath, the comedian tried to muscle on with his speech before producers cut away. Kanye later offered a qualified apology
Photograph: LFI
10 best: Kanye West on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine
Identifies with Jesus
Critics at Rolling Stone rank West’s track Jesus Walks as one of the best of all time. Fittingly, perhaps, the magazine put Kanye on its cover in 2006 wearing a tattered habit, streaks of fake blood and a crown of thorns. There was outrage, particularly from America’s vast Christian community, many of whom found the image disrespectful. At around the same time, the Washington Post reported that West had taken to making direct comparisons between himself and Jesus, because “he’s had to fight for recognition and suffer for his success”. Last year, the rapper returned to a familiar provocation, titling his sixth album Yeezus
Photograph: PR
10 best: Kanye West with some trainers
Changes name
“Oh, hey, world,” said Kanye, in a curious video message posted in 2009. The rapper was sitting in a Parisian hotel room, wearing a bright orange blazer and surrounded by Louis Vuitton accessories. He said something incoherent about inventing new trainers and then announced: “I’m changing my name to Martin Louis the King Junior. Address me as such.” As hip-hop rebrands go, it wasn’t quite as seminal as Puff Daddy becoming P Diddy or Snoop dropping the Dogg. Martin Louis the King Junior seemed to forget about the new name himself before long, though reference to it did resurface in a 2010 rap
Photograph: PR
10 best: Kanye West and Taylor Swift at the MTV awards
Crashes Taylor’s stage
Wobbly on Hennessy (he’d been drinking from the bottle on the red carpet beforehand), West made an unbidden appearance on stage at the 2009 MTV Video Music awards. Taylor Swift had just beaten Beyoncé to a prize. On stage she managed to gush: “I always dreamed what it would be like to win one of these!” before Kanye barrelled on from the stalls and snatched away her radio mic. “Yo, Taylor, I’m really happy for you… but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time!” Cut to Beyoncé in the crowd, who mouthed: “Oh, Kanye.” Swift, playing the moment cleverly, stayed quiet and let the crowd speak on her behalf. Booooo!
Photograph: Kevin Mazur/WireImage
10 best: Kanye West's Twitter avatar
Joins Twitter
“Too busy being creative,” was once Kanye’s line on social media. Then in July 2010 the rapper joined Twitter. These were happy times for followers of his @kanyewest account. We got moans (“What do I have to do to get a simple Persian rug with cherub imagery?”) and gloomy confession (“It is super lonely and miserable to buy yourself a Cartier love bracelet”). We got a glut of not-always-comprehensible commentary on his life, a lot of it in capital letters and featuring some truly unforgettable pearls. “Fur pillows,” he Tweeted, “are hard to actually sleep on.” Kanye’s output in recent times has been blander, unfortunately
Photograph: PR
10 best: Kanye West's fifth album banned album cover
Releases fifth album
Away from the music, West’s life was, as ever, tumultuous when My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy came out late in 2010. (At this particular point in time the rapper felt “used… very tortured” after an interview on the Today show went sour.) But the album, Kanye’s fifth, was spectacular – a giddy, gutsy epic, packed with unexpected duets and collaborations. Many anointed it the rapper’s masterpiece. “Maniacally inspired,” wrote Rolling Stone. “At once modern and truly classic,” said Pitchfork. West, of course, wasn’t going to be left out of this praise-athon and later said the album “could be considered perfect”
Photograph: PR
10 best: Kanye West performing at The Big Chill 2011
Identifies with Hitler
Kanye, by 2011, was feeling persecuted. Gigging at the Big Chill Festival in the UK he slowed down, mid-set, to confess something to the audience. There was stage smoke in the background, moody purple light, a vamping piano… “I walk down the street,” Kanye said, “and people look at me like I’m fucking insane, like I’m Hitler.” The Associated Press reported boos at this point. A video uploaded on, though, suggested the reaction was one of baffled silence from the crowd. Either way, it made global news and the LA Times went as far as to interview a psychologist on the matter. “Issues with narcissism” was the conclusion
Photograph: Andy Sheppard/Redferns
10 best: Still form Kayne Wests Bound 2 video
Rides a motorbike with Kim
By summer 2013, West had been in a relationship with reality TV star Kim Kardashian for about a year. The romance had been a muted one – only a pregnancy (announced on stage), the birth of a daughter (broadcast on television) and a $750,000 engagement ring to show for it. When the time came to cast a new music video, for his new single Bound 2, West did not scour far for an actress and Kim joined Kanye for an unforgettably silly promo in which the pair simulated sex on a motorbike. Attractive geographic locations – desert, forest, Grand Canyon – went by via blue screen in the background. Kanye wore a tie-dyed T-shirt and Kim went topless

• This caption was amended on 7 February 2014 as we had incorrectly referred to Kanye West and Kim Kardashian's daughter as their son
Photograph: PR
10 best: Kanye West on Radio 1
Appears on Radio 1
A perfect mix of the incautious, the lyrical and the outright bizarre, Kanye West’s exchange with Zane Lowe, broadcast on Radio 1 last September, must rate as one of the best celebrity interviews of all time. What didn’t Kanye say? At various points, he called himself a visionary and a god and suggested his life had much in common with the civil rights movement. He claimed to have invented “leather jogging pants” and spoke of his ambitions to found a billion-dollar company. Then a trillion-dollar company. About his contribution to culture since 2004, he said: “I brought 10 years of product that’s added to humanity.” It was hard to argue
Photograph: PR


Tom Lamont

The GuardianTramp

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