What Happened To Kanye West?

Once known as Kanye West, now officially known as Ye, the rapper is both famous and infamous, depending on who you talk to. But if one thing is for certain, it’s that you never know what he’ll do next.

By Nicole Andre8 min read
Getty Images/Roy Rochlin

He lays down bars, makes shoes, has run for president, and is now making porn. If we were on Jeopardy, the correct response would be: “Who is Kanye West?”

While the rapper is certainly known for songs like “Gold Digger” and “Heartless,” there’s a lot more to know about the rapper who now goes by Ye. His reputation has taken on a life of its own and has perhaps become even bigger than his biggest of hits.

Kanye and His Mama

The story of how Kanye got his start isn’t what you might expect – he doesn’t have the typical “raised in the hood” background expected from big time rappers. 

His parents divorced when he was just 3 years old, and Kanye was raised by a single mom who was an English professor at Chicago State University. The two then moved to China, where his mom taught at Nanjing University. 

He was deeply influenced by the good relationship he had with his mother, Donda West. Kanye undeniably loved and respected her. Not only did he write her the song “Hey Mama,” which he would sing to her on many occasions, but he named his album Donda after her following her death. She would be crucial to Kanye’s development in every stage of his life.

Even as a young child, Kanye showed artistic creativity, purposefully coloring bananas purple or oranges blue. Donda noticed that creativity and said of it, “I never criticized him for it. I figured I would just nurture [it].”

She was the woman who gave him the confidence he needed to go after his dreams. She once recounted, “I didn’t sit down and tell him, ‘You have to be the best.’ I just always thought he was. … This, I believe, bolstered his confidence and enthusiasm in all that he did.”

Kanye’s very loving relationship with his mother made her death all the more painful for him. When asked by Q Magazine in 2015 what he had sacrificed for the success of his career, Kanye was quick to answer: “My mom.” Donda passed away in 2007 from complications in a liposuction and breast reduction surgery. Kanye lamented, “If I had never moved to L.A. she’d be alive. I don’t want to go far into it because it will bring me to tears.”

The College Dropout 

Surprisingly, music wasn’t Kanye’s first artistic pursuit. He actually started out as a painter, studying for a year at Chicago State University before dropping out to pursue music. In his case, it was a great career move, as he majorly capitalizes on dropping out, even calling his debut album The College Dropout.

Dropping out of college is a big risk. And being raised by a single mother, it was undoubtedly a big educational opportunity to give up. But Kanye coupled that risk-taking with diligence. He worked during the day as a telemarketer and would stay up until 4 a.m. working on his career as a rapper. 

But despite his talent and pleading, he wasn’t afforded the trust to create his own album for quite some time. It was thought by some that his middle-class upbringing would be a barrier to his having any real success as a rapper. Apparently, in the rap world, poor privilege is a thing. 

Luckily, Kanye got in a car accident that, creatively, may have been the best thing to ever happen to him. After having his jaw wired shut as a result of the crash, Kanye was inspired to write “Through the Wire,” a hit on his debut album.

His 2004 debut album, The College Dropout, fully debunked the idea that his middle-class background would hold him back as a rapper. It was well received by the average listener and critics alike. So much so that his song “Jesus Walks” won a Grammy, with the album as a whole receiving Best Rap Album.

Rapper/producer Kanye West accepts the award for Male New Artist of the Year during the 2004 Billboard Music Awards. (Photo by Kevin Winter/GettyImages)
Rapper/producer Kanye West accepts the award for Male New Artist of the Year during the 2004 Billboard Music Awards. (Photo by Kevin Winter/GettyImages)

His albums that followed went on to be even more successful. His music stood out for its motivational quality, rather than simply being the soundtrack of gang violence. Kanye had done it. He famously said, “If you’re a Kanye West fan, you’re not a fan of me, you’re a fan of yourself. You will believe in yourself. I’m just espresso. I’m just the shot in the morning to get you going.” 

His dream of becoming a rapper had come true, and he even started his own record label, GOOD Music, but that would be far from his only business endeavor.

Yo Taylor, I’ma Let You Finish

Kanye is perhaps best known for interrupting Taylor Swift at the 2009 VMAs (which begs the question of who really made who famous, but I digress). As Swift began her acceptance speech for winning “Best Female Video” for her music video "You Belong With Me," Kanye stormed the stage and grabbed the mic, saying, “Yo Taylor, I’ma let you finish. But Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time.”

Kanye West jumps onstage after Taylor Swift won the "Best Female Video" award at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images)
Kanye West jumps onstage after Taylor Swift won the "Best Female Video" award at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images)

Swift was left without time to finish her speech, though Beyoncé later gave her the chance to speak after she won a different award. The crowd, the American public, and even then-president of the United States Barack Obama were on Taylor Swift’s side.

You would think there would be a few more remarks from some talking heads, the inevitable Twitter apology, and it would be over. But this is Kanye we’re talking about. And as you may well know, that was far from the case.

Instead, it resulted in a full-fledged feud between him and Swift, with no small role being played by his now ex-wife Kim Kardashian

The two singers had supposedly made up when Ye released “Famous” in 2016 with the ironically infamous line, “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I made that bitch famous.” 

Swift took to Twitter to express her discomfort with the line, and she was quickly responded to by Kardashian with a three-minute clip of a phone conversation where Swift appears to consent to the song lyric. Public opinion quickly did a 180 turn against Swift. #TaylorSwiftIsOverParty trended on Twitter, and she went into hiding. 

Swift’s album Reputation heavily referenced her feud with Ye and Kardashian. Public opinion didn’t shift to side with Swift again until after a 25-minute video of the conversation was released

Kanye Makes Kim a Style Icon

Maybe it’s the name alliteration because both of their names start with K. Or maybe it’s all the public appearances they made together as a couple over the years, but when you think Kim, you think Kanye. And the reverse is also true. 

Not only did Kim and Kanye’s names become inseparable, but their marriage changed the way the world would see Kim Kardashian forever. Kim gained both her sense of style and the fashion influence she now wields from Kanye. 

There’s an episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians where Kanye throws out pretty much Kim’s entire closet, with the promise of filling it up with new clothes in return. “I always thought I had really good style – until I met my husband and he told me that I had the worst style,” Kardashian recalled. “He was really nice about it and cleaned out my whole closet. … I probably had 250 pairs of shoes, and when we were done cleaning it out, I had two pairs left and I cried.”

She added, “I wanted to learn, when he did that, he wanted to teach me.”

Kanye would continue to educate Kim on what to wear. For example, at the beginning of 2018, he emailed Kim, telling her, “You cannot wear big glasses anymore. It’s all about tiny little glasses,” and included “millions of ’90s photos with tiny little glasses.” Forget style trend forecasters, Kanye was on top of it!

Kanye West and Kim Kardashian West attend the Versace fall 2019 on December 2, 2018, in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)
Kanye West and Kim Kardashian West attend the Versace fall 2019 on December 2, 2018, in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)

But it went far beyond the makeover. It was Kanye’s connections that finally gave Kim her in with the fashion world. Previously, she had been shunned as a trashy reality TV star; rumor was Anna Wintour banned her from the Met Gala. Givenchy’s former creative director, Riccardo Tisci, was a friend of Kanye and, out of loyalty, dressed Kim. “He was the first person to really take a chance on me, and he would teach me so much about the fits and cuts and how I should wear things,” Kardashian said.

Now, top designers are practically begging to dress Kim, there are articles written by Vogue about her Met Gala appearances, and she’s a panel speaker at events like the Business of Fashion’s inaugural summit.

Posting about her first Met Gala years later, Kim recalled, “I was Kanye’s plus one & so nervous! I didn’t know anyone & I’m sure no one wanted me there lol. I did my own lipstick & the color is so off. I went home & cried of insecurity but this is one of my fav looks now.”

The Kardashian Curse

Kim and Kanye started dating in 2012 while Kim was still in the middle of her legal battle following her 72 day marriage to Kris Humphries. Kanye quips in his song “Theraflu,”  “I admit I fell in love with Kim / ‘Round the same time she fell in love with him / That’s cool, baby girl, do your thing / Lucky I ain’t had Jay drop him from the team.” 

A little over a year later, their first child North West was born. The two married in Florence, Italy in 2014, following a weeklong celebration in Paris. They share three more children together: Saint, Chicago, and Psalm.

If only there were a happily ever after kind of ending to their story. But there is a whole Kardashian Curse Theory, where every man a Kardashian or Jenner woman dates will have his life ruined during the relationship or after the breakup. Kim and Kanye unfortunately didn’t escape it.

Kim and Kanye’s marriage endured more than most. Beyond the typical marriage arguments, the two faced the drama that came with Kanye’s Twitter feuds and the backlash from some of his political stances. Together, the two passed through Ye’s mental health struggles and the gunpoint robbery of Kim.

But this is where things get especially bleak for Kanye. In 2016, Kanye was hospitalized against his will at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center for 10 days after his personal trainer, Harley Pasternak, informed police that Kanye was “acting erratically.” 

Kanye suffered memory loss following the treatments received at the hospital, which triggered a theory that Kanye had undergone MK Ultra treatments (a type of reprogramming using electroshock therapy) and that Pasternak was his handler. Kanye’s later tweets that referred to this experience only added fuel to the fire. In 2022, he tweeted, “I was mentally misdiagnosed and nearly drugged out of my mind to make me a manageable well behaved celebrity.” 

He included a screenshot of a text message from someone named Harley that said, “I'm going to help you one of a couple ways... First, you and I sit down and have an loving and open conversation, but you don't use cuss words, and everything that is discussed is based in fact, and not some crazy stuff that dumb friend of yours told you, or you saw in a tweet. Second option, I have you institutionalized again where they medicate the crap out of you, and you go back to Zombieland forever. Play date with the kids just won't be the same."

Some believe that Kanye’s changed behavior paired with what appears to be a threatening text supports the MK Ultra theory. 

Kanye has also blamed his experiences on Kim and painted a picture of his need to escape the Kardashian control, saying she wanted to “fly [him] to Wyoming with a doctor to lock me up like [in] the movie Get Out.” The premise of Get Out is wealthy white people using mind control to harvest the bodies of black people to achieve a kind of immortality.

The end to Kim and Kanye’s marriage in 2022 came to a more than messy finish. Kim would go on to date Pete Davidson, prompting Ye to create the music video for “Eazy,” where a claymation of Davidson was tied up and buried. As for Kanye, he would go on to date Irina Shayk, Julia Fox, and Chaney Jones, before marrying Bianca Censori in 2022. 

Kanye’s Presidential Campaign

A world in which Kanye West runs for president seems like an alternate universe, but it’s one we’re living in. The 2020 election cycle might feel like a fever dream, but that part of it was something that really happened. Kanye ran as part of the “Birthday Party,” believing that being the leader of the free world was his calling in life. Ye received a total of 60,000 votes. His campaign came after a history of tweets and statements that often led to backlash. 

Kanye’s support of Donald Trump came as a surprise to many and earned him a lot of criticism. Even his wife Kim initially tried to discourage him from wearing his Make America Great Again hat on Saturday Night Live, but later, upon reflection, said, “And now looking back, I think, why should he take that off if that’s what he believes in? Why can’t he wear that on TV? Half of the country voted for [Trump], so clearly, other people like him.”

Rapper Kanye West stands up as he speaks during a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in the Oval office of the White House on October 11, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Oliver Contreras - Pool/Getty Images)
Rapper Kanye West stands up as he speaks during a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in the Oval office of the White House on October 11, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Oliver Contreras - Pool/Getty Images)

He also came under fire for his anti-abortion stance. He has repeatedly voiced his viewpoint, but most memorably perhaps is when he talked of his own personal experience with abortion at his first presidential campaign event in Charleston, South Carolina, on July 19, 2020. He recalled when Kim was pregnant with North and how he had a spiritual experience that showed him that he and Kim shouldn’t abort their baby (a comment which Kanye later insinuated Kim tried to send him to the hospital for). And equally as personally, he shared, “You know who else protected a child? … Forty-three years ago, who do you think protected a child? My mom saved my life! My dad wanted to abort me. My mom saved my life! There would have been no Kanye West because my dad was too busy.” 

Perhaps what turned the most heads were his remarks about slavery, though. On TMZ, Ye said, “When you hear about slavery for 400 years … for 400 years? That sounds like a choice.” He later clarified his remarks to mean that he felt “we can’t be mentally imprisoned for another 400 years.” 

Kanye even visited the White House to talk about issues with President Donald Trump, which CNN compared to a minstrel show, while Kanye called it free thinking.

The Rise and Fall of Yeezy

For seven years, Ye had a successful partnership with Adidas, making his own line of shoes called Yeezy. His line represented 10% of the brand’s total revenue each year. That all came to a screeching halt after Ye’s remarks on a podcast called Drink Champs, when he referenced Jews controlling rappers, celebrities, and media. 

He was quickly called out for his antisemitic remarks, and Adidas promptly announced that they would “stop the Adidas Yeezy business with immediate effect.”

This had big implications for Adidas, causing them to lose millions of dollars of revenue a year, and equally big implications for Ye financially. Adidas owns all the trademarks to Yeezy designs, making it impossible for Ye to pivot and sell his sneakers through a different manufacturer. Ye lost his spot on the Forbes billionaire list as a result of the severed ties with the sneaker company.

Both his being shunned by many of the public for his politics and the loss of business with Adidas came as a blow to a man who was once at the very top of the music industry, adding weight to the Kardashian Curse Theory.

His Relationship with Bianca Censori

Since Kanye married Australian architect, Yeezy employee, and “Kim Kardashian lookalike” Bianca Censori in 2022, many have come to see their relationship as problematic, pointing to Bianca’s choice of clothing, or lack thereof, since the start of the two’s partnership. 

And sure, there’s plenty of weird celebrity outfits to be found on a weekly basis, but given the extremity of many of Bianca’s outfits, as well as the comments from past partners like Kardashian and Fox, many have seen a pattern of Kanye of using clothing as a form of control over his girlfriend or wife. 

But what is perhaps the most strange in his relationship with Bianca is that the revealing undergarments she wears in public are a dramatic departure from his opposition to Kim wearing clothing he felt was overly revealing.

Their relationship has been so strange that the internet theories about this Kanye being a clone are now running rampant. 

Yeezy Porn

It wasn’t long ago that Ye stated, “Any form of perversion is bad in God’s eyes. Any form of pornography – it tears apart families. It’s used to tear families apart.”

This was part of Ye’s (former) Christian beliefs, which he first professed in 2009. It came as a surprise to his fanbase and the media, but Ye seemed to prove that he was undergoing a change, even starting his own worship services and releasing his album of gospel music, Jesus Is King

But the days of a Christian Kanye have come to an end, and the man who once spoke strongly against the dangers of porn is now planning to launch his own porn site, Yeezy Porn, this summer. 

This unfortunate turn of events seems to be motivated by the recent struggles in Ye’s life, such as his divorce from Kim and losing the deal with Adidas. On the Big Boy’s Neighborhood podcast, Ye revealed, “I have my issues with Jesus.  … I said a lot of prayers, and I ain’t seen Jesus show up, so I had to put my experience [with what I was dealing with] in my own hands. I had to do it myself. … I am the God of me, and you can’t tell me who I am.”

Closing Thoughts

Kanye West is nothing if not an extremely polarizing figure. It would seem that even he is still trying to figure out who Kanye, or Ye, is. A talented music producer with an eye for fashion and a once-strong belief in family values has taken a turn down a dark path. It’s safe to say many fans and those who knew him hope to see a return of the Kanye West they loved. 

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