West is a hip-hop superstar thanks to his radio-friendly hits and unconventional image and is notorious for flipping out when he doesn't get the respect he thinks he deserves.
The son of a photojournalist and former Black Panther and a college professor, West grew up in Atlanta and Chicago and studied English at Chicago State before dropping out to pursue his music career. He gained a following thanks to his signature style-samples of classic soul songs with sped-up vocals-and attracted serious attention with his work on Jay-Z's hit album The Blueprint in 2001. His 2004 debut album, The College Dropout, generated major buzz and earned eight Grammy nominations, but West really became a household name with "Gold Digger" off his sophomore album. Since then, he's continued to churn out albums, experimented with his style (the auto-tune centeric 808s & Heartbreak), and formed the mega-group Watch The Throne with Jay-Z.
West obviously enjoys making waves: During a televised 2005 Hurricane Katrina benefit, West made headlines when he ignored the teleprompter and declared "George Bush doesn't care about black people." He's had feuds with everyone from 50 Cent (2007's record sales war) to Taylor Swift (2009's notorious VMA speech-crash). However, Kanye's life hasn't been without tragedy: in 2007, his mother died with complications from cosmetic surgery. [Image via Getty]