A lot has been said about Kanye West over the years, and he's said a fair amount of it himself, but there's no denying his remarkable creative ability and influence.
To appreciate his accomplishments, we have to remove his ego and image in the media, and acknowledge the fact that Kanye WORKED his way up the ranks, first impressing some of the top artists in the game as a producer.
Behind the scenes, Kanye orchestrated some of the most recognizable beats of the past 20 years, including Jay Z's massive hits "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)," "Heart Of The City," and "Encore" before becoming a solo artist.
His first single "Through The Wire" — which he LITERALLY recorded with his jaw wired shut — helped launch The College Dropout to unparalleled success for a debut album, including over four million copies sold worldwide.
His sophomore album, Late Registration, was highly acclaimed, receiving Album of the Year honors by Rolling Stone, USA Today, Spin, and Time, and named one of the Greatest Albums of All Time by Rolling Stone.
Graduation, West's third album, debuted at No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart, selling a massive 957,000 copies in its first week, going on to be certified double platinum.
808s and Heartbreak was named one of the 40 Most Groundbreaking Albums of All Time, ushering in a new era of songwriting and beatmaking, allowing future artists like Drake to flourish in a new rap world where beats were slowed down and lyrics were sung.
His follow-up album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, received universal acclaim, debuting at No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart, and winning a Grammy Award for Best Rap Album.
Watch the Throne, West's collaborative album with Jay Z, debuted at No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart, receiving seven Grammy Award nominations on its way to being certified platinum.
West's most recent album, Yeezus, debuted at No. 1 in the U.S., receiving universal acclaim with nine publications rating it as the Album of the Year.
Collectively, that's seven straight platinum records in 11 years, including the collaborative Watch the Throne album, all of which were fundamentally different in terms of sound and style.
So it should come as no surprise that this experimental nature led him to the world of fashion where he launched his own clothing line, curated his own fashion show, and designed a new sneaker with Adidas.
In everything that he does from interviews to albums, West is constantly pushing boundaries and asking questions. Not only is he engaging, but he's continually creating something new and exciting, as part of his vision, whether people want it or not.
Now it's important to note that, in Kanye's mind, everything he does is artwork, meaning a song isn't just a song; it's a single part of a carefully constructed journey through his album, which itself is just a single part of his message.
But the true gift of Kanye is that we never know what we're going to get from him next. His unpredictability, talent, and passion are a special combination and one that make him a supremely unique and successful artist.
Whether you like him or not, it's impossible to put Kanye in a box and call him "just another rapper." His influence is unmappable and his drive is inspirational.
So what would the world be like without Kanye West? I guess we'll never know.
Happy Birthday, Mr. West. And thank you for continuing to create.