30) Grammys (2005)
The College Dropout’s sales and mainstream success did a lot to silence Kanye West naysayers, still leery of his capability to transition from producer to rapper. Winning Best Rap Album over fellow nominees like LL Cool J, Jay-Z and the Beastie Boys, was enough to put any doubters to bed for good. This same year, Kanye received 10 Grammy nominations in total, also taking home Best Rap Song for "Jesus Walks."
This was the moment Kanye West had truly arrived.
29) 808’s and Heartbreak (2008)
Kanye’s first release after the death of his mother, Donda West, marked a distinct tonal shift in both his personal sound, and subsequently the rest of hip hop and pop music altogether. His fourth LP, Kanye had earned clout in the industry due to the successes of all three instalments of The College trilogy - he didn’t need to change his sound. But he did, and the deviation away from the soulful samples he became famous for and towards sonic minimalism, space drums, and auto-tune (but shout out T-Pain), is still influencing hip hop to this day.
28) Martin Louis the King Jr. (2009)
Kanye’s video announcing his name change to Martin Louis the King, Jr. feels like a precursor to peak raving and ranting Kanye. Though the name change proved to be impermanent, it greater refined the boisterous, high society persona of Ye that was just beginning to bubble towards the surface.
27) Collaboration with Louis Vuitton (2009)
Before there was a Yeezy season to celebrate, there was Kanye West’s Louis Vuitton sneaker collaboration. In 2017, we know Ye as equal parts musician and fashion designer, but this 2009 collaboration was an early foray into the fashion realm. Its success provided momentum for future projects that got him where he is today in the fashion industry.
26) I'mma Let You Finish (2009)
When one closes their eyes and pictures Kanye West, they'd be hard pressed not to picture him in all black, wielding a microphone, and ruining Taylor Swift's night. It's an important marker in the timeline of Kanye's career, and the music that followed.
After all these years, the clip still speaks for itself.
25) Recording My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy in Hawaii (2010)
Largely considered to be Kanye’s quintessential masterpiece, the story behind the recording process of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is just as fascinating as the album itself. Kanye holed up in a studio in Honolulu, Hawaii for the larger part of a year while keeping a rotation of reporters, artists and collaborators on standby, ready to be flown to the island whenever Kanye summoned them. Remembered fondly as “Rap Camp,” esteemed artists like Nicki Minaj, Pusha T, Q-Tip, Kid Cudi, and Justin Vernon could be found roaming Ye’s studio on any given. West essentially created his own commune, including a list of “Kanye’s Commandments” - a list of rules including No Tweeting, No Hipster Hats, and Just Shut The Fuck Up Sometimes to name a few - that was kept in the studio for all to abide by.
Perhaps the biggest feat Kanye accomplished in these studio sessions was inviting and embracing members of an industry that he had built a reputation for alienating. Vernon, who is the mind behind Bon Iver - a band with a sound that, before MBDTF, one would not associate with Kanye West - was inspired by West’s work ethic, saying “[Kanye] just doesn’t quit. He does not quit on a song...He’s not just a rapper. He’s not just a producer. He’s a musician.”
24) "Runaway" VMA Performance (2010)
When Kanye took the stage at the 2010 VMA’s to debut My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’s lead single “Runaway” one thing became immediately clear: a clear tonal shift in the vibrant anime inspired aesthetic that occupied much of Kanye’s work and performances was taking place. In place of all the color, costumes, and sets was bare stages, stark designs, and a newly invigorated Kanye West.
The result was one of the best live performances the famous award broadcast has ever seen and a creative wave Kanye has been riding since.
23) Joins Twitter (2010)
After previously making waves for discrediting the platform and its many inauthentic accounts in his name, Kanye West finally made himself a Twitter account in 2010. For the past seven years, Ye has gone to the platform to stir the pot on numerous occasions. Though he recently deleted his account, we’re holding out for a comeback.
22) Watch the Throne (2011)
Jay Z and Kanye West have defined their legacies with their unparalleled creative intrepidness, boldly trying projects and venturing uncharted territory for artists of their stature. It should come as no surprise, then, that Hov and Ye innovated the method in which albums get delivered to consumers by releasing Watch the Throne as a digital exclusive, before making it available physically weeks later.
Watch the Throne also revitalized the super-duet album concept, a trend that still persists and uses the same model as WTT to this day.
21) Cruel Summer at Cannes (2012)
The Kanye West-directed Cruel Summer, based off of his GOOD Music team-up LP of the same name, debuted in the 2012 Cannes Film festival. Described as a “fusion of short film and art,” the film starred then-GOOD Music artist Kid Cudi. Everything down to the custom space that it was presented in was meticulously curated by Ye and the DONDA collective, and thus has never been screened or made available anywhere else since.