Kanye Omari West is an American rapper, songwriter, record producer, director, entrepreneur, and fashion designer. West first gained prominence as a producer for Roc-A-Fella Records; he achieved recognition for his work on rapper Jay-Z's The Blueprint, as well as hit singles for musical artists including Alicia Keys, Ludacris, and Janet Jackson. His style of production originally used high-pitched vocal samples from soul songs incorporated with his own drums and instruments. He later broadened his influences to include 1970s R&B, baroque pop, trip hop, arena rock, house, folk, alternative, electronica, synthpop, industrial, and classical music.
West was raised in a middle-class household in Chicago, Illinois, and began rapping in the third grade, becoming involved in the city's hip hop scene. West attended art school for one semester before dropping out to pursue music entirely in the late 1990s. Although his real desire was to become a rapper, record executives did not take West seriously, viewing him as a producer first and foremost. After being signed to Roc-A-Fella in 2002, West released his debut album The College Dropout in 2004 to commercial and critical acclaim.