Certain artists produce music that serves as markers in time and culture. Artists like Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Jay-Z, and many others have hits that will take people to a specific memory and help define moments. Although his actions may sometimes overshadow his music, Kanye West can be added to that list of artists.
West is a Chicago native that entered the music scene, writing and producing music for major artists. He would go on to establish a solo career that had mainstream success with songs like “Flashing Lights,” “Gold Digger,” and “Good Life.”
Throughout his career, the 45-year-old has earned several Grammy Awards with four Billboard number-one hits and 20 top-ten hits on the charts.
And this success was based on a formula West had in mind for changing the hip-hop landscape. His creativity was beyond limits, even from the start of his career.
“Pop music has a lot of instrumentation, and I brought that to hip-hop,” West explained in a 2004 Complex interview. “I want to make songs that make you feel good.”
Further into his music career, Kanye West would diversify his work, tapping into the gospel genre with his collaboration with the Sunday Service Choir and the release of “Jesus Is King” in 2019.
While West continued to produce music, he also diversified how he earned money by using his creativity to build a fashion empire.
The “Late Registration” rapper created a luxury clothing line that received mixed reviews and once partnered with GAP for a more affordable line. It was his shoe deal with Adidas, however, that proved to be the most lucrative.
These fashion endeavors fluctuated in success, but for them to even exist, West had to invest significant personal funds to make it happen. At one point, he went to Twitter and told the world he was $53 million in debt after attempting to fund his fashion empire.
According to Time, Kanye West finished a guest appearance on “Saturday Night Live” and made big announcements via Twitter. He revealed his “Life of Pablo” album was available via TIDAL and that he was over $50 million in debt.
“I write this to you my brothers while still 53 million dollars in personal debt… Please pray we overcome… This is my true heart,” he explained in a now-deleted tweet.
However, an Insider report revealed that sources close to Kanye West said that the massive amount wasn’t exactly personal debt. Moreover, it was out-of-pocket funds used to finance his creative endeavors.
The Insider report further noted that hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on building the set for a tour and filming “Cruel Summer.” He also spent an estimated $40 million on three seasons of his fashion line and allegedly never received income from his Yeezy sneaker line during the first year.
Although the 2016 confession seemed bizarre, West would go on to recover all, becoming one of the few billionaires in hip-hop, mainly because of the massive success of his Yeezy shoe deal with Adidas.
West’s partnership with Adidas began in 2013 after his initial deal with Nike did not work out.
According to Footwear News, Adidas and West extended their partnership in 2016.
“These past two years Adidas and Yeezy have given a glimpse into our future. This partnership illustrates that anyone with a dream can dream without limitations,” said West based on the news report.
However, several public antics, coupled with antisemitic comments, caused Adidas to end its partnership with Kanye West. The partnership split reportedly negatively impacted his overall net worth, dropping him out of the billionaire boys club.