Since his 2004 debut, College Dropout, this former Chicago producer turned jet-setting megastar has evolved into a most fascinating and unpredictable artist. Kanye West thrives in an era removed from the time when iconoclasts such as David Bowie and Lou Reed were allowed to evolve in bizarre and unexpected ways without the requirement of selling a million copies. However, these days our innovators better ship gold and platinum … or else. By translating his high concepts into radio-friendly platinum hits while sustaining the kind of near-universal critical acclaim that has so far eluded other pop shape-shifters such as Lady Gaga, Kanye is a true anomaly. He may not be the new "Michael (Jackson)," as he claims on his just-released conversation-starter, Yeezus. But he may be the new Prince.
There's not much that hasn't been written about a musician who not only commands a healthy share of music blog bandwidth, but also often finds his exploits chronicled in tabloid sites and has been mentioned (not admiringly, but still) by presidents Bush and Obama. This spotlight on his discography takes two detours: Jay-Z's The Blueprint includes some of Kanye's most memorable beats, with "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)" marking the first time he produced a top 10 hit. Meanwhile, Common's Be represents the only instance to date that Kanye has produced an entire album for someone else (with the exception of two beats by J Dilla). From Twista to Chief Keef, Kanye has long supported other Chi-Town artists, bringing a spotlight to the hip-hop scene in the middle of the map.