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Last Updated: Monday, 10 December 2007, 17:46 GMT
Rapper Kanye West's shrewd soul
US rap star Kanye West is at the top of the Grammy Award nominations list, up for eight of music's most prestigious prizes.

Kanye West
Kanye West recently beat 50 Cent in a sales battle
Kanye West's record at the Grammy Awards to date is hard to beat. Two albums released, two wins for best rap album, two for best rap song and two more in other categories.

He is now hoping to continue that success with his third album Graduation, released in September, which has put him at the top of the league of US performers and producers.

West confirmed his supremacy in the hip-hop world in a heavyweight sales battle with 50 Cent. Both released albums on the same day - and West was the clear winner.

But he has recently had to deal with tragedy in his personal life with the death of his mother Donda, who raised him alone from the age of three and also managed his businesses and educational foundation.

She was the subject of his song Hey Mama, which included the lyrics: "Hey Mama, I wanna scream so loud for you, cuz I'm so proud of you. I appreciate what you allowed for me, I just want you to be proud of me."

Old soul

Donda had given Kanye a middle-class upbringing in Chicago, where he began rapping as a teenager at school, inspired by the beats and rhymes of 1980s pioneers Run DMC.

A hip-hop producer encouraged West to sample old soul and R&B hits then revive them with an updated sound, an approach that would become his trademark.

"I feel like a lot of the soul that's in those old records that I sample is in me," he said.

Kanye West at Grammy Awards
Kanye West has won six Grammy Awards in two years
"So when I hear them and I put them with the drums and I bring them to the new millennium, it's just like God's doing that. I'm one with them records right there. It's a blessing."

West left his Chicago art school after only one year - a move that would later inspire the title of his debut album The College Dropout.

His production skills drew the attention of rap superstar Jay-Z and he gained mainstream recognition when he produced the singles Takeover and Izzo (HOVA) on Jay-Z's 2001 album Blueprint.

Incorporating samples of Five to One by The Doors and The Jackson Five's I Want You Back, the hits were credited with injecting soul back into hip-hop.

As their success attracted further production work for Jay-Z ('03 Bonnie & Clyde), Ludacris (Stand Up) and Alicia Keys (You Don't Know My Name), West planned an album of his own.

Anytime I hear about any accident my heart sinks in and I just thank God that I'm still here
Kanye West
But driving home from a late-night Los Angeles recording session in October 2002, he was involved in a car crash that left his jaw fractured in three places.

"Anytime I hear about any accident, my heart sinks in and I just thank God that I'm still here," he later said.

"That steering wheel could have been two inches further out, and that would have been it."

West's turned the accident into a song, Through the Wire, sampling Chaka Khan's hit Through the Fire, which was at the heart of The College Dropout.

"Death is the best thing that can ever happen to a rapper," West has said. "Almost dying isn't bad either."

Kanye West
All three of West's solo albums have been critical and commercial hits
Released in 2004, the album was by turns smooth, humorous and sharp and largely avoided the cliched hip-hop preoccupation with guns, girls and jewellery.

When Time Magazine put him on its cover, it declared him "more GQ than gangsta".

And he has become known for speaking out against perceived injustices, including saying "everyone in hip-hop discriminates against gay people".

His most famous comment came during a televised benefit concert after Hurricane Katrina, when he said: "George Bush doesn't care about black people."

West was shortlisted for 10 Grammys in 2005, winning three times - for best rap song, best R&B song and best rap album.

In 2006, his follow-up album Late Registration earned eight nominations and won three more Grammys.

The standout track Gold Digger was a huge party smash, while he used a Shirley Bassey sample to back Diamonds From Sierra Leone.

This time, he beat the likes of Eminem and 50 Cent to win best rap song and best rap album, plus best solo rap performance.

Kanye and Amy lead Grammys field
06 Dec 07 |  Entertainment
Kanye and Knievel settle wrangle
28 Nov 07 |  Entertainment
Kanye cries for mother on stage
23 Nov 07 |  Entertainment
West crushes 50 Cent in US chart
19 Sep 07 |  Entertainment
Kanye West wins UK chart battle
16 Sep 07 |  Entertainment
Kanye claims first UK number one
19 Aug 07 |  Entertainment


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