Eyes off the Throne: A Look Back at Kanye’s Rise

Kanye West at the New Roc City Classic, February 2015
C.S. Muncy for the Village Voice

As we gear up for Kanye West's presentation of his new, as-yet-untitled album and Yeezy Season 3 collection at Madison Square Garden on February 11, here's a glimpse at his career to date, from his game-changing "Through the Wire" to "breaking the internet."

2002 Kanye is injured in a car accident after leaving a recording studio at 3 a.m. He emerges from the hospital with his jaw wired shut and writes and records his aptly titled first single, 2003's "Through the Wire," while recovering.

2004 Kanye's debut album, The College Dropout, sees his transition from producer to bona fide rapper.

2005 Steering clear of the sophomore slump, Kanye enjoys continued commercial success with Late Registration. The album yields crossover hits like "Gold Digger" without relinquishing the socio-consciousness of its predecessor. Later in the year, Kanye's seven-word outburst during a Hurricane Katrina fundraiser on national television — George Bush doesn't care about black people — turns him into an instant folk hero or a treasonist, depending on your politics.

2007 In a head­-to-­head battle over first­-week album sales, Kanye's Graduation crushes 50 Cent's Curtis 957,000 to 691,000.

2008 Hell hath no fury like a Kanye scorned: For his fourth album, 808s & Heartbreak, the rapper sets his lovelorn anguish to Auto-Tune — and, in turn, encourages a generation of rappers to let their emo flags fly.

2009 "I'ma let you finish but..." Five more words that will forever live in infamy after Kanye hijacks Taylor Swift's acceptance speech at the MTV Video Music Awards to sing — or shout — the praises of Beyoncé's "Single Ladies." The reputation of bully-meets-sore-loser follows.

2009 You know you've made it when the leader of the free world hates you. Kanye's bad press post-Swift includes President Obama calling him a "jackass."

2010 His public image languishing, Kanye goes into self-imposed exile to record My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. His fifth album traffics in deeply emotional fare, including his egoism and breakup with Amber Rose.

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2011 Back in 2007, Kanye had rapped in "Big Brother" about his adoration of Jay Z. Four years later, that man-crush begets joint album Watch the Throne — and one of the biggest hits for both artists, "Niggas in Paris."

2012 The self-proclaimed "Louis Vuitton Don" launches his own ready-to-wear collection at Paris Fashion Week. Despite the tepid response, Kanye forges ahead to carve out a name in the sartorial world.

2013 Kanye puts his messiah complex on wax with Yeezus. The experimental album divides fans — and flops commercially, at least relative to his prior releases — but cements the rapper as a risk-taking artist.

2012–2015 Kanye begins dating reality vixen Kim Kardashian in 2012. The attention-loving pair — dubbed KimYe — keep gossip rags in business covering the birth of daughter North in 2013, their 2014 marriage, and the arrival of son Saint in 2015. Somewhere in between the countless selfies, they grace the cover of Vogue and Kim's bare ass "breaks the internet."

2016 Kanye prepares to release his seventh album on February 11. The album (formerly known as Swish and Waves) is currently untitled and will be unveiled alongside the presentation of his Yeezy Season Three collection at Madison Square Garden.

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