Kanye West’s First Passion Wasn’t Music

In his 2004 song “Spaceship,” Kanye West raps about doing “five beats a day for three summers,” implying that music is a passion that kept him working around the clock, but it turns out that music wasn’t actually his first passion at all. 

Long before he was rising to fame for “Through the Wire” and long, long before he was turning heads for selling $50 socks (and possibly starting his own religious cult), West was studying to become an artist. Let’s take a look at how these early roots influenced the progression of his work. 

Kanye West on the red carpet
Kanye West | ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

West attended art school

West briefly attended Chicago State University, but he also enrolled in the American Academy of Art. He didn’t graduate from either institution, though. As he autobiographically alluded to in his album College Dropout, West left higher education to pursue what he saw as the potential for greatness through music. 

Before he left school, he got the opportunity to take several art classes to feed his passions in drawing and painting. He once did an MTV interview that allowed him the chance to show off these youthful forays into an entirely different art world. He walked around framed pieces of his own art.

One, a surreal looking drinking glass with a multi-colored background, was adorned with a blue ribbon. When asked about it, the famously snarky and confident rapper exclaimed, “‘Cause I won.” 

He wasn’t as confident about every piece, however. One, an eerie black and white drawing of a man who looks a lot like West on his back in a small bed with a white sheet draped over part of his body, was a disappointment to West. He joked that he titled it “Kanye West 1977-1995” because “somebody should have killed me for how bad this actually was.” 

West’s breakthrough in music was behind the scenes

West dropped out of college to pursue music as a career, but his early efforts weren’t front and center. He was producing beats for artists like Jay-Z with the label Roc-A-Fella Records. As one might imagine after hearing literally anything from the brash and egotistic West, the need to be known for his own work pushed him into different parts of the music world quickly. 

His first album, College Dropout, was a wild success, scoring West Best Rap Album and a number two spot on the Billboard charts. 

The art influence still comes through today

While West certainly became famous for music, it’s clear that his artistic passions still fuel what he does today. Fashion seems to be a place in which he is able to express his creativity. The artist has made lucrative deals with Nike as well as made inroads to several successful fashion endeavors.

His style is definitely unique and influenced by his sense of art and what causes a stir. He certainly did just that when he recently appeared painted in silver from head to toe. 

West is so invested in art that he recently tweeted he would be teaching it! The news was perhaps not all that surprising since West does hold an honorary doctorate degree from the Art Institute of Chicago. He mentioned both this school and the school he formerly attended in his tweet about his future teaching gig. 

While some were quick to respond with jokes about just what West would be like as a professor, many fans seemed genuinely excited about the possibility of getting to take classes with one of the most famous artists in the world. 

Alas, these fans are probably not going to get to see their dreams fulfilled. The Art Institute of Chicago, while “flattered” by West’s interests, made it clear that there are no current or future plans to have the artist host a class.