10 things you might not know about Kanye West

Rosie Pentreath

Love or hate him, you can't argue he's not iconic, here are ten facts you might not know about Ye

If you’ve been keeping up with entertainment news lately, you’re unlikely to have missed the latest trail of controversies left by American rapper Kanye West. From his declaration of support for president Donald Trump and controversial liaisons with right-wing commentators, to the description he made of slavery as“a choice,”he’s managed tokeep many of us reading or hearing about him.

And while Ye seems to have a particular talent for making us grant a disproportionate amount of time and attention to just one controversial comment or action at a time, there are aspects of his life that seem to have been glossed over or, indeed, simply forgotten about amidst the frenzy of today's social media-driven news cycle.

Humiliating Taylor Swift at the Grammys: familiar territory. Wanting to run for president: tick, we know. Getting mocked for describing himself as“the voice of his generation”: sounds straight out the book of Kanye. But what don’t we know? We have done some digging and found ten things that are less familiar about the multi-platinum selling artist.

 

1. Kanye’s mum was head of English at Chicago University

Kanye has an academic background. His mother, Donda West, was a member of the Department of English and Speech at Chicago State University and went onto chair the department for several years. During her tenure, she was also Foreign Expert to the People’s Republic of China, where her and son Kanye lived for a few years. She retired from CSU after 24 years to become Kanye’s full-time manager in 2004. After receiving a scholarship to attend the American Academy of Art before he dropped out, West himself enrolled in CSU to study English, before (again) famously dropping out to release his debut record, College Dropout.

 

2. Kanye lived in China from the age of ten and used to be able to speak Mandarin

When his mother’s job required her and Kanye to relocate to Nanjing in China in the 1980s, Kanye managed to settle into school as the only foreigner, according to Donda West’s book, Raising Kanye: Life Lessons from the Mother of a Hip-Hop Superstar. By all accounts, Ye picked up the language well and got solid grades, but he has since forgotten most of what he learned of Mandarin.

 

3. Kanye co-founded a charity to reduce high school drop-out rates for under privileged youths (but it closed in 2011)

A few years ago, Yeezy was putting some time and money into a project that ran events and programmes to support literacy and help underprivileged youths stay in education. The foundation closed with little fanfare in 2011, however.

At the time of its quiet closure, former executive director, Joseph Collins, wrote, “The Kanye West Foundation has officially closed its doors after a successful four-plus years of programming and events. It’s been an incredible experience working with Kanye and the board to realise his mother’s vision and I am honoured to have been given the opportunity to lead the Foundation.”

 

4. Kanye has had liposuction

It’s well documented that Kanye West’s mum’s death at the age of 58 in 2007 was very likely to have been caused by complications from the liposuction, tummy-tuck and breast reductions she had had the day before. This didn’t put Yeezy off going through liposuction himself in 2016. In a recent rant behind the scenes at celebrity news website TMZ, Kanye admitted, “I had plastic surgery because I was trying to look good for y’all. I got liposuction because I didn’t want y’all to call me fat like y’all called Rob [Kardashian] at the wedding [which] made him fly home before me and Kim got married.”

 

5. Kanye runs a restaurant business and it licensed Fatburger franchises in 2008

Yeezy runs a restaurant business called KW Foods LLCand with it he has bought rights to the Chicago locations of iconic fast food chain, Fatburger. He managed toopen a couple of Fatburger stores in 2008 and 2009, respectively, but they didn’t last long and Ye has since had to shut up shop.

 

6. Kanye has released and acted in several films

A self-professed genius, Yeezy has his fingers in many artistic pies, including films. In 2012, his conceptual short film, Cruel Summer, premiered at Cannes Film Festival and was shown on seven pyramid-shaped screens. Ye has appeared in films too (usually as himself), including his own 2010 feature Runway and in cameos in The Love Guru and Spike Jonze’s short film, We Were Once A Fairytale among others.

 

7. Kanye runs a digital agency called DONDA

In 2012, West founded a creative design company, DONDA (named after his mother), with the lofty ambition of “picking upwhere Steve Jobs left off”, to quote West. DONDA’s projects to date include the aforementioned feature film premiered at Cannes, as well as artwork for several record releases, a cosmetics line and a music arm (managed through Jay-Z’s Rock Nation). “I want to put creatives in a room together with like minds that are all waaaay [sic] doper than me,”Ye tweeted when he announced DONDA. “We want to help simplify and aesthetically improve everything we see hear, touch, taste and feel.”

 

8. Kanye allegedly has synaesthesia and sees sounds as colours

Synaesthesia—that is, the condition of experiencing things through your senses in an unusual way—is something lots of musicians claim. Seeing sounds or pitches as certain colours, usually.

In a classic Yeezy rant, this time on Ellen, Ye claimed to have the condition. “I have a condition called synesthesia where I see sounds. Everything I sonically make is a painting. I see it.” Until we can get inside Yeezy’s head (and wouldn’t that be an adventure) we’ll never know for certain whether or not he’s actually a synaesthate.

 

9. Kanye met Kim Kardashian trying to recruit her for an experimental hip-hop puppet show

One of the most influential couples in the world, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West first met in 2008 when Ye recruited her to be in a hip-hop puppet show, Alligator Boots, conceived in the vein of The Muppets by rapper Rhymefest. The provocative puppet show never took off, but Ye and she “really connected”, according to Kim.

They appeared on Keeping Up With Then Kardashians together later that year and the rest, as they say, is history.

 

10. Kanye didn’t own a mobile phone until 2011 (and he’s since ditched it)

Speaking of Kim Kardashian, she’s the only reason why Kanye West has ever owned mobile phone, according to West himself. You heard us correctly. In a 2010 interview, Kanye said “I don’t have a phone to this day. It’s old-school, I’m like ’80s. When I leave the crib, I be writing numbers on a sheet of paper.”Okay...It was only in 2011 when Kardashian became engaged to basketball player, Kris Humphries, that Ye decided he needed to“call her or something.”He has since ditched the phone again, tweeting on May 16 this year, “For anyone who’s tried to text or call mein the past 2 weeks I got rid of that phone so I could focus on these albums”. We’ll head over to Twitter if we need you, Ye.

Kanye West’s eighth studio album, Love Everyone, comes out Friday June 1, 2018