Kanye West at 44: a tormented artist and (almost) the richest Black man in U.S. history

Kanye West: the richest African American man in history
From astronomic debt to highest profits
Are the numbers correct? Either way he's a billionaire
Kanye: an idol on the verge of collapse
What's the real story of Kanye West?
His parents: a college professor and an acclaimed photographer
Kanye's college degree
An accident that could have changed everything
Kanye West: rise to stardom
Kanye West, superstar
The greatest:
Kanye's church
Kanye West: controversial convictions
Misconceptions about COVID-19
Mood swings
Kanye's relationship with Kim Kardashian
Kim Kardashian and Kanye West's wedding
2020: a peak year
Kanye West for president
Kanye West at one of his Sunday services
Strange plans for the White House
Kanye's tweets about 'Get Out!' and Kim Kardashian
Kim Kardashian explained her husband's behaviour
Kim Kardashian felt powerless
Withdrawal in his Wyoming ranch
The divorce is now settled
The richest and - possibly - loneliest man
Kanye West: the richest African American man in history

Kanye West, born 8 June 1977, has probably become the richest Black man in US history, Bloomberg reports. The financial news organization estimates that he has a worth of $6.6 billion (£4.7 billion). This would make the rapper and fashion entrepreneur richer than investor Robert F. Smith and basketball legend Michael Jordan have ever been.

From astronomic debt to highest profits

As Sky recounts, Kanye West claimed to be in a "$53 million (£38 million) debt just three years ago," but then, "the rapper and fashion tycoon became a certified billionaire last year with the help of his successful apparel and trainer brand, Yeezy, and a new multi-year contract with clothing retailer Gap."

Are the numbers correct? Either way he's a billionaire

Other media have nuanced the report. Forbes indicates that Bloomberg's source is a document about "theoretical future expectations" of Kanye West's income - not of his actual worth. Forbes estimates the rapper's net worth at $1.8 billion, causing him to fall behind the richest Black American, Robert F. Smith. Nevertheless, both media agree that he is a certified billionaire now.

Kanye: an idol on the verge of collapse

The status of richest African American in history is the crown on a reputation of personal and professional success for Kanye West. He's been recognized as a talented musician, an agile entrepreneur, and the father of a supposedly perfect family. However, a flipside to this image has also been on display for years.

What's the real story of Kanye West?

Kanye West has publicly stated that he suffers from episodes of bipolar disorder. Sometimes, his behavior can seem irrational - like in 2020, when he unexpectedly ran for U.S. president and made some puzzling public statements. His marriage with Kim Kardashian also came to an end that year.

 

"A brilliant but complicated person"

According to Kardashian, Kanye West is "a brilliant but complicated person." Constantly in the spotlights for his art and businesses, he suffers from a "pressure and isolation that is heightened by his bi-polar disorder." It is clear that the richest Black man in America has a backstory with both fascinating and (at times) disturbing elements.

His parents: a college professor and an acclaimed photographer

Kanye West did not have a tough childhood on the streets like, say, Jay-Z. He was born into a middle-class family in Atlanta in 1977 before they moved to Chicago. His father was an award-winning newspaper photographer and his mother a college professor.

Kanye's college degree

Kanye West studied Fine Arts in Chicago, adding a university degree to his innate talent for music. He started out as a producer at the legendary Roc-A-Fella Records label. There he contributed to successes for Janet Jackson, Alicia Keys and Jay-Z. In 2004, West released the first album of his own. From then on, success came easily.

An accident that could have changed everything

It could have turned out differently. In 2002, just as he was about to switch from producer to artist with songs of his own, Kanye West got into a car accident. He fell asleep at the wheel on his way back from the studio and broke his jaw. The rapper was admitted to the hospital and had to undergo reconstructive surgery.

Kanye West: rise to stardom

After 2004, Kanye West's run to stardom was dazzling.  The rapper rubbed elbows with celebrities like the late Karl Lagerfeld (in the picture) and became a vocal critic of the (predominantly white) American pop scene.

 

Kanye West, superstar

Over time, Kanye West had several relationships with famous women. Among them were designer Alexis Phifer and model Amber Rose (in the picture).

The greatest: "I would be in the Bible"

Kanye's dazzling rise to fame contributed to his megalomania. Critics have said he exhibits a self-love that is almost humorous. One of his statements is "I am the Coca-Cola, the Walt Disney and the McDonald's of music." Another claims a certain religious power for the rapper: "If the Bible were written today, I would be in it."

Kanye's church

Kanye West has also declared himself a "born-again Christian" and created his own church. The rapper leads the Sunday service in his church.

Kanye West: controversial convictions

West's statements have often led to controversy; especially in recent times. He supported Donald Trump and endorsed him as president in 2016. It was a weird move, because Trump had little support among the African-American community and was known for his racist remarks and ties with the KKK for a long time.

Misconceptions about COVID-19

In addition, during the COVID-19 pandemic, West told Forbes that the virus is "the mark of the beast" and that vaccines might be used to install microchips into citizens' bodies.

Mood swings

West has talked openly about the effect of his anxiety and mood swings on his life. They eclipse his great talent and financial successes. In 2018, the rapper revealed to David Letterman that he had to take medication and that it was interfering with his artistic process.

Bipolar disorder and other chronic illnesses: these celebrities live with them every day

Kanye's relationship with Kim Kardashian

Some of these controversies occurred while Kanye West was married to Kim Kardashian. They were a couple from 2012 through 2020. Combining their creative and business talents, West and Kardashian were one of the most powerful couples in showbiz.

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West's wedding

Married in March 2014, the couple had four children: North West, Saint West, Psalm West, and Chicago West.

2020: a peak year

As he was making billions and raising a famous family with four children, Kanye West seemed to be on the top of the world. However, the brilliant artist began to show signs of bewilderment and uninhibitedness over the course of 2020.

Kanye West for president

It began with the stunning announcement, on the fourth of July, that he was running for President of the United States. In an interview with Forbes he proclaimed that his slogan would be "Yes" and that his party would be the BP (Birthday Party): "Because when we win it will be everyone's birthday."

Kanye West at one of his Sunday services

Some people thought Kanye West was joking. Or perhaps he was giving a sermon, similar to his work as a pastor during the religious service he organizes every Sunday. But the rapper persisted. A few weeks later, he held his first campaign rally in Charleston, South Carolina. From that point, things went haywire.

Strange plans for the White House

The star's performance at his rally made alarm bells go off. Kanye West cried a couple of times and talked about some very personal experiences, for example regarding abortion. In terms of politics, it was unclear whether he opposed abortion or not. Other confusing policy proposals by West included giving a million dollars to every woman who has a baby, and opposing gun control (to the disagreement of most African-American activists). Political analysts did not become much wiser from his first rally.

Kanye's tweets about 'Get Out!' and Kim Kardashian

After the tumultuous Charleston rally, the rapper sent out a streak of disturbing and disconnected tweets. He said, among other things, that he feared ending up in jail like Nelson Mandela, and that the movie 'Get Out!' was about him: "Everybody knows." Kanye West also suggested that his wife and mother-in-law wanted to kidnap him. He claimed that he'd been trying to get a divorce for years.

Kim Kardashian explained her husband's behaviour

After the artist's frantic Twitter activity, his wife Kim Kardashian saw herself forced to explain in public that her husband was having mental health issues. Through various stories on Instagram she spoke about his diagnosis of bipolar disorder, which can cause 'manic' or irrational behavior.

 

"Pressures of being an artist and a black man"

Emphasizing that her husband is "a brilliant but complicated person," Kardashian claimed that he suffered from "the pressures of being an artist and a black man." In addition, "the painful loss of his mother" had affected the rapper very much. For people with bipolar disorder, stressful lifestyles and shocking events can add up to a climax.

Kim Kardashian felt powerless

"Those who know about mental illness and compulsive behaviors, know that the family can't do anything unless we are dealing with a minor," Kardashian added to explain why they hadn't been able to stop her husband from acting out.

Withdrawal in his Wyoming ranch

By late 2020, Kanye West was reportedly staying in his Wyoming ranch to isolate from media attention and recover from his mental breakdown. At the same time, Kim Kardashian allegedly began thinking about a divorce and consulting her lawyers.

The divorce is now settled

Finally, in February 2021, the couple settled their divorce. They have joint custody over the four kids, and Kim Kardashian keeps the family home in Calabasas, California. Where Kanye West will be living, is not known yet.

Read all about the divorce of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West

The richest and - possibly - loneliest man

Kanye West is the richest Black man the U.S. ever saw. He may also be one of the loneliest. The future will tell whether Kanye West will be remembered as a tycoon and superstar, or whether the image of a tormented artist will dominate his legacy.

Read also: The Kardashians, then and now

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