The many proteges of Kanye West
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Whether he’s dawning his bright red “Make America Great Again” cap, pioneering a weekly church service, or dressing up like a soda bottle with Lil Pump on Saturday Night Live, Kanye West never ceases to stay out of the spotlight and confuse his fans. However, among the perpetual chaos, it appears that his extremely broad influence spanning multiple industries has been completely forgotten from the mainstream over the past year.
Long before rap’s favorite anti-hero would release modern classics such as Astroworld (2018), he flew under the wing of Kanye West. After Scott released his debut mixtape Owl Pharaoh (2013), his phone became flooded with calls from managers of GOOD Music, Kanye’s record label. Travis signed with West immediately and got production credits on several GOOD Music projects such as the singles, “I don’t like”, “Sin City”, and the album Cruel Summer (2012). Then, After blowing up in popularity, and even appearing on XXL Magazine’s 2013 freshman class list, Travis would release the ep Days Before Rodeo (2014), and his first debut album appropriately named Rodeo (2015), with the latter almost entirely made from Kanye West production. Rodeo would skyrocket into success, going Certified Platinum and even reaching Number 3 on the Billboard Top 100. During this vital time as Kanye’s protégé, Travis would quickly grow into his own with instantly recognizable hits like “Antidote” and “3500” blasting from speakers across the world. Although he would eventually fly from the nest and form his label Cactus Jack Records in 2016, from everything including his glamorous beats, to his massive ego, his influence from Kanye West is undeniable.
While Kid Cudi is not necessarily synonymous with hip-hop today, he certainly reigned as a household name during the late 2000s. However, without the assistance of Ye, rap would never be revolutionized with the album Man on the Moon (1999) or legendary singles such as “Day n’ Nite“ or “Pursuit of Happiness“. Kid Cudi’s story of incredible fate started in New York City while working at the Bape Clothing Store. Cudi had come face to face with his idol when he forgot to remove a security tag off of a jacket West had purchased. Cudi quickly dashed out the store to remove it, and after catching up with him, he gave him his homemade demo. Kanye fell in love with the ep, and soon after, Cudi was signed to GOOD Music, becoming a prominent member of Kanye’s inner circle. He would create production for the album 808’s and Heartbreak (2008), and would even get vocals on the songs “Heartless” and “Paranoid”. In return, Kanye would be the lead producer on the previously mentioned Man on the Moon album, and drop a verse for the famous track “Make Her Say”. While he’s no longer a student of West, the two remain great friends and have collaborated on a myriad of recent projects such as “Father Stretch My Hands Pt.1”, “Ghost Town”, and the magnificent 7-track album entitled Kids See Ghosts (2018).
Other Music Influences
Whether it was his deep level of storytelling accompanied by soulful production on The College Dropout (2004) or the synthesized love songs on 808’s and Heartbreak, Kanye would go on to heavily influence and inspire artists such Drake; Tyler, The Creator, Chance the Rapper, Kendrick Lamar, and even the rap boy band group Brockhampton.
Designer Jerry Lorenzo certainly isn’t for everyone, however, his success is difficult to deny. His fashion label, Fear of God, just launched its six-season and has collaborated with giants in the realm of Vans, Converse, Pacsun, and more recently Nike. During the beginning of his career, his motivation for his family drove him into catching the attention of none other than his wife’s friend, who happened to be a stylist for Big Sean. Big Sean was awed by Lorenzo’s work and immediately showed GOOD Music boss Kanye West. West, smitten by the designer’s style invited him to work on his A.P.C collab, with Lorenzo soon becoming a permanent fixture on Yeezy’s design team. After designing numerous pieces for Yeezy Season and West’s personal collection, he would reflect that back influence in his own label, Fear of God. Featuring a grunge, oversized aesthetic similar to Yeezy, Fear of God incorporates more relaxed pieces such as blank hoodies absent of branding or logos.
Another controversial entry is the self-proclaimed “King of Youth”, industry curator Ian Connor. His prowess can be attributed to a wide array of influencers such as Asap Bari, but West certainly helped spark his popularity and West’s style can certainly be seen in Ian’s work. After his influence expanded from Tumblr, he was contacted by Virgil Abloh, who was Kanye’s creative director at the time. Over the next few years, Connor would model for dozens of Yeezy fashion shows and later become Kanye’s personal fashion assistant. During this time, as his celebrity circle would continue to grow, he would launch a highly coveted shoe brand known as Revenge x Storm, serve as the face of Asap Rocky’s AWGE collective, create the underground streetwear brand Sicko, and single-handedly open the world to artists such as Playboi Carti. Again, saying that West was the lone catalyst for his success would do a disservice to Connor’s incredible eye for talent and style, but the peak of his popularity certainly occurred while serving as West’s assistant.
It’s safe to say that Virgil is on top of the fashion world right now. His brand Off-White has become a staple in streetwear, and he recently became the Men’s Artistic Director of Louis Vuitton. Similar to Ian Connor, West isn’t directly responsible for Abloh’s success. Moreover, it was a joint effort that would propel them both into the spotlight of the fashion industry. In 2009, the two simultaneously began working with Fendi and after becoming great friends, West would appoint Abloh the creative director of his agency, DONDA. During his work on multiple Yeezy collections and other artistic projects, the two became giants in streetwear fashion, and soon Virgil would launch his own brand, Pyrex, the building blocks that would form the foundation for the legendary, Off-White, just a few years later.
Even after continuously postponing an album launch, going TMZ rants, and stealing the mic from Taylor, Kanye West has remained a relevant figure in pop-culture for over fourteen years; there’s no chance that he’ll dwindle in popularity anytime soon or stop continuously evolving the industries he’s been a part of for so long.