He’s the self-proclaimed voice of a generation—the rapper who makes headlines with every tweet he posts, song he writes, and fur coat he dons. But for Sarah Blake (née Schoenholtz), a 2006 TCNJ graduate and 2013 recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts creative writing fellowship, Kanye West is something more: an artistic muse. Her new book of poetry, Mr. West, due out in March from Wesleyan University Press, is an “unauthorized lyric biography” of the superstar. In celebration of that work, we’ve assembled 10 facts about the one and only Mr. West.
1. The rapper says that touring with Irish rockers U2 in 2005 inspired much of his third studio album, Graduation.
2. West executive produced a wacky video for his song “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” that starred a pre-Hangover-fame Zach Galifianakis; Rolling Stone called it one of the best videos of 2007.
3. Kanye didn’t take the stage until 4:30 a.m. for his 2008 performance at the Bonnaroo Music Festival because the preceding act, Pearl Jam, played longer than expected
4. West’s late mother, Donda, was chair of the English department at Chicago State University before retiring, in 2004, to work as his manager.
5. The rapper once told The New York Times he’s “the anti-celebrity,” adding, “My music comes from a place of being anti.”
6. Galifianakis isn’t the only famous comedian West has befriended. Aziz Ansari used to tell stories about their hangouts in his act, Kanye performed a three-song medley at a Dave Chappelle show last June, and there’s a 2008 YouTube video of Yeezy battling Jonah Hill in Connect Four.
7. If you google “Twitter rant,” West’s Twitter page is the top result.
8. Kanye often drops celebrity names into his songs: Jennifer Aniston, Will Smith, John Travolta, Alec Baldwin, Beyoncé, Michael Jackson, Spike Lee, Celine Dion—the list goes on and on.
9. Kanye’s 2014 wedding to Kim Kardashian featured some pretty incredible musical guests: Andrea Bocelli at the ceremony, Lana Del Rey at the rehearsal dinner, and John Legend at the reception.
10. Rapper Rick Ross, who collaborated with West on the song “Sanctified,” compared recording sessions with him to school: “It’s like everybody is a student: You walk into a session, and it’s all about the subject at hand.”
—Compiled by Molly Petrilla