Before Kanye West pursued a career in rapping, he was a producer who made beats for the likes of Foxy Brown, D-Dot and Harlem World. He was well respected, and his work was highly praised, but his success as a beatmaker made his journey to becoming an emcee pretty difficult for some to fathom. One of the many people who allegedly doubted West’s rapping abilities was then-Arista Records-executive L.A. Reid.
As Lupe Fiasco would tell it, the “Heard “Em Say” emcee auditioned for Reid ahead of his deal with Roc-A-Fella Records, but his performance fell short of the executive’s expectations.
“We brought Ye into Arista to showcase for L.A. Reid before Roc-A-Fella. Stack Bundles was sitting there,” Lupe said during an interview on “The Coda Collection.” “Imagine it’s me, Stack Bundles, Kanye and L.A. Reid in the office...When [Kanye] stopped [rapping], L.A. was like, ‘Yo you should stick to making music, stick to making beats,’” he continued. “So that’s why I always honor Ye, no matter how crazy he goes. I’ve seen that man struggle.”
Following his rejection, West continued his work as a producer, later signing with Roc-A-Fella Records where he was given the opportunity to blossom as an emcee. He released The College Dropout in 2004, which went on to top music charts and earn his first Grammy win for Best Rap Album.
During his tenure, he met Lupe and the two collaborated on songs like “Touch the Sky” and “Don’t Look Down,” which also features Mos Def and Big Sean.
Since launching his rap career, West released 10 studio albums and won a total of 21 Grammys among other awards. The billionaire ventured into gospel rap and ran an unsuccessful presidential campaign during the recent election season. He has also seen much success with his Yeezy fashion line.