No other figure in music is as polarising as Kanye West. One minute he’s making a genre-bending seminal album like Late Registration (2005), the next he is making babies with someone like Kim Kardashian,  whose claim to fame is, well... do we still care?
One day he’s posting things on Twitter verging on the obnoxious, next he disappears from the face of the earth — only to emerge to post cryptic one-words. He’s hijacked awards shows – just ask Taylor Swift – and often believes the universe conspires against him (“If I don’t win, the awards show loses credibility.” – MTV European Music Awards, 2006).
But there’s no doubt that West is quite the genius, making impactful music with mentor Jay-Z and collecting Grammy Awards like he owns a moulding factory.
So, as he makes a comeback to Abu Dhabi tonight at the du Arena on Yas Island, we take a look at the life and times of music’s most controversial but quotable star, through his own wise quips. They range from the ludicrous to the offensive and sometimes even inspiring.
“I feel like I’m too busy writing history to read it” (2006)
West has often reiterated his distaste for books or reading. But growing up with his single mother, a university professor no less, West says he was quite a bright kid, “getting mostly As and Bs.” He dropped out of university to focus on music, and that has made all the difference. The ego came much later, however.
“It opened up my eyes. I deal with a lot less [expletive] now.” (2002)
just as he was beginning to make his name as a producer and collaborator, West was involved in a head-on car collision after he fell asleep at the wheel while returning from a recording session in Los Angeles. “My jaw was broken in three places. I had nasal fractures — I’d be talking to people and my nose would start bleeding,” he told MTV soon after the incident. “But right now I’m healing, I’m just learning how to pronounce words like, ‘What’s up’ with the ‘t’ and the ‘s’ together without it being slurred, so I can rap again.” West says the incident, which left him with a permanently disfigured face, is a reminder to be always thankful.
“Everything has been taken away from me. I’m so not ... scared. I so don’t care.” (2010)
West, who was very close to his mother, was devastated by her death in 2007 of complications from plastic surgery, saying he even considered suicide. Donda West was “his rock and inspiration”. The song Hey Mama from Late Registration (2005) was dedicated to her, written long before he found fame. In 2007, at his first public appearance after his mother’s death in Paris, West broke down in tears while performing the song.
“If you’re driving a car and you’re trying to get in another lane, you’re looking for your opportunity to get in this lane, right? My goal is to be on the freeway in a [expletive] plane. In all lanes at all times.” (2007)
From food to films, music to fashion, Mr West has his hands in many pies. But fashion seems to occupy the biggest place in his heart, besides the music of course. Yet, despite collaborations with brands such as Nike (Air Yeezys) and Louis Vuitton, his debut womenswear line, DW Kanye West, at Paris Fashion Week in 2011 didn’t quite set the catwalks on fire. Despite the hype, critics weren’t too impressed, with one writing: “Kanye West’s fashion debut was like being subjected to an hour long MRI scan — but not as much fun.” He had better luck when he returned the next year, but West developed cold feet this time round, cancelling a preview for the media. His explanation: “I got treated unfairly by the press last time. Why would I want to do this? If they don’t understand it, they don’t understand it.”
“Dating models, I had to learn to like small dogs and cigarettes.” (2010)
While his relationship with Kim Kardashian a.k.a. baby mama  may still puzzle everyone but them, West’s dating history reads like a roll-call of models and bombshells. No real surprise there. There was an aspiring actress called Brooke Crittendon some time in 2005 followed by the much-publicised relationship with designer Alexis Phifer, whom he got engaged to in 2006. The pair broke up after 18 months following which a couple of Victoria’s Secret models popped up on the scene. West then began dating Amber Rose in 2008 for two years, followed again by some Victoria’s Secret models, until last year when he finally kept up with the Kardashian girl. And now he’s going to be a father.
Don’t miss it
Kanye West is bringing the Arctic to Abu Dhabi. Organiser Flash Entertainment said the rapper’s second gig at the du Arena, Yas Island on Thursday will be “multi-sensory experience” featuring seven massive screens that will show high-definition visuals including icy polar landscapes while snow machines blast a wintery ambience into the air. Why the Arctic, we will never know. But it’s Kanye, so why ask?
Tickets priced at Dh295 (general), Dh595 (fan pit) and Dh695 (VIP standing) are still available, including Platinum tables of 10 people for Dh10,000. Go to thinkflash.ae or call 80035274.
By David Tusing