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 Kanye always knew he could murder the game ...

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 The industry can't hold Kanye back ...

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 A car crash can't hold Kanye back ...

 Jay-Z Beatsmith Kanye West Doesn't Sweat Lil' Romeo Comparison

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In its first week in stores, The College Dropout debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, selling more than 441,000 copies, while "Slow Jamz" is the #1 song on Billboard's Hot 100, and "Through the Wire" is #15. The blockbuster record he produced for Alicia Keys, "You Don't Know My Name," has been a top 10 staple the past 15 weeks, and the record he produced for Ludacris, "Stand Up," reached #1 a few weeks ago and has held firm in the top 30.

  Meet Kanye West
"It's all a matter of a turning tide," West said. "Compared to movies, there's a time of mad gangsta movies, then it's comedies, then it's family films, then it's back to gangsta flicks, [because] we missed the gangsta flicks. I'm doing this little wave [of music], it's going to make people fiend for good gangsta music again after my wave is waving goodbye. I realize that time will happen. I enjoy it and I realize that it's all entertainment."

"[When] we worked together on 'You Don't Know My Name,' " Keys said, "we'd be in the middle of doing something and he'd break out and start rhyming. This is how passionate he is about what he does. He'd be like, 'Feel me on this,' and start putting together this idea he's working on. That's what I love about him. You really feel the genuine love from him."

The Cliffs Notes version of West's life goes like this: He started rapping in the third grade and started making beats in the seventh grade because he didn't realize that most mic rockers hired people to make tracks for them. When he was 15 he met famed Chicago producer No I.D., who supplied the tracks for many of Common's early records. While No I.D. mentored him on sampling soul artists like Kanye's favorite group at the time, the Ohio Players, West further cultivated his love for hip-hop.

"[A Tribe Called Quest's] Low End Theory was the first album I bought," he remembered. "I was like, 'Oh sh--, [they] have whole albums? They don't just have the singles?' I was like, 'I'mma start buying a bunch of sh--.' "

Years later, after stints at the American Academy of Art and Chicago State University as well as a brief learning period under the wing of Deric "D-Dot" Angelettie, just about the time Kanye's name started buzzing around the music industry for his flawless production on most of Jay-Z's The Blueprint, he started his campaign.

He was bringing back the heart-grabbing soulful samples that RZA so cleverly mastered in the early and mid-'90s, and people were starting to do their homework on him, finding out that he'd been putting in work for years on such classic cuts as Beanie Sigel's "The Truth" and "Nothing Like It," Jay's "This Can't Be Life" and Nas' "Poppa Was a Player." But Kanye didn't want anyone to get it twisted. He wasn't a producer who rapped, he was a rapper who produced. Still, people slept on him.

"Man, people told me that I couldn't rap, that I couldn't sell a record, that I didn't have a chance. And it hurt me. Nobody believed in me."

West was undaunted. He visited the offices of every hip-hop publication and played his music, shook hands and even rhymed for editors. When he wasn't getting his own publicity, he shopped his demo to labels and almost hit the jackpot with Capitol Records in 2002.

"Kanye was never down on himself," said Joe "3H" Weinberger of Capitol's A&R department. Two years ago, he came oh so close to inking a deal with West. "He'd be ready to rap on the spot, ready to tell his story on the spot, ready to make a record on the spot. He was probably the hungriest dude I ever saw. Whatever it takes. He wasn't all caked up yet, but he still had his Kanye swagger. It was definite star quality the day I saw him. He played me three songs and I was like, 'What!?' His flow was different, his beats were great, he was performing the whole time. The energy was there, it was some real star-quality stuff."

The Capitol deal was all but signed, and then at the 11th hour, 3H said, another person in the company got in the ear of Capitol's president and the deal was nixed. "He told the president, 'He's just a producer/rapper. Those record won't do well. He'll never sell.' "

  "He's like me and Jay put into one." — Roc-A-Fella CEO Dame Dash
Luckily for West, Dame Dash saw enough potential in him to offer a deal. The two had already built a relationship via West's production work for several Roc-A-Fella acts.

"I was definitely feeling a little bit of anxiety 'cause my man Jay-Z is retiring," Dash said. "People were on me like, 'What you gonna do after this?' I personally signed Kanye, and I wanna take credit for that because I feel good that I believed in him and I saw his vision. What I didn't see was how big his vision was and how he was going to attack it himself. He's like me and Jay put into one. He's a businessman, he's an artist, he's a producer. On a bigger level, he's positive."

Kanye's positive attitude has certainly been tested over the years. As he would find out, securing a recording contract wouldn't mean an end to the problems life throws at you.

Next: A car crash can't hold Kanye back ...
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Photo: Roc-A-Fella

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  Beanie Sigel
(Kanye West, producer)
"The Truth"
The Truth

" '03 Bonnie & Clyde"
(Kanye West, producer)
The Blueprint 2: The Gift and the Curse

"Knock, Knock"
(Kanye West, producer)
After The Storm
(J Records)

  "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)"
(Kanye West, producer)
The Blueprint

(Kanye West, producer)
The Black Album

  Alicia Keys
(Kanye West, producer)
"You Don't Know My Name"
Diary Of Alicia Keys
(J Records)

  Talib Kweli
(Kanye West, producer)
"Get By"

(Kanye West, producer)
"Stand Up"
(Def Jam)