It's Kanye West's birthday today. The rapper/producer/art enthusiast/media mogul is now 33 years old, and he has no shortage of things to celebrate at the moment. He is currently working on his new album Good Ass Job, which promises to be a stirring return to form for West (especially if the recent track "Power" is any indication). Over the course of his career, he has had incredible highs (his production work on Jay-Z's The Blueprint, his hotly-anticipated debut The College Dropout, smash jams like "Stronger" and "Jesus Walks") and his share of lows (the car accident that broke his jaw, the tragic passing of his mother, the aftermath of the notorious Taylor Swift incident at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards).
But when you leave all of the exterior stuff aside, what's left is a remarkable career that continues to build and evolve. West made the practice of spinning soul samples into hip-hop beats a mainstream practice, and he dragged literate backpack rap into the pop realm. He made it OK to collaborate with non-traditional guest stars and helped advance the art of music videos. West's fandom is also lengendary — his enthusiasm for Japanese pop artist Takashi Murakami has turned him into an international superstar, while his endorsement of other artists has translated into instant success. West is an innovator, a taste-maker and an incredible musician, and his work has been extremely influential not only in the hip-hop realm but also in pop music overall.
By far West's most remarkable accomplishment has been his 2008 album 808s & Heartbreak, a profoundly non-traditional album that was fueled by thick, murky keyboard sounds and singing as opposed to rapping. It was also West's most lyrically dark project to date. Despite all these facts, it still sold well, was embraced as a pop album and spawned a handful of hits, including the stunning "Amazing."