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John Legend Opens Up About Kanye West: ‘Music Needs Him’

They’ve been close friends for over a decade

John Legend and Kanye West go way, way back. Their friendship began in 2001, when John Legend was still John Stephens. After years of rejection from various labels, he finally found his big break when his college roommate introduced him to up-and-coming producer and his cousin, Kanye.

Fast-forward to today and 'Ye isn't doing so well. Last month he was hospitalized for psychiatric evaluation after abruptly canceling the remainder of his Saint Pablo tour.

"This is a very difficult life and a difficult business," Legend recently told Rolling Stone about his longtime friend. "I don't want to try to play pop psychologist, so I'm not gonna try to analyze what's happening with him. I just want him to do whatever he needs to do to feel better and to feel like he's ready to go again, because music needs him. The world needs him."

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Legend needed him, too. In 2004, West signed him to his G.O.O.D. Music label, which is now under Universal Music Group. (The throwback pic above is from its launch party.) Get Lifted, Legend's debut record, was the label's first official release. It went on to win three Grammys, including Best R&B Album. Not too shabby.

"I think he's such an important talent," Legend continued. "We need him at full strength. How do you balance everything you do – acting, producing, music, fatherhood? You start with knowing what's most important to you. My family is most important and then second is music."

'Ye is doing just that. Following Kim's robbery and his hospitalization, he's keeping a low profile and spending plenty of time with his family. The Kardashian West holiday photo may not be the jolliest, but at least they're all safe and together.