Before Kanye West was the Kanye West – you know, setting up recording studios at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium to finish off his latest album – he was a hungry Chicago producer trying to get put on.
Beginning his production career in the mid-90s, where he created beats for up-and-coming local artists, Kanye’s first official production credits came when he placed eight beats on Chicago rapper Grav’s 1996 debut album Down to Earth. He also contributed vocals to one of the tracks – “Line for Line.”
Fast-forward a couple years, with some solid experience under his belt, Kanye’s first major label placement came when he contributed to Jermaine Dupri’s 1998 album Life in 1472, where he produced the Nas-featured “Turn It Out” for $5,000.
Not long after that, Kanye dropped out of Chicago State University to focus on music full-time, and the major label placements started stacking up. He produced three beats on Mase’s Harlem World group album, The Movement, in 1999, and then a year later, he produced “This Can’t Be Life” for Jay-Z’s The Dynasty: Roc La Familia.
Kanye: I made this one beat where I sped up this Harold Melvin sample I played it for Hip over the phone, he’s like, “Oh, yo that shit is crazy Jay might want it for this compilation album he doin’, called The Dynasty. And at that time, like the drums really weren’t soundin’ right to me So I went and, I was listening to Dre Chronic 2001 at that time. And really I just, like bit the drums off “Xxplosive” and put it like with a sped-up sample, and now it’s kind of like my whole style, when it started, when he rapped on “This Can’t Be Life.”Kanye West – Last Call