Chicago will always be Kanye West’s baby.
On Friday, the “Famous” rapper, 40, and his wife Kim Kardashian West, 37, revealed they named their newborn daughter Chicago via her app and website, but many fans have been wondering why? Their third-born’s name proudly pays homage to the city where Kanye grew up and pursued his dreams.
Chicago West. https://t.co/3MyLwcIzTh
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) January 19, 2018
Despite being born in Atlanta, Georgia, West has long shared that growing up in the city of Chicago, Illinois deeply influenced his life. After his parents divorced when he was just 3-years-old, Kanye and his mother, Donda, picked up their lives and moved to Chicago, where she was an English professor at Clark Atlanta University and the Chair of the English Department at Chicago State University before later retiring to serve as his manager.
Kanye briefly attended the American Academy of Art and Chicago State University in 1997 – where his mother also served as a professor – before dropping out to pursue music at age 20. Though his career took the place of his education, Kanye was awarded an honorary doctorate by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in March 2015 for his contributions to music, fashion, and popular culture, officially making him an honorary DFA.
School or not, he has the city to credit for his success in the hip hop scene, today.
During the early years of his career, Kanye acted as a ghost producer for Deric “D-Dot” Angelettie and, because of that, was unable to release a solo album. Instead, he went on to form a late-1990’s Chicago rap group called the Go-Getters, comprised of him, GLC, Timmy G, Really Doe, and Arrowstar. The Go-Getters released their first and only studio album World Record Holders in 1999, featuring other Chicago-based rappers, such as Rhymefest, Mikkey Halsted, Miss Criss and Shayla G..
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Kanye released his debut album The College Dropout in 2004, but it was on his 2007 hit “Homecoming” off his third studio album Graduation, where he decided to voice his appreciation for his hometown city, referring to Chicago at least 10 times in the song. In the track, Chicago was personified as his childhood sweetheart named “Windy” in order to convey his fond relationship with the city. In the song, he rhymes about his love for Chi-Town and his guilt over leaving “her” to pursue his musical dreams, capturing his bittersweet relationship with the place that built him into the artist he is today.
“I met this girl when I was three years old, and what I loved most, she had so much soul,” he raps in one verse. “She said, ‘Excuse me, lil homie, I know you don’t know me, but my name is Windy and I like to blow trees.’”
In 2003, Kanye and his mother founded the “Kanye West Foundation,” intended to reduce high school dropout rates, in Chicago and successfully operated it for years until its mysterious closure in 2011 after its grant-making slowed down, possibly due to the tragic death of Kanye’s mother in 2007.
But her legacy continued.
In 2013 in memory of his mother, Rhymefest established a non-profit called Donda’s House, which “provides unprecedented access and education from leading experts in the music, fashion, and entertainment industry to Chicago’s creative youth and young adults.” In 2016, Donda’s House purchased the singer’s childhood home in Chicago’s South Side to house a music and arts center for youth.
And just as Kanye has vowed to keep his own baby safe for a lifetime, he wishes he could do just that for the people of his hometown. In 2016, the Grammy Award-winning rapper sat down with BBC Radio 1’s Annie Mac to give a wide-ranging interview, where he spoke out about Chicago’s gun violence.
“We are numb, we’re numb to 500 kids getting killed in Chicago a year, we’re numb to the fact that it was seven police shootings in the beginning of July,” he said.