Kanye West is the wealthiest man in hip hop and is just one of two self-made billionaires in the genre. Since his emergence on the Chicago underground hip hop scene in the late 1990s, West has gone on to work with all the greats in the business, but it was not easy.
Coming up under the wing of Chicago rapper and record producer No I.D., Kanye was primarily regarded as a producer. Never a rapper. Having moved with his mother to Chicago when he was just a young boy West was a talented drawer but wanted to pursue music full-time. Eager to get into the business and ferociously networking with Chicago rappers, No I.D. saw Kanye’s potential and, throughout the mid-90s, invited him to his studio sessions so West could gain firsthand experience of the record-making process. But West wanted more and decided that Chicago was a dead end and that to reach the heights he wanted to reach, he had to relocate to the home of hip hop, New York.
Upon telling No I.D. that he was relocating to New York to ensure he was in good hands, the record producer (real name Ernest Wilson) introduced West to an associate he had in New York, Kyambo “Hip Hop” Joshua, who was A&R for Roc-A-Fella Records.
While living in New York, West produced beats for other underground artists on the come-up, including the likes of Talib Kweli, Papoose and more. Seeing the demand for West’s beats skyrocket in New York as a result of his ubiquitous presence on the mixtape scene, after his initial hesitancy, Joshua signed West to his Roc-A-Fella subsidiary management company Hip Hop Since 1978 strictly as a producer. But by 2002, West (as a rapper and producer) was officially signed to the main Roc-A-Fella label run by Dame Dash.
In 2004, West released College Dropout and has ruled the airwaves ever since. Kanye West is the only rapper who is able to jump up on stage during somebody’s award acceptance speech and declare that someone else deserves it more without their career going down the toilet. That moment was just the beginning.
Aside from all the rants and craziness, West is the most influential figure in hip-hop without doubt and, on numbers alone, obliterates almost every single rapper in hip hop with regard to sales and overall accumulated wealth. Elusively and erratically emerging from his Wyoming studio with new projects and creative visions, whether it’s to do with fashion, music or other, people turn their heads and invest in what Kanye West produces and sells. Furthermore, with his ‘Yeezus’ nickname, there has been a mass deification of Kanye. That is the level of impact he has had on popular culture since he signed with Roc-a-Fella 20 years ago.
Having been prominent in hip hop culture for exactly 20 years, now is the perfect time to look back on all of Kanye’s projects, the good, the bad and the great, to break down and figure out exactly how many records the billionaire producer and rapper has sold.
Kanye West’s best-selling album:
Kanye West’s albums usually all perform extremely well, but some perform better than others. Across his 20-year career, Kanye’s best-selling album has been Graduation, Ye’s third full studio album. Released in 2007, Graduation was groundbreaking, and it shifted the sonics of hip hop.
Songs such as ‘Stronger’ and ‘Good Life’ performed extremely well commercially, and the project sold 957,000 copies in its first week, going on to be certified five times platinum by the RIAA. The album won a Grammy at the 2008 awards for ‘Best Rap Album’.
Kanye West’s worst-selling album
As previously mentioned, Kanye West’s albums usually all perform extremely well, but some perform worse than others as well. Across his 20-year career, Kanye’s worst-selling album has been The Life Of Pablo.
Released in 2016, The Life Of Pablo was initially only released on TIDAL, with fans not wanting to pay extortionate prices for TIDAL subscriptions; the album’s first week sales were poor, and by the time it was finally released on primary streaming services, the excitement had subsided. The project sold 90,000 copies in its first week, going on to be certified only two times platinum by the RIAA and Gold in the UK. The album won no awards.
Kanye West’s total album sales:
Fans know that Kanye can sell albums and the hip hop community know he is big business. But the pressing question is how many albums has Kanye West sold in total from his first ever record until now. Well, records don’t incorporate the whole world.
However, assessing Ye’s sales in the UK, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand combined, Kanye West has sold 34.8 million albums. So, it’s fair to say he’s sold quite a lot of albums.