Kanye West wants you to take him seriously as an artist and rightfully so. Since the release of his first album in 2004, Kanye has proven himself to be far more than a producer or a rapper, supported by his love for visual art and his ability to find and combine the best creatives—albeit architects, stage designers, art directors, or fashion designers—to accomplish something truly next-level.
Whether he's installing dancers choreographed by artist Vanessa Beecroft, working with first-class stage designer Es Devlin on five tours and multiple one-off shows, or patenting a seven-screen experience, he's serious about how he appears during live performances. What most people don't realize is that he's been working on the design of his live show for a while, often expanding on ideas he was executing back during The College Dropout and Touch the Sky tours, like performing on mountains and pyramids, having key guest performers like Chaka Khan, Jamie Foxx, and Daft Punk, and using naturalistic visuals with highly detailed attention to coloring and sequence.
Tomorrow, Kanye's Yeezus tour resumes in Philadelphia, so we went deep into the Internet to gather The Design Evolution of Kanye West's Live Performances, which includes his tours, awards show performances, SNL performances, VH1 Storytellers, and yeah, Dave Chappelle's block party. It's a wild journey that will teach you more about Kanye than you ever knew before, and you'll probably appreciate what he's done for music and culture more, too.
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The Design Evolution of Kanye West's Live Performances
**Editors note: Performances like the August 2005 NFL Opening Kickoff, 808s and Heartbreak Listening Party, the October 2013 Jimmy Fallon performance, the 2013 Met Gala performance Bonnaroo 2007, the MTV Youth Inaugural Ball, the Hurricane Sandy Benefit Concert in 2012, the Vertigo Tour, the October 2007 MOCA Los Angeles show, and various other festival shows were purposely excluded in order to give the best representation of Kanye's live performance evolution. Certain performances like the 808s and Heartbreak Listening Party, the October 2007 MOCA Los Angeles show, and the 2013 Met Gala were not well documented or have been similarly interpreted in other live shows.