Yeezus has ripped apart the rap game and the perception of how an album should be released. But long before Kanye West became the epicenter of hip-hop and pop culture, he was still just as hands-on when it came to his creative direction, personal style, and how the world viewed him. 

Yeezy has come along way in his career—recently providing a conversation-provoking interview for The New York Times, but the first publication West graced the cover of was Fader, and even back then (2003) he wanted to be in charge of how the shoot was styled. Well-known hip-hop photographer Jonathan Mannion recently unearthed some unseen photos from the photoshoot and discussed how reluctant Kanye was to people attempting to change his style.

"Kanye styled himself that day, there wasn’t a stylist," Mannion recalled.

"I remember he wanted props, things that represented his style. A Louis Vuitton bag showed up and he told a story, “I tried to get a bunch of Louis stuff and they wouldn’t send it to me, so I just bought it.” Whether it was that bag he bought or a big clump of Louis Vuitton luggage he wanted to stand on, he wanted it to be LV to show what he appreciated.

And even though Kanye's style may look like a throwback to days before rappers started to slim-down their look, Mannion remembers that Kanye was still ahead of the pack, even in 2003. "The brick phone he’s holding in some of these dates the photos, but there’s nothing else about these to make them seem like they weren’t taken yesterday," Mannion said. "I’m sure that phone, at that time, was the freshest, greatest, nobody had it. It was always about being ahead of the competition. His style then was impeccable and there’s nothing about it that wouldn’t apply today."

As it appears that we're in the grips of a full-fledged Yeezy season, take a look back at how Kanye used to do things, and realize although his sound, references, and style has just changed—he's still the same Yeezy. Confident and assured he'll succeed.

Check The Fader for the rest of the story, full-size photos, and more insightful quotes from Kanye's longtime manager Gabe Tesoriero.

[via Fader]