Before his near-fatal 2002 car accident, before he was producing beats for Jay Z, before he was combating classism and krushing on Kim K., Kanye West was an aspiring rapper, in an ill-fitting polo, looking for a chance to make it big.
Footage has emerged of West, then 19, participating in a cipher at the August 1996 opening of Fat Beats in New York City’s West Village. The landmark record store, which operated out of a basement when it first opened in 1994, was a purveyor of independent and underground hip-hop, known for entertaining the likes of Al Tariq and Xzibit. At the time, West was among a collective of emerging acts who wanted to celebrate the store’s expansion, and showcase their skills amongst the cultural hub’s influential crowd. Luckily, DJ Eclipse, Fat Beats’ former manager, was on hand to capture this rare moment in time.
“Yesterday I started converting old Hi8 video tapes to DVD and came across some interesting footage from that day,” he said in an email to Complex, commemorating the now-closed store’s 20th anniversary. “Now we had a lot of the usual suspects in the place that day such as ILL BILL, Arsonists, Lord Finesse, Adagio... But what took me by surprise was the appearance of this 19-year-old kid who at that time nobody knew. At least in NYC.”
It’s safe to say that West is known around most parts these days; and if this video proves anything, it’s that he’s never lacked in the confidence department.