WHAT HE'S CHANGING: The sound, style and ethos of hip-hop, R&B and pop, dragging in everything from French house to Japanese pop art to eurythmics to sneakers last seen in Back to the Future Part II. He writes songs, produces and raps with equal facility, bringing sorely needed creativity into the moribund world of commercial hip-hop. But more than that, with an endless series of hits and sold-out arena tours, he is this decade's only real new pop superstar.
FRIENDS SAY: "He's brave, he's smart and he's got amazing taste," says L.A. Reid. "And he's outspoken. You couple that with genius musical talent, and you have an artist doing what no one else is trying. Even the things people think of as mistakes only make him more interesting."BIG RISK: Started singing on last year's 808s & Heartbreak. "With a song like 'Diamonds,' it's almost like I was trying to pass a test," West said. "But when you make a record like 'Love Lockdown,' it's like you're not even trying to pass a test. You just do a Basquiat painting over the whole test.