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The Voice’s John Legend Reveals One Major Thing He Learned From Kanye West After Ye Got Famous First

screenshot of john legend on the voice and kanye west in runaway music video
(Image credit: NBC / YouTube)

John Legend’s accolades pretty much speak for themselves at this point. A Primetime Emmy win in 2018 for co-producing his buff turn in Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert solidified him for the official EGOT designation – the first Black male in history to do so, in fact. The singer makes time for a few other things these days, including his work as resident judge on The Voice for the last several seasons (catch up with a Hulu subscription). However, Legend reveals one major thing he was able to learn on his overall journey from the likes of Kanye West, thanks to Ye reaching his fame first.

Truth be told, their respective emergences in the music industry both materialized at the relative same time period in the early aughts. But it was Ye’s first studio album, The College Dropout, that shook the proverbial table and catapulted him to the icon-status he possesses today. Speaking to The Guardian, John Legend shared that he simply adhered to the blueprint set down by his contemporary when it came to the life of notoriety, saying:

Being with Kanye and witnessing him blow up in the early days helped prepare me for what would happen. When success finally happened for me, I felt like I was able to not be overwhelmed by it.

The Voice coach, who is returning for Season 22 amidst another star bowing out, recalled that the two of them actually met years ahead of Ye's meteoric rise, back in 2001. Apparently, John Legend’s roommate had introduced them at a time when Legend himself was getting “really lowball offers” for his work from the industry. Explaining the backstory to the outlet, he added that College Dropout actually threw his burgeoning career a bone in some respects:

Kanye had just moved to New York from Chicago and we were both these hungry young artists, trying to make it in the business. Me and Kanye were working on each other’s demos – mine, which would become Get Lifted, and his, which would be The College Dropout. Finally, The College Dropout came out in 2004 and it just took off. That’s when the music from Get Lifted started to sound a lot better to all the record execs.

The other side of this story, Kanye West’s story, is actually the entire focal point of Netflix’s Jeen-Yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy. The 20-years-in-the-making documentary, which Ye had a bit of an axe to grind with concerning the final edit, showed a behind-the-scenes look at his various creative endeavors over the years, from music to fashion to politics. And in its second part, the "Ordinary People" singer made an appearance in what was the then-first day of College Dropout’s recording in the studio.

Their longtime friendship, though, is supposedly not like how it was in those earlier days anymore. The rapper is known by now to butt heads with other big names in the game. But it was his infamous Twitter beef about Donald Trump with his old buddy John Legend in 2018 that is believed to have driven a real wedge there, similar to what happened between West and Jay-Z. Nevertheless, the Academy Award-winning “Glory” performer wouldn’t comment on their dynamic as it stands today.

What’s the old saying? Fame is a fickle food? A fickle friend? Either way, the John Legend-Kanye West trajectory is proof in the pudding that two people may come-up at the same time in the same industry, in relatively the same way, but they can have two very different approaches to how they maneuver it in the long run.

Lauren Vanderveen
Lauren Vanderveen

Freelance writer. Favs: film history, reality TV, astronomy, French fries.