Will Robinson
June 08, 2015 AT 05:02 PM EDT

Happy birthYe, Kanye West! The rapper turned 38 on Monday and to celebrate, EW dug up the hip-hop icon’s best moments from before he became a star. Fortunately, he came up in the Internet age, allowing every step of his rise to power to be document and preserved on YouTube. To celebrate the Louis Vuitton Don’s name day, here are seven videos that depict how against all odds, his journey to the top of music was not only destiny, but visible from his pre-College Dropout days. “

Prescient tattoos

This is insane. West got a list of songs tattooed on his left arm, at the very least, before Jay Z’s “Izzo” music video—because there’s a close-up of it in the NYC romp. It reads:

“Go Ghetto”

“The Truth”

“This Can’t Be Life”

“Nothing Like It”

“Izzo (The Anthem)”

“Hey Mama”

“Heart of the City”

“Never Change”

None of these tracks are his, except “Hey Mama,” which hadn’t been officially released (here’s the demo).  “I put a lot of the songs on here that changed my life,” West tells the off-screen interviewer. “That way, when my family’s in a million-dollar home, and they look back and say, ‘Dad, I can’t get no tattoos. Why do you got that tattoo?’ I be like, ‘Look this tattoo is the reason why we here!’ ” He then develops a Mad Lib narrative using the song titles. “I’m telling you at this point I never change,” he continues. “These are songs that I did do, but this is a scroll of my life.” This is not recommended to the average person whose confidence might waver, unless you don’t mind risking laser removal.

Making “Lucifer” for Jay Z

“When I did the Twista song, I was making that s–t like a sitcom itself, or like a piece of a movie or something.” What? Who thinks of music like that? Can we please get Twista into The Big Bang Theory to see this realized? “Tape this n—-, man. You taping him?” Jay demands. Just seeing Ye in his element is cool, but then HOV drops this voiceover in the music doc Fade to Blackreleased November 2004. This is the key takeaway:

One of the joys, for me, of the music business is watching a new artist develop into their own. I mean, that shit brings me joy, to see artists come from nothing … The passion he got for his music, I don’t think it’s gonna stop.


Rapping an unfinished “Never Let Me Down” to Pharrell

You can tell this is 2004, because fashion-forward Pharrell unironically wears a trucker hat. Look at Ye’s Flash shirt! This would have been sick scene if it were akin to Andre 3000 and Dr. Dre checking out Kendrick Lamar…but then Kanye’s like (paraphrasing): “Oh hey, my part isn’t recorded, so allow me to drop some bars in front of you, Neptunes guy.” It sounds like only one word didn’t make it to the final cut. Pharrell’s freak out makes this a seminal moment. You have to figure the guy hears a ton of music, so it would have to take something truly extraordinary for him to lose all sense of decorum.

Kanye makes a beat

He’s just playing around on the keys to a Shirley Murdock song that eventually became a track for Chicago hip-hop group Do or Die. The studio stuff is interesting, sure, but just look at his dancing. Based on this clip, it wouldn’t surprise us to learn that dance was West’s original passion. Go to 4:20 and rejoice in the best/worst part.

A cappella rendition of “Spaceship”

As the song points out, Kanye worked at the Gap when he was 15. He clearly wasn’t a fan. The passion he exhibits in his one verse in the standout Dropout cut didn’t make it to the record, but focus on his elocution and face. “When I made that, I pictured people working their job and feeling like there was something better out there, ” he says. It shines; that’s the theme of his verse. After, he proclaims: “You don’t know what I’ve been through! And you don’t know what I’m about to do! And you don’t know the motivation that’s inside of me, so you can’t tell me what I’m gonna end up being.”

Dave Chappelle’s story (4:02)

“Because my life is dope, and I do dope s–t.”

2005 Grammy Awards speech

After a legendary “Jesus Walks” performance, West was given a Grammy for Best Rap Album, the culmination of his trials and tribulations. He took the moment to reflect on his car accident, fleeting moments in life, and Al Bundy… while wearing his all-white suit. “Right now is my time and my moment…and I plan to celebrate and scream, and pop champagne at every chance I get!” Yeah! Spill some Ace on your sick J’s! But that was merely a prelude to the mic drop to end all mic drops: “Everybody wanted to know what I would do if I didn’t win,” he utters with the sincerest of faces. Pause. Wait for it… “I guess we’ll never know.” 

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