Kanye West‘s love life had made headlines long before becoming part of Kim Kardashian‘s reality television world. Ever since Ye broke out on his scene, his romances have been in the public eye – mainly because he’s used them as inspiration for some of his biggest songs. From rapping about his high school sweetheart on his landmark debut to having Amber Rose star in an unreleased music video to riding a motorcycle with Kim in “Bound 2,” Ye’s artistic vision has been motivated by his heart. So, who has this rapper called girlfriend?
How different the world would be had Kanye actually married Sumeke Rainey. When Ye was first starting out, he was still dating his high school girlfriend. Ye’s debut album, 2004’s The College Dropout, sampled Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Aretha Franklin, all records Sumeke’s father gave Ye.
“Kanye wasn’t a big old record collector like that,” Roc-A-Fella A&R Kyambo “Hip Hop” Joshua told Complex in 2014. “He didn’t have lots of old records. His girl’s father gave him a crate of records that a lot of [samples on the album] came from.” Sumeke’s voice is actually on the song “Get Em High,” and he makes reference to her on “Never Let Me Down” (“Nothing sad as that day my girl’s father passed away/So I promised to Mr. Rainey I’m gonna marry your daughter.”) It’s unclear when the relationship ended, but Late Registration’s “Touch The Sky” hints that it fell apart due to infidelity.
In the early 2000s, Ye was involved with fashion designer Alexis Phifer. The couple dated, on-and-off, from 2002 to 2008. Ye and Alexis even got engaged over a lobster and pasta dinner during an August 2006 vacation on Capri. However, after nearly two years together, the couple called off the engagement and went their separate ways. “It’s always sad when things like this end, and we remain friends,” Alexis told PEOPLE in April 2008. “I wish him the best in his future and all of his endeavors. He’s one of the most talented people I’ve ever met.” The breakup is said to be the primary inspiration for his November 2008 album, 808s & Heartbreak.
Kanye and Alexis briefly broke up in 2004, and during that period apart, he struck up a romance with actress Brooke Crittendon. It was a brief love affair, and they split while he was working on Late Registration. Brooke – who has starred in BET’s Harlem Heights – discussed the effect of the relationship with Essence in 2020. “I was with a celebrity and had to live under his shadow, and the attention was on him. As a result, people put labels on me,” she said. “[I] had to live in the shadow of that’s ‘Kanye’s ex-girl. I’m so much bigger than that, and when I did try to use a platform, it was a total disaster.”
That “disaster” may have been when she slammed haters of her and Ye’s relationship on MySpace in 2006 (per Oh No They Didn’t!). “I admit that I was young, hotheaded, and it might not have been the smartest thing to do at that time, but I’ve grown,” she told Essence. “I know now to never discuss who I’m seeing with the public.”
For the longest time, Amber Rose was Kanye’s highest-profile ex-girlfriend. The two only dated for two years, from 2008 to 2010. Supposedly, Kanye saw Amber in Ludacris’ “What Them Girls Like” music video and reached out to her. “I was home in The Bronx, and he called me on my cellphone,” she told the New York Post in 2012. “I’d never met him before. He was like, ‘Hey, it’s Kanye.'” Amber thought it was a joke, but Ye convinced her he was legit and talked her into flying out to Los Angeles to star in his “Robocop” music video. The video was never released, but two struck up a friendship, and he invited her to the Grammys.
“We weren’t dating yet,” Amber told The Post. “We were still just friends, and we had never kissed or anything. I was in the back with his family. I didn’t sit in the audience. We didn’t do the red carpet or anything like that. I’d never had anyone go out and buy me a really expensive outfit. When I told him I was an [exotic] dancer, he was like, ‘I don’t care if you’re a crackhead. I don’t care if you’re a prostitute. I just want to be with you.’ That’s what made me love him.”
Amber blamed the breakup on Kanye being a “typical rapper in the industry” and not being “faithful.” The split was far from amicable, with Kanye delivering his now-infamous line in a 2015 interview with The Breakfast Club. “If Kim had dated me when I first wanted to be with her, there wouldn’t be an Amber Rose,” he said, per Complex. “It’s very hard for a woman to wanna be with someone that’s with Amber Rose. I had to take 30 showers before I got with Kim.”
The couple clashed afterward, including a high-profile 2016 Twitter feud that involved Wiz Khalifa. In 2020, Amber spoke out against Ye’s comments on the No Jumper podcast. “I don’t want my life to be like that. I’m not that type of person. And I don’t know if he says things to make his wife [Kim Kardashian] more comfortable,” she said, per Cosmopolitan, “but to slut-shame me and say you needed 30 showers, like, bro, you took me around the world. Since when do you need 30 showers?… He has picked on me for ten years. He has bullied me for ten years.”
As of February 2022, Kim Kardashian has the unique distinction of being the only one on this list still involved, at least legally, with Kanye West. Kim and Ye went public with their romance in 2012, welcomed North West in 2013, and got married in 2014. The couple weathered numerous storms throughout their time together, including Ye’s failed presidential run, his multiple tweetstorms, and “bi-polar” episodes. However, even Kim had her limits, and she filed for divorce in February 2021. A year later, she was still legally married to Ye but had moved on to start dating again. So, as it turns out, had Kanye.
Ye was the first to start dating after Kim pulled the trigger on the divorce papers. He and Irina Shayk began a short romance in June 2021 at Kanye’s 44th birthday party in Paris. However, it was a literal summer fling, with the two of them splitting in August 2021.
The two had known each other for a decade before. She appeared in his “Power” video in 2010, and modeled in his 2012 Yeezy Paris Fashion Week show.
2022 started off with a bang for Ye. He and actress Julia Fox met at a New Year’s Eve party in Miami and struck up a brief romance after that. It was a whirlwind romance that lasted just six weeks, full of high-profile appearances as Paris Fashion Week, the christening of the “Juliye” couple’s name, and an Interview magazine piece where Julia said she was “really surrendering” to Ye. “For someone like me who’s such a control freak and always so used to taking care of myself, to just let go and be taken care of is foreign at this point in life.”
Spoiler alert: it didn’t last. Around the time that Ye started attacking Kim’s new boyfriend, Pete Davidson, on social media (while turning his back on his longtime collaborator, Kid Cudi), Julia decided to take back control. A rep for Julia told HollywoodLife on Feb. 14, 2022, that the two have ended things. “Julia and Kanye remain good friends and collaborators,” Julia’s rep said in a statement.