From 'College Dropout' to Sunday Service: A timeline of Kanye West in Detroit

Charting 15 years of Kanye West concert appearances in the Motor City

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

When Kanye West brings his Sunday Service series to Detroit on Friday, it will be the latest chapter in the superstar rapper’s long and storied relationship with Detroit.

Kanye has been visiting the Motor City since he broke big in 2004, on the strength of his debut album “The College Dropout.”

Since then, Mr. West has been back many times, solidifying his bond with the city that leads into today’s concert, the first Sunday Service show to be held outside of its namesake day of the week.

Here’s a look back at Kanye’s visits to Motown over the years.

Kanye West performs at the Fox Theater on Oct. 22, 2005 in Detroit

April 16, 2004: The college dropout performs at Detroit's State Theater on his School Spirit tour. 

Sept. 11, 2004: Kanye opens for Usher during the “Confessions” singer’s Truth Tour stop at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

Aug. 2005: With his second album “Late Registration” due out at the end of the month, Kanye plays the album for a small group of journalists in a Troy office building. He’s so excited by “We Major” that he plays the song twice. He tells the reporters he was impressed by a young talent who rapped for him earlier that day. That ambitious go-getter was Sean Anderson, soon to be better known as Big Sean.  

Oct. 22, 2005: On the tour behind “Late Registration,” Kanye performs at Detroit’s Fox Theatre for a crowd of more than 4,800 fans, joined by openers Common and Fantasia. He’s accompanied by a seven-piece string section, and brags that such a set-up has “never before been done in hip-hop.” He was never known for his humility. Detroit rappers Slum Village join him for a rendition of “Selfish,” the Kanye-produced hit from Slum’s 2004 effort “Detroit Deli.”

The Feb. 3, 2006 front page of The Detroit News.

Feb. 2, 2006: With the Super Bowl in town, Kanye West performs at an event at the State Theatre with a bill that includes, get this, Nickelback, Train and Goo Goo Dolls. The event is taped by VH1 and aired two nights later. Kanye, sporting a Detroit Pistons jacket, performs 15 songs during a 55-minute set.

May 22, 2008: On his first arena outing, the groundbreaking Glow in the Dark tour, Kanye headlines the Palace of Auburn Hills in an awe-inspiring spectacle The News calls “the most artistically ambitious hip-hop tour ever mounted, by several thousand light years.” Openers are N*E*R*D*, Lupe Fiasco and a 20-year-old Barbadian performer named Rihanna.  

Jan. 14, 2010: The Palace date on the Fame Kills tour never comes to fruition, after the joint tour with Lady Gaga is canceled in the wake of Kanye’s dust-up with Taylor Swift at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards.

Rapper Jay-Z, right, and Kanye West perform on stage November 26, 2011, at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

Nov. 26, 2011: The Watch the Throne tour hits the Palace and finds Kanye West trading hits with his “Big Brother,” Jay-Z. The two-and-a-half hour extravaganza closes with the duo performing their anthem “N----- in Paris” a then-record seven times in a row.

Dec. 1, 2012: During his protégé Big Sean’s first headlining performance at the Palace, Kanye joins him for a encore performance of “Clique” that leaves the building quaking.  

Detroit Rapper Big Sean, right, and rapper Kanye West perform live on stage on December 1, 2012, at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

June 14, 2013: Detroit is one of a handful of cities worldwide where Kanye projects his video for “New Slaves” on the sides of outdoor buildings, part of the promotion for his album “Yeezus,” due out the following week. The Leland Hotel and the Michigan Science Center are among the downtown buildings used in the project.  

Dec. 19, 2013: The Yeezus tour – part spiritual journey, part art installation gone mad -- hits the Palace. The 140-minute show includes a 20-minute dissertation on haters, dreams, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs and Yeezys, which were then a part of Nike’s family. The News dubs the show “the most completely bonkers concert of the year.”   

Aug. 19, 2016: A Kanye-branded pop-up shop tied to his "Life of Pablo" album opens inside Lakeside mall in Sterling Heights, one of 21 cities hosting stores offering merch ranging from $45 hats to $325 military-style jackets. Kids line up for hours for their chance to be a part of the frenzy. 

Kanye West performs at the Palace of Auburn Hills during the Yeezus tour.

Sept. 28, 2016: An airborne Kanye West mounts his floating stage and hovers above the crowd at Joe Louis Arena during his Saint Pablo Tour. A non-stop party vibe prevails as the audience gathers beneath his stage for a 30-song performance, free of barricades both literal and figurative. The tour is set to return to the area with an Oct. 6 performance which is later shifted to Dec. 22; the plug is pulled on the tour before that early Christmas present arrives.

Kanye West performs at the Joe Louis Arena stop of his Saint Pablo tour.

Sept. 27, 2019: Friday service? Kanye brings his Sunday Service series to the Aretha Franklin Amphitheatre on the day his “Jesus is King” album is set to be released, though reports surface saying the album is delayed just as word about the concert goes public.