On Yeezus And Reaching This Point In His Career:
In a conversation that spanned several hours over three days, and is excerpted here, the Chicago-raised Mr. West, 36, was similarly forthright, both elliptical and lucid, even as long workdays led to evident fatigue. He compared the current moment — about to release “Yeezus,” and looking to make a bigger footprint in worlds outside of music — to life just before his debut album, “The College Dropout,” from 2004, another time when he was in untested waters. “I want to break the glass ceilings,” he said. “I’m frustrated.”
One of the things I thought when I heard the new record was, “This is the anti-‘College Dropout.’ ” It feels like you’re shedding skin. Back then, you were like: “I want more sounds. I want more complicated raps. I want all the things.” At what point did that change?
Architecture — you know, this one Corbusier lamp was like, my greatest inspiration. I lived in Paris in this loft space and recorded in my living room, and it just had the worst acoustics possible, but also the songs had to be super simple, because if you turned up some complicated sound and a track with too much bass, it’s not going to work in that space. This is earlier this year. I would go to museums and just like, the Louvre would have a furniture exhibit, and I visited it like, five times, even privately. And I would go see actual Corbusier homes in real life and just talk about, you know, why did they design it? They did like, the biggest glass panes that had ever been done. Like I say, I’m a minimalist in a rapper’s body. It’s cool to bring all those vibes and then eventually come back to Rick [Rubin], because I would always think about Def Jam.
His records did used to say “reduced by Rick Rubin.”
For him, it’s really just inside of him. I’m still just a kid learning about minimalism, and he’s a master of it. It’s just really such a blessing, to be able to work with him. I want to say that after working with Rick, it humbled me to realize why I hadn’t — even though I produced “Watch the Throne”; even though I produced “Dark Fantasy” — why I hadn’t won Album of the Year yet.
This album is moments that I haven’t done before, like just my voice and drums. What people call a rant — but put it next to just a drumbeat, and it cuts to the level of, like, Run-D.M.C. or KRS-One. The last record I can remember — and I’m going to name records that you’ll think are cheesy — but like, J-Kwon, “Tipsy.” People would think that’s like a lower-quality, less intellectual form of hip-hop, but that’s always my No. 1. There’s no opera sounds on this new album, you know what I mean? It’s just like, super low-bit. I’m still, like, slightly a snob, but I completely removed my snob heaven songs; I just removed them altogether.
I’m just trying to cut away all the — you know, it’s even like what we talk about with clothing and fashion, that sometimes all that gets in the way. You even see the way I dress now is so super straight.
Does it take you less time to get dressed now than it did five years ago?
You look at your outfits from five or seven years ago, and it’s like —
Yeah, kill self. That’s all I have to say. Kill self.
One of the things that you’ve thrived on over the years is sort of a self-conception as an outsider, that you’re fighting your way in. Do you still, in this moment, feel like that?
No, I don’t think I feel like that anymore. I feel like I don’t want to be inside anymore. Like, I uninvited myself.
SMH @ Kill Self. Think that means he’ll finally be retiring the Jesus piece?
Hit the flip for Ye’s take on love and why he decided not to appear on reality tv anymore.
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