A lot happened between “Graduation” and “808s,” obviously: a lot of struggle, a lot of tough things for you. [Mr. West’s mother died in 2007.]
Creative output, you know, is just pain. I’m going to be cliché for a minute and say that great art comes from pain. But also I’d say a bigger statement than that is: Great art comes from great artists. There’s a bunch of people that are hurt that still couldn’t have made the album that was super-polarizing and redefined the sound of radio.
What I find probably the most moving thing that you’ve ever done is calling out President Bush at the Hurricane Katrina telethon. To me, that moment is actually the peak of putting a message in a pop format, even though it’s not a song.
Yeah. I guess it’s a very pop moment of a lifetime or generation. I mean, my dad’s generation is a generation of messaging, you know? But that’s just a piece of me being the opinionated individual that I am.
Were you conscious that that’s what you were doing, or was it totally just instinct?
Yeah, it was pretty bugged out. When you think about it, I was wearing like, a Juicy Couture men’s polo shirt. We weren’t there, like, ready for war.
I wonder if you see things in a more race-aware way now, later in your career, than you did then. The intensity of the feelings on “Watch the Throne” is much sharper.
No, it’s just being able to articulate yourself better. “All Falls Down” is the same [stuff]. I mean, I am my father’s son. I’m my mother’s child. That’s how I was raised. I am in the lineage of Gil Scott-Heron, great activist-type artists. But I’m also in the lineage of a Miles Davis — you know, that liked nice things also.
Did you think differently about family after your mother passed?
Yeah, because my mother was — you know, I have family, but I was with my mother 80 percent of the time. My mom was basically — [pause]
Was your family.
Yeah, that’s all I have to say about that.
Damn yo. Hella raw, right?
How can we not all feel his pain?
Hit the flip for Ye’s take on being the anti-hero and fighting for what’s “fair”