Guess it’s Kanye’s turn to get “deep and stuff”… The New York Times posted an in-depth interview with Kanye West titled “Behind Kanye’s Mask” set to run in Sunday’s paper — days ahead of the release of his 6th studio album “Yeezus.” The topics range from his interruption of Taylor Swift, to his damning of George Bush while devoting a fair amount of time to his relationships with Kim Kardashian, his mother and other artists. He also speaks on his musical evolution and his contributions to pop culture.
Check out the excerpts when you continue…
Photo Credit: Nick Knight
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.
You look at Jay or Diddy, and I’d say like, 90 percent of the time, you think they’re having a good time. With you, I would say, I don’t know, 50-50 maybe? Or 30-70?
Maybe 90 percent of the time it looks like I’m not having a good time.
But you’re in a very public relationship, a seemingly long and satisfying relationship: you’re about to have a child.
Any woman that you’re in love with or that loves you is going to command a certain amount of, you know, energy. It’s actually easier to focus, in some ways.
When you’re uncertain about love, it can be such a distraction. It infects all the other areas.
Yeah, that’s what I mean when I say like, “Yo, I’m going to be super Zenned out like, five years from now.” I’m the type of rock star that likes to have a girlfriend, you know? I’m the type of soul that likes to be in love and likes to be able to focus. And that inspires me.
On “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” there’s a really affectionate scene where you go and help Kim sort through her clothes.
That was from a place of love. It’s hard when people read things in a lot of different ways. You know, the amount of backlash I got from it is when I decided to not be on the show anymore. And it’s not that I have an issue with the show; I just have an issue with the amount of backlash that I get. Because I just see like, an amazing person that I’m in love with that I want to help.
What thoughts do you have about parenthood?
That is a really interesting, powerful question. One of the things was just to be protective, that I would do anything to protect my child or my child’s mother. As simple as that.
Have you ever felt as fiercely protective over anything as you are feeling now about those things?
I don’t want to explain too much into what my thoughts on, you know, fatherhood are, because I’ve not fully developed those thoughts yet. I don’t have a kid yet.
You haven’t experienced it yet.
Yeah. Well, I just don’t want to talk to America about my family. Like, this is my baby. This isn’t America’s baby.
Good point. And we gotta respect him on that point — even though Kim’s attitude seems almost opposite — like this is America’s baby — at least if E! has anything to say about it.
Hit the flip for Ye’s comments on how his parents shaped him and what the loss of his mother meant for him.
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”
When your debut album, “The College Dropout” came out, the thing that people began to associate with you besides music was: Here’s someone who’s going to argue for his place in history; like, “Why am I not getting five stars?”
I think you got to make your case. Seventh grade, I wanted to be on the basketball team. I didn’t get on the team, so that summer I practiced. I was on the summer league. My team won the championship; I was the point guard. And then when I went for eighth grade, I practiced and I hit every free throw, every layup, and the next day I looked on this chart, and my name wasn’t on it. I asked the coach what’s up, and they were like, “You’re just not on it.” I was like, “But I hit every shot.” The next year — I was on the junior team when I was a freshman, that’s how good I was. But I wasn’t on my eighth-grade team, because some coach — some Grammy, some reviewer, some fashion person, some blah blah blah — they’re all the same as that coach. Where I didn’t feel that I had a position in eighth grade to scream and say, “Because I hit every one of my shots, I deserve to be on this team!” I’m letting it out on everybody who doesn’t want to give me my credit.
And you know you hit your shots.
Yeah — you put me on the team. So I’m going to use my platform to tell people that they’re not being fair. Anytime I’ve had a big thing that’s ever pierced and cut across the Internet, it was a fight for justice. Justice. And when you say justice, it doesn’t have to be war. Justice could just be clearing a path for people to dream properly. It could be clearing a path to make it fair within the arena that I play. You know, if Michael Jordan can scream at the refs, me as Kanye West, as the Michael Jordan of music, can go and say, “This is wrong.”
You’ve won a lot of Grammys.
“[My Beautiful] Dark [Twisted] Fantasy” and “Watch the Throne”: neither was nominated for Album of the Year, and I made both of those in one year. I don’t know if this is statistically right, but I’m assuming I have the most Grammys of anyone my age, but I haven’t won one against a white person.
But the thing is, I don’t care about the Grammys; I just would like for the statistics to be more accurate.
You want the historical record to be right.
Yeah, I don’t want them to rewrite history right in front of us. At least, not on my clock. I really appreciate the moments that I was able to win rap album of the year or whatever. But after a while, it’s like: “Wait a second; this isn’t fair. This is a setup.” I remember when both Gnarls Barkley and Justin [Timberlake] lost for Album of the Year, and I looked at Justin, and I was like: “Do you want me to go onstage for you? You know, do you want me to fight” —
For what’s right. I am so credible and so influential and so relevant that I will change things. So when the next little girl that wants to be, you know, a musician and give up her anonymity and her voice to express her talent and bring something special to the world, and it’s time for us to roll out and say, “Did this person have the biggest thing of the year?” — that thing is more fair because I was there.
But has that instinct led you astray? Like the Taylor Swift interruption at the MTV Video Music Awards, things like that.
It’s only led me to complete awesomeness at all times. It’s only led me to awesome truth and awesomeness. Beauty, truth, awesomeness. That’s all it is.
But that is something that you apologized for.
Yeah, I think that I have like, faltered, you know, as a human. My message isn’t perfectly defined. I have, as a human being, fallen to peer pressure.
So that was a situation in which you gave in to peer pressure to apologize?
So if you had a choice between taking back the original action or taking back the apology, you’d take back the apology?
You know what? I can answer that, but I’m — I’m just — not afraid, but I know that would be such a distraction. It’s such a strong thing, and people have such a strong feeling about it. “Dark Fantasy” was my long, backhanded apology. You know how people give a backhanded compliment? It was a backhanded apology. It was like, all these raps, all these sonic acrobatics. I was like: “Let me show you guys what I can do, and please accept me back. You want to have me on your shelves.”
And accept him back we have.
But he’s still striving for respect. Here’s his closing quote — it’s definitely a doozy:
I think what Kanye West is going to mean is something similar to what Steve Jobs means. I am undoubtedly, you know, Steve of Internet, downtown, fashion, culture. Period. By a long jump. I honestly feel that because Steve has passed, you know, it’s like when Biggie passed and Jay-Z was allowed to become Jay-Z.
I’ve been connected to the most culturally important albums of the past four years, the most influential artists of the past ten years. You have like, Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, Henry Ford, Howard Hughes, Nicolas Ghesquière, Anna Wintour, David Stern.
I think that’s a responsibility that I have, to push possibilities, to show people: “This is the level that things could be at.” So when you get something that has the name Kanye West on it, it’s supposed to be pushing the furthest possibilities. I will be the leader of a company that ends up being worth billions of dollars, because I got the answers. I understand culture. I am the nucleus.
There’s much more to this interview which you can read HERE or in the print version which will run in this Sunday’s paper.
What do you think of these excerpts though? Do Kanye’s answers make you respect him more, or less?