The dope music artist and fashion designer behind the mask. He’s not known for doing interviews and he dislikes paparazzi, but in a personal interview with NYT/respected journalist, Jon Caramanica, Kanye West opens up about his career, not caring about the Grammys, Taylor Swift’s incident, MBDTF being a dishonest album, compromising artistry, his relationship with Kim K, parenthood/fatherhood, vanity in fashion, not being taken serious as a fashion designer, respecting his trendsetting abilities, his legacy and much more.
All Kanye wants is the world to be better, positive, and dopeness. This interview was done in Malibu, California. Below are some highlights:
On the Grammys and MBDTF & WTT not being nominated for ‘Album of the Year’:
“[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.
On Taylor Swifts incidents at MTV’s VMAs & having no regrets:
I don’t have one regret. If anyone’s reading this waiting for some type of full-on, flat apology for anything, they should just stop reading right now. 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.
On if MBDTF was a “dishonest album in some way and compromising artistry:
It’s always going to be 80 percent, at least, what I want to give, and 20 percent fulfilling a perception. If you walk into an old man’s house, they’re not giving nothing. They’re at 100 percent exactly what they want to do. I would hear stories about Steve Jobs and feel like he was at 100 percent exactly what he wanted to do, but I’m sure even a Steve Jobs has compromised. Even a Rick Owens has compromised. You know, even a Kanye West has compromised. Sometimes you don’t even know when you’re being compromised till after the fact, and that’s what you regret.
I don’t want to come off dissing “Dark Fantasy.” It’s me never being satisfied and then me coming and admitting and saying the truth. As much as I can air things out for other people, to air things out for myself, to say, “I feel like this could’ve been stronger.”
On the moment he realized that he would be a star and holding onto the last moments of anonymity:
Yeah, I held on to the last moments of it. I knew when I wrote the line “light-skinned friend look like Michael Jackson” [from the song “Slow Jamz”] I was going to be a big star. At the time, they used to have the Virgin music [stores], and I would go there and just go up the escalator and say to myself, “I’m soaking in these last moments of anonymity.” I knew I was going to make it this far; I knew that this was going to happen.
Taken from the NYT/Jon Caramanica
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On having tracks that sounded like Timbaland and DJ Premier & Dead Prez, Mos Def and Talib Kweli influence when it came to rap:
I used to have tracks that sounded like Timbaland; I had tracks that sounded like [DJ Premier]. But Jay-Z was an amazing communicator that made the soul sound extremely popular. And because I could make the soul sound in my sleep, it finally gave me a platform to put the message that my parents put inside of me and that Dead Prez helped to get out of me and Mos Def and [Talib] Kweli, they helped to get out of me: I was able to put it, sloppily rap it, on top of the platform that Jay-Z had created for me.
Before, when I wanted to rap, my raps sounded like a bit like Cam’ron; they sounded a bit like Mase; they sounded a bit like Jay-Z or whoever. And it wasn’t until I hung out with Dead Prez and understood how to make, you know, raps with a message sound cool that I was able to just write “All Falls Down” in 15 minutes.
On his relationship with Kim K:
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.
On the amount of backlash for appearing/not appearing on Kim K’s reality show:
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.
His thoughts on parenthood/fatherhood:
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.
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.
On his new album Yeezus and being anti College Dropout:
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.
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.
Yeah, it’s like trap and drill and house. I knew that I wanted to have a deep Chicago influence on this album, and I would listen to like, old Chicago house. I think that even “Black Skinhead” could border on house, “On Sight” sounds like acid house, and then “I Am a God” obviously sounds, like, super house.
On vanity in fashion and not being taken seriously as a fashion designer:
But the passion is for humanity. The passion is for people. The passion is for the 18-year-old version of myself. The passion is for the kids at my shows. I need to do more. I need to be able to give people more of what they want that currently is behind a glass. I don’t believe that it’s luxury to go into a store and not be able to afford something. I believe luxury is to be able to go into a store and be able to afford something.
I sat down with a clothing guy that I won’t mention, but hopefully if he reads this article, he knows it’s him and knows that out of respect, I didn’t mention his name: this guy, he questioned me before I left his office:, “If you’ve done this, this, and this, why haven’t you gone further in fashion?” And I say, “I’m learning.” But ultimately, this guy that was talking to me doesn’t make Christmas presents, meaning that nobody was asking for his [stuff] as a Christmas present. If you don’t make Christmas presents, meaning making something that’s so emotionally connected to people, don’t talk to me.
On being controlled by major corporations, wanting the world to be better:
I’m a professional musician because I have the structure of Universal Records. I’m a professional creative. Since I did the Louis Vuitton sneaker, I’ve never been allowed to be in a continually creative structured place that makes product. I’ve had meetings where a guy actually told me, “What we’re trying to figure out is how we can control you.” In the meeting, to me! Why do you want to control me? Like, I want the world to be better! All I want is positive! All I want is dopeness! Why would you want to control that?
That’s why I said “I throw these Maybach keys” [in the new song “New Slaves”]. I would rather sit in a factory than sit in a Maybach.
I want to tell people, “I can create more for this world, and I’ve hit the glass ceiling.” If I don’t scream, if I don’t say something, then no one’s going to say anything, you know? So I come to them and say, “Dude, talk to me! Respect me!”
On being a trendsetter, icon and his legacy:
Yeah, respect my trendsetting abilities. Once that happens, everyone wins. The world wins; fresh kids win; creatives win; the company wins.
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.
Read this interview in its entirety over at NYT.