Kanye West very rarely gives interview these days, but the Chicago emcee spoke in-depth with the New York Times recently. Veteran reporter Jon Caramanica got extensive time with the reclusive rap star at Rick Rubin’s Malibu studio during the final days of the making of Yeezus. The G.O.O.D. Music leader discussed numerous topics including his music career, his view on the Grammys, the Taylor Swift interruption, his legacy, and more.
Check out these highlights from the interview below.
On the 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.”
On the Taylor Swift incident at the VMA’s:
“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.”
On 808?s & Heartbreak:
“Yeah, people asked me to change my name for that album… Yeah, different people. They said, “Do it under a different name.” And when it came out, people used to be like, “Man, I wish it had more rapping on it.” But I think the fact that I can’t sing that well is what makes “808s” so special… Yeah. I love the fact that I’m bad at [things], you know what I’m saying? I’m forever the 35-year-old 5-year-old. I’m forever the 5-year-old of something.”
On becoming famous:
“Yeah, I held on to the last moments of [anonymity]. 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.”
On being influenced by Dead Prez:
“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.”
“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 Yeezus’ sound:
“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.”
On his place in history:
“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.”