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Kanye West Unedited: The Complete FADER Interview, 2008

photographer Jason Nocito


20,000 UNFILTERED WORDS OF CLASSIC KANYE


Last Saturday, Kanye West began his Yeezus tour in Seattle, a spectacle where he'll perform in masks, on a mountain and next to a Jesus lookalike. In the wee hours of Tuesday morning he proposed to Kim Kardashian at San Francisco's AT&T Park, flashing this message on the Jumbotron as an orchestra played Lana Del Rey: "PLEEEASE MARRY MEEE!!!!"

Kanye is pop's king of theater and, these days, frustrated and talking about that openly. Inspired by his forthrightness, we revisited the conversation he had with former editor-in-chief Pete Macia for his 2008 FADER cover story, circa 808s and Heartbreak. Condensed and edited in that issue, we're now presenting the interview in its complete, 20,000-word glory. Below, read a very Kanye-being-Kanye excerpt about breaking pop's glass ceiling, snobby people and being the "Steve Jobs of rap." Then read the transcript in its entirety on page two—Kanye talks about album-that-never-was Good Ass Job, his struggle to break into fashion, telling Jay Z he wanted to sound like Feist and Photoshopping his own blog posts. It's full of gems.

There’s a risk that, with 808s and Heartbreak, you made something that’s totally popular, potentially like, hugely popular. Hopefully. Let’s hope it’s pop. Like, uh, they asked me, what genre to put it under, cause they’re like, this is a new genre of music. I was like, put it under pop, cause like, I’ll wear that. I love wearing a label that people think is uncool. I think that’s the biggest answer, to take the idea of people just like, wearin Ray-Bans out of the blue or Vans with $2,000-dollar suits. On a major music scale for me to go in and say, Oh, pop, put it under pop. It’s like taking something the people didn’t think was cool at one point and juxtaposing it with something that’s like, super cred. Cause like, okay, is it, uh, is it not good music now? Cause I think it’s a lack of good music in the pop field. I mean, people always say stuff is like, genius, like when it’s like, super obscure and shit. It’s like all these people in this really obscure world—it’s like when I got into like, art, cause I’m not “into” art at all, I’m just into what I like. I don’t get “into” it. I don’t really get into—I’m a very surface-type character.

Really? Yeah. I couldn’t tell you shit about those drum machines in there. Like, I just barely know how to use them. Now some people get into and like—I just barely know how to work this computer and stuff like that. The only thing that I’m really into, that I know more than I probably should know about is like, clothes. And that’s cause it’s like a super challenge for me because I really want to design but I really want to do something good, and, just my whole life I’ve never really been that talented at anything except for working at something to the point where it was good. And then after I’ve done it a few times, then I’m just good at it. It’s just like, something to think about. When people first heard me rap, it sucked, and now I’m arguably the best in the world. So I just worked at it till it was good. It’s like, that is the talent right there. And then having a certain taste level to say, I think this is good, I think this is bad. But now it’s like, I guess I could be considered talented to like, pull off the type of music that I pull off now.

Is the reason you’re singing on this album because you’ve kind of gotten to a place where rapping—you know, like, same way with Wayne. He’s now singing a ton of songs and doing Auto-Tune, not even fucking with rap that much, or even Andre, who like, on Love Below, he wasn’t rapping on half of that. Yeah, I’m not doing it cause I’m bored of rap. I think Andre was the first person to make the statement before Nas—Andre was the one to say hip-hop is dead. I liked his approach to that. He was like, look, I’m doing this, and hip-hop is dead. I like when people approach it where it’s like, what I do is right and everything else is wrong. It’s not really my strategy. I like to accept everything and say, yeah, there’s something good in that, but that’s the reason I like Jim Jones so much. When he disses me, it’s like, yeah, if you diss me, that means I’m the iconic, I’m the arch nemesis. I think in the world there should be nemeses and complete rivals and stuff like that. That means I’m like the poster child of what you want to represent the opposite of. And that should be there. I think there’s that in fashion, you’ve got like Margiela and you have Ed Hardy, I think those are like polar opposites but they both need to exist and stuff like that, and they can choose to diss each other.



"My whole life I’ve never really been that talented at anything except for working at something to the point where it was good."

It also drives creation. It doesn’t drive any creation for me. I’m gonna do what I do regardless, but, uh, I appreciate it. Like I appreciate the bad, I appreciate when bad things happen. Obviously when you listen to this album it’s very personal, and I just think that if I hadn’t been through the terrible things that I’ve been through—that I was the victim or the cause of—that I couldn’t deliver art on this level, and that’s the good out of it.

The language you use is concrete, like distilling the message down to like the essentials. Is that the same reason you love Jil Sander, or the minimalist ideal of taking away all the nonessential things? This is how I relate to minimalism: it’s like, the advantage I have to travel and see fashion shows and go to Japan and go to Australia, just traveling the world—I get to take in all this information, and I go to the studio and I know all these things now, and it’s not like by chance and stuff, it’s like just being super knowledgeable, and I might not remember every single artist’s name I put up, but I’m constantly hit with a barrage of visuals, and it’s like I have to throw it all up in a way, and that’s part of the reason I can do an album in three weeks. It took three weeks because I was like, playing basketball for half of the time and stuff like that.

Between that and you saying you’re not really being an expert on the drum machine or whatever, do you feel like you just absorb stuff and you don’t really have to think about it, and it just affects the work that you do? Well, yeah, but when you say don’t think about it—every comment people had to diss “Love Lockdown” I was like, yes you’re right, that’s exactly it. They were like, Man he’s a pop singer now, and I’m like, Yes, correct! They like, It sounds like he wrote this in five minutes, and I was like, You’re right, it took me five minutes. Because, you know, is something better if it took five years then if it took you five minutes? I feel like all the words are in you, so like if you listen to this, when you listen to the album, if I was murmuring and had to tell people the words and stuff, it was in me, but you’re just blocking yourself, you’re blocking your creativity, like society has put up something, so many boundaries, so many limitations on what’s right and wrong that it’s almost impossible to get a pure thought out, and that’s what I’m talking about with the hang-ups on religion and sexuality and all these different things. It’s like a little kid, a little boy, they are looking at colors at age two and shit, and no one told them what colors are good—why would anyone pick blue over pink? Pink is obviously a better color, you know before somebody tells you you shouldn’t like pink, because that’s girls, or you’d instantly become a gay two-year-old—you’d become gay at age two.


It’s like everyone’s born an artist, and born confident, and everything’s taken away from you. And you’re born fearless too. You’d run into the middle of the street, you see a couple people get hit, and then you’re like, ah shit, I’m standing back now. It’s like all these things that you build up, fearful—so many times people react off of fear. I’m acting off of “this is what I want to do, but I realize that I want to be popular, so let me balance how much I push the envelope and how much I take back.” I say I’m the Steve Jobs of rap, it’s like I’m not gonna give people too much at one time. Like, what’s the perfect level to do like Radiohead songs, but still get em in the strip club? How do you juxtapose that? And that’s what’s fun, and that’s what’s the challenge, and that’s where I feel like I’m lapping people.

And I hate when people act like if you don’t wanna be popular then you just don’t wanna be popular. Some people go buy the Audi, some people go buy the Benz, some people buy Bentleys, some people buy Aston Martins, whichever is an effect of your personality, but so many people try to put their personality on someone else. Especially me. They try to suggest to me what I should do. It’s like, I’ve read blogs that say, “Kanye don’t sing.” And it’s like, Hey, fuck you. Most people tell me “don’t rap.” It’s like, fuck you. What I want people to realize at this point is I don’t give a fuck. That’s why I made this album. If I gave a fuck, I wouldn’t use Auto-Tune. I’m using Auto-Tune because I don’t give a fuck. I like the way it sounds. I don’t care, this is the way I’m a put my shit up, this what I like the most, and if you like it, that’s great, and you’ll come to a concert and you’ll enjoy yourself and you’ll like it when it’s on radio, and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to fucking listen to it, you don’t have to fucking come to the concert.


"What I want people to realize at this point is I don’t give a fuck."

My advantage, or the reason why that works for me, is that I actually do have a really pop ear. I kinda have good taste, so it works for me to just put out stuff that I like, as opposed to putting out shit I think other people gonna like. There’s hardly anybody that’s mainstream that’s good now, and that’s the reason why people say they hate mainstream. It’s like, no it’s not that you hate mainstream, it’s just like so few people that are really fucking good in mainstream. It’s like you cannot deny me, you cannot deny Wayne, you cannot deny Pain. You can’t, you know, we just—T-Pain, he taught me a lot. He would like come into the studio, he just brought a whole vibe and energy when he came down to Hawaii, and he would constantly joke, but the fact that he was constantly joking means that he was constantly expressing himself. When T-Pain goes into the booth, he can easily say, “You’ve officially been chopped and screwed,” and it’s just gonna come out of him because he’s open to fucking express himself. Anyone that closes their mind, and closes their expression like this, it’s like first of all lemme light some candles, now it’s like this lemme turn the lights down low, now it’s like this lemme get only the right people in the room, now it’s like this, and it’s finally to the point where it’s like this, and they can get a little bit out. But with T-Pain it’s like, I don’t give a fuck who’s in the room, I don’t give a fuck if it’s candles, I don’t care what it is, I don’t care how you gone feel about this joke, this funny to me, or what you think of my top hat, or my Oakleys.

Do you think that free flow, for you at least, goes hand in hand with what you were saying before, just being more mature, caring less… Yeah, it took me time to really be comfortable with who I was, cause it’s just my whole life. People have always been trying to tell me who I was. You know, when I used to dress hip-hop in Chicago, before hip-hop was a popular term, they said I was deep house, cause people always try to put a label on stuff. The only label that I’ll accept now is pop. And I said that from the gate. I was like, I don’t know if you remember interviews with College Dropout and I said, “I want this to be a pop album.”

Yeah, in the old FADER, the first cover, that was in there. I read it last week and I was like, everything that you’re doing is in that first thing. I was saying it from the gate, really fucking, okay “I’m into Louis Vuitton, I wanna be pop,” all these different things. I spent my whole check on those two bags I wore for those pictures. Those pictures are some of my best pictures, other than having a really bad haircut. Now it’s like the only thing is like pop. I subscribe to pop culture. I really like popular shit. I’m all about Walt Disney, Coca-Cola, Louis Vuitton, Nike. Like, I want my name to go down in history with Nike. Not just because I’m doing a shoe with Nike, but I want people to remember me the way they know Nike. That level of impact. It’s like who was the last person who really had it like that?

In the Raf interview you did he mentioned Bowie, which I thought was like, a really apt comparison. Like David Bowie was that dude who did whatever he wanted to do, and switched it up when people were expecting one thing. He would do something that was a complete 180, and he was also like one of the top selling artists of his time. But still, like, had all his integrity, never tried to do anything to sell records. Yeah, it’s weird, because all this shit I’m doing, it’s like, I wanna be a pop artist. But everything else that I’m saying is against all principals of what a pop artist is. It’s very heartfelt. It comes from me, solely me. I wanna say something about the concept of ghostwriting on this album. I have like a lot of writers on this album. If you take “Love Lockdown,” it takes like seven writers. What I would do is, I go in and like, murmur stuff, and I get like really creative genius individuals to sit in the room with me, and my cousin Tony Williams, Esthero, Malik Yusef, Kid Cudi, Mr. Hudson, like all these different artists to sit there, and we’d go line for line and say, “What is the best way to word this one part that was only murmured?” and we’d replace the words. And that’s the explanation of when you see a lot of writers on it. Every melody, most every melody on there I thought of. There’s a couple melodies that Cudi thought of on the album, but it’s very much like this is my idea.

It’s interesting because you’ve said Kanye is a brand, that The College Registration, Graduation, potentially Good Ass Job is like a brand. What we were saying before about the blog being like the Warhol Factory—like the production aspect of it, even what you’re saying about sitting there brainstorming lyrics with people—there’s a real sense of like a collective production with you at the top, and all these people, you bring them in to help drive your creativity. Yeah, to drive my idea. It’s like, one of those things where it’s like, you know what, it’s the Warhol quote, it’s like yeah, I could do it without a bunch of writers in the room, but this is faster, and I have more money than time.



"None of these people are my inspirations at all, people just compare me to them."

Is Warhol one of your inspirations? Well, no, none of these people are my inspirations at all; people just compare me to them. I’ve referenced Bowie a couple times, but I don’t even know the big songs and stuff. I don’t know shit about shit. I just do me, and it gets compared to Warhol, it gets compared to Murakami, it gets compared. I don’t know anything about art; I don’t know that much about music. It’s like people are always referencing stuff, and I’m like, Oh word? It reminds me of Taz, like in fashion, cause Taz is a super crazy-dressing fashion icon, like, dude so many streetwear dudes and fashion people are like, “Wow this dude is radical,” and stuff like that. He might not know Margiela, or something like that, who’s like the king of all, England, everyone, art, fashion school, design school. Lesson A: Margiela is your god and shit, and that’s where I am with music. I’ve never really listened to a whole Bowie album. I went and I was like listening to some things, I know the big songs, and I was like a little kid too, I only know the stuff that was on the radio. That’s another thing about pop, it’s like, Yo, I want this shit to be on the radio. I always think about it like a four-year-old, how’s a four-year-old gonna react to this? So many people are snobby, but they never think about the kids. They never think about, anyone that would ever try to diss me, they never think that I’m trying to provide a better form of music on a major scale. It’s like, to me, in my opinion, I’m giving you a better option. It’s like, it would be weak of me to diss Pink or something like that and not diss a rapper. I always thought that was like Eminem’s tactic, the fact that he would always like, diss super easy targets and shit like that. It’s like, Oh, lemme just talk about how I don’t like the Pink song, or whatever—but you know I like Pink when she did the Linda Perry joints and stuff like that. But I think, okay, the number one pop song is the Pink song or whatever, and it’s like, I’m just personally not into it. It’s like, lemme take all the Pink shit out, cause it’s like, as a man, if you’re gonna fucking diss Pink, then you need to like diss some other rappers while you’re at, some shit that could actually cause you problems. So let’s just take the Pink shit out, cut the weak shit. Like, if you’re not gonna diss Jim Jones and shit, then why would you diss Pink? That’s like some pussy shit, so just take it out. But to like not use people’s name—I don’t think people have a lot of options, I’ve said this before, I’m backtracking. When I was a kid, it seems like there was a lot of great pop music. There was George Michael, Michael Jackson…

Madonna. I mean, Michael Jackson’s the king. The Police, and some of the one hit wonders and stuff, that was just great songs back then.

What do you think happened? I mean, I was a little kid so I didn’t know how the music scene worked back then, but was it a big tension between the concept of underground? Were there lots of underground bands in the ’80s? I guess it had to be, but it wasn’t like this Internet world either, so it’s either like, back then, nobody fucking heard you or everybody fucking heard you.


I think it’s probably that labels back then had the resources to throw money at a ton of bands, and the best ones would rise to the top. Sorta like baseball farm teams: you have AAA, AA, A, and the best players make it to the major leagues. And it’s like, if you weren’t in the major leagues, you were in no league almost, it’s like you never got heard. But now it’s like, cause people can discover their own music, there’s all these opportunities for independent bands to get heard. Now it’s a big struggle. It’s like wow, all this independent music that’s good, and it’s like blatantly better than the mainstream shit, so it’s less of a program. Like Rihanna was the last person to barely make it through MTV at MTV’s most influential stage, cause now they don’t play music, so it’s harder for them to break stars and shit. Now stars are broken on Disney or fucking American Idol. But there was a chance for MTV, like they helped break me, and like Rihanna was the last one to get a piece of MTV’s juice I think. She’s the last star. I’m not saying there aren’t somethings to come, but she’s like the latest, the latest greatest. But it’s interesting: How is music fed to you?

Just think about what you actually listened to as a child. You never had the opportunity to go on the Internet. You used to go to the store and you only had $10, you had the option of buying like one tape. If you didn’t have the money—it’s crazy the way they packaged music. You didn’t have the opportunity to listen to the music. Especially for me, like I’m like the only hip-hop dude I know where I was at, so nobody was buying the UMC tape, so I had to choose between the Pete Rock or the UMC, and if I didn’t have the money to get it, I’d like, um, I’d never get to hear the music. I used to steal music, literally steal the tapes. There’s times I walked through and I got caught in the metal detector, cuffed up and shit like that, or you know, kicked out of the mall, stuff like that. I was stealing music, so I was doing exactly what kids are doing today. And then there’s a big popular conversation, two or three years ago, about downloading. I think that’s the greatest thing ever, cause when I was a child, I couldn’t afford music and I couldn’t hear it and I think that’s the biggest crime. I’m Kanye West, I am the next Kanye West, at that point, right, or I’m the future Kanye West, and I can’t even hear music, I can’t be inspired.

I’m about to make sure that this motherfucker change people’s lives, redefine the scope of music, or a genre, or a generation. I’m in a situation—think about, it’s almost like, to an extreme, if I was Amish, or I was in a place where it’s like “No, you can’t have the radio,” I couldn’t hear music because it costs too much to hear it. That’s a concept that kids today don’t even have to worry about, the concept of music costing too much to hear. No one ever looked at it from that perspective. It’s almost like, superstars—their pool has to be a little bit smaller because it’s not making as much money. Or it’s a lot less jobs, that’s the way it happens all the time. It’s like it’s a little bit inconsiderate for me to speak on it, because of course I’m like top of the food chain—I’m like the one dude who’s not gonna lose his job or whatever—but it’s a situation like with car companies shut down, it happens in a lot of different industries.

It’s a cycle. Yea, like super asshole of me to speak on it because I’m like in such a good position.

But, you know, kids had your album before it came out, but then they still went bought it. There’s this indie rock label and last year their biggest selling album was available for free on the label site. You could download it free off their site, legally, and it still sold more than any other album. People went, and still bought it. It goes back to the quality thing, like, people will pay for stuff if they love it. Right, you hear it, and it’s like, “I wanna own it.” It’s a shame now, on the other spectrum of this with the downloading and stuff—the worst part of it is Virgin is one of my favorite stores of all time, and now it’s like so many Virgins that were near me that I can’t go to anymore. I used to like go look at books and stuff, video games, and music and stuff, and now its like, “Damn there’s no Virgins.”

What you said, about like not hearing a lot of Bowie, on the last album you had the semi-obscure Steely Dan, you had Daft Punk on there, you had like other samples that were surprising to a lot of people. Where’d you found out about those kinda songs, and how did you decided to use them? The Steely Dan, one of the producers that was signed to me—Brian Miller—had that beat, and we were actually gonna give it to Jay for his album that I was surfacing, but I kept it for myself. And Daft Punk, A-Trak turned me onto it. And people were like really offended, caus you know music is special to people, so they hold it really tight to themselves. A lot of times when it becomes popular they feel like it’s not theirs anymore, they feel like it’s not just a part of their little group and stuff like that. But I feel like music is for everyone. Like when you were a little kid, did you really think about how many kids sing “Frere Jacques”? Like, did you have a problem with it? “There’s probably little kids all over the world singing ‘Frere Jacques,’ I don’t like it anymore.” But that’s people’s mentality and shit, and I think that’s a stupid-ass mentality, and I can’t make music for that mentality. I make music for good is good, and it should be the biggest.


How many of your blog posts do you actually write? Well, anything that goes up. I have this like, approval type thing where I have a few people that send me ideas, but I type all the captions on it. And I’ll be like, Give me anything by these artists and any artists connected to this, go out and get all these magazines, Surface, Wallpaper, everything that’s possibly in there. Go to every website that you see and like, send everything to me and let me see everything, and I’ll approve what I want to go up and what I don’t. Anything that’s current, send it to me as soon as possible so I can have it up the same day. That’s the reason my blog gets updated more than anybody else’s—you see how you’ll go and then later in the day there will be like ten more posts?

 

Yeah. It’s the same day because it will be all type of new shit I’ll see on Hypebeast and stuff, and I’ll be like I want this. And then I have, you know my friends are bloggers too and shit, and we send shit to each other. Like if we ever have something with a Ferrari on it or something like that, we’ll send it to Ferrari Murakami to put up, because like this is a good thing.

 

Is Ferrari Takeshi Murakami’s son? No, it’s a friend of mine.

 

And he just calls himself that? Yeah, Ferrari Murakami. But that would’ve been a cool name for an artist’s son, Ferrari.

 

When people say they don’t think it’s really you posting, it reminds me of criticisms of Warhol and the Factory, and I’m just like—it all came from his mind. He wasn’t sitting there screen printing the tomato cans or whatever, but… And he might still go over there and do it. Like, I actually do put it up, there’ll be times when I actually do put it up. But I don’t know how to do Dailymotion, and I don’t know how to take multiple pictures and a song and put them together. I just never really took the time to learn how to do that, but I know how to do shit like put a picture up, type in what the caption is. I know how to put a title up and I know how to put something under it. Like, say the Yeezy post: I’m in Hawaii, I take the picture on my iPhone, I download it on my shit, like this is one of the things when people try to act—I fuckin’ do shit every morning, throughout the day, and plus people say I don’t have enough time to do it. When I’m sitting in the studio, I’m such an ADD dude that I need this shit. Like, say this picture right here was on my blog—I photoshopped the hanger myself. Like it’s a pretty bad Photoshop job, but sometimes I’m photoshopping shit myself. It’s like more intense than actually blogging because my shit is like, super design-oriented. I want it to look like a store, a storefront. I want it to be the best looking blog out there. I’m really proud of it too because we just recently got the bigger pictures, I don’t know if you noticed that.

 

I did.  The hardest part—you know how hard it is to find a new girl who can go up on my blog every single day? Because it’s a lot of girls out there with like, cute, fake titties and stuff, but you just can’t post them right next to the Viktor & Rolf’s posts. What you gotta do is try and get it a little bit classy, so I have to pick through the pictures and see which ones have the least amount of like, stripper shoes and stuff. I look at it like it’s a store, and there’s rules to the amount of say, sexually charged things that can be back-to-back, because you want just a bit of sex, but it can’t be like overly perverted. I’m about to start posting porn stars in a second and shit but I wanna figure out how to do it so it’s not just all nude.

 

Why did you decide to start the site? For the same reason everyone starts a blog? Yeah, I forgot why I started it. That’s the honest answer and shit, because I’m not like, running for office so I don’t have to make up answers and shit.

 

Do you read the comments on the posts? Yeah. People do stuff like, I think sometimes it’s a bit obnoxious when people put like ten comments back-to-back to try to force me to read it. I like make a point not to read that because it’s like, dude, okay this like really explains—just like, sidebar, I’m really proud of the composition of this photo. Whenever I get a picture with a white background, I like to play with the placing. Ah, the simple joys in life: taking a picture of a hot girl I don’t know and putting “Where are you Yeezy?” next to it. Also I try to be really respectful with the “Where are you Yeezy?”s. Like, if I know the person’s boyfriend, I definitely won’t put a “Where are you Yeezy?” or if I try to do something like, I know Chris Brown really well, so obviously Rihanna is like one of the hottest girls in the world, but I just put her up for fresh kicks because she can dress also. It’s kinda like I was asking my friends, should I put her in that category? Because it has a bit of an overtone like, this is a girl I would wanna talk to, you know? Another thing about the girls is a balance between model girls and girls with skin to win. See, like this girl, let’s not put her name, but a lot of her pictures are mad corny but I thought this one was like really ill how it used this magazine—to take an actual magazine with the tape on it and shit, I thought that was kinda ill, and then to use the framing and all that.

 

Did you do that? Or is that how you found it? No, it was a magazine and I put the “Where are you Yeezy?” right there.

 

What is this software? This shit is dope, people use this shit on their Myspace and stuff like that, but you can put words and stuff up here, you can say, “Yo bitch” or something like that. Like, “Yo bitch” and then you change the style. It’s just a simple joy of mine, like a photographer going into the darkroom, to sit and put together the “Where are you Yeezy?” It’s so like, empowering and shit.

 

Oh, that’s the same girl? Yeah, it’s the same girl, shit is super cornball but her body is like fuckin retarded. Though, look at that, like you wouldn’t smash and shit. The challenge is like, okay, we post a “Where are you Yeezy?” almost every single day. That means there’s 365 girls a year, like 360, 350 girls. And I’ve done stuff where I’ve like, posted a girl, and I looked at it when it went up, and cause the blog is like the storefront window, I might be like, Wow, I need to change this, should it be up? And I’ll like, take shit down. I don’t know if other blogs do that, but I take stuff down off my blog if I don’t think it looks right.

 

Really? Yeah. Or I’ll change a picture, or just completely remove something and be like, you know what, on second thought, I don’t like it. I thought I liked it, and it’ll be like, maybe there’s like 30 comments on that and I’ll be like, brrrp, take it off.

 

That’s awesome. I run The FADER blog, and sometimes I go back and change something I wrote a year ago, even if it’s just like, something I think that sounds stupid. Yeah, or if you get some more information on it. Like, we just added this part. [Music starts to play] I don’t like the way—the fuckin vibration needs to be steadier, and more impactful. But it’s supposed to represent like, that octave that I put at the beginning of the third verse. I want it to be more steady—I don’t want it to be like brrrlp brrlp, I want it to be like brrrrrrrrrrrrrp, cause that’s how my voice is—“I’m not loving you”—it’s really doin’ it to the voice, like making it go like bdda dda dda dda. I think if you just do it and stick it, people will get the joke. This needs to be approved because I’m debuting it on Ellen tomorrow.

 

Oh, really? Yeah. We had to fly it over and stuff like that. They got to grade it and shit like that.

 

Do you always work this fast with stuff? No, I’ve never worked this fast before. But I’m like, really good now, so I’m very confident. You know who I am and the style of music that I want to make, so it’s not that like, up to a lot of people’s judgment, you know, like, Hey what do you think about it, what do you think about it? It’s like, I loved “Love Lockdown.” I loved it, and I’m like, this is what I want to perform. And, you know, it’s like this is my shit. And people were like, suggesting I do it under a different name, and I was like, Okay, that would work if I had a rap name, but my name is really my real name. So it’s like, if this is how really I feel at this time, this is just how I really feel at this time.

 

Why would you do it under another name? Oh, people just being scared of putting out an album under the Kanye West brand that’s not rap, that’s not particularly rap, but I think this is—this sounds more like rap than some rap that’s out. My singing sounds more like rap than certain people’s rap.

 

How so? Cause it has the attitude of rap. And you know, I think what makes “Jesus Walks” “Jesus Walks” is that you’d scrunch your face up when you’d listen to it. I think this whole album you’d scrunch your face up to it. It’s weird, people don’t know what to expect but when you hear it, it’s like, okay, it’s not exactly like sixteen bars and eight bar hooks, but it’s still very much a Kanye West product. The first line, “My friend showed me pictures of his kids, and all I could show him was pictures of my cribs,” and you hear that baa naa nananaaa, cause my music has, especially on this last album, just started to go in like real like club, stadium, anthem-y type shit.

 

Yeah. Yeah, like, really powerful, put your hands up and stuff. It’s weird because “Love Lockdown” has that element, but it’s very like, majestic at the same time. It’s very like, personal.

 

So what was the genesis of the album? What were you thinking of when you started doing it? Nobody was expecting you to put another album out this fast. Yeah. I wasn’t expecting it, it was just like, I had a good team of people like me and No ID, Patrick Reynolds, and Jeff Bhasker—me, Jeff Bhasker, Mike Dean, and Sam Spiegel worked on the Glow in the Dark Tour, and we had to organize this music with this storyline within like, three weeks, and we did it! Cause we just had to do it. [Background noises.] What was that? I think that’s Hype. We’re workin on the next video right now.

 

Sam Spiegel is Spike’s brother, right? Yeah. So we’re talking about the genesis of the album… I think it’s my team. Before, I’d sit there and I was trying to figure out how to use synthesizers, so I’m like, experimenting and learning how to do it. Then I sort of figured out how to on “Stronger,” cause, like, I’d do “Stronger” and A-Trak would be here and be like, those aren’t good synths because I know about synthesizers, and those aren’t good. And I’d be like, they’re good to me because I don’t know about ‘em and stuff. And that album—the last album was a segue between what I was supposed to be doing and what I wanted to do, like, what I was supposed to be doing was like, “Homecoming,” “The Glory” territory.

 

Right.  Based off where I was leading up—off of Late Registration, you know, just giving people what they think they want, and what I wanted to do was like, “Stronger,” and like, “Flashing Lights” and stuff like that. But when I first started out I didn’t even have the ability to do “Flashing Lights,” it wasn’t till like, I was approaching the end. So I guess people might have thought that Graduation had a cohesive sound, cause it’s one producer, but it’s nowhere near as a cohesive sound as this album. This album sounds like one idea, like, this is my idea, put it out and move onto the next thing. Cause now I’m not worried about what I’m supposed to be doing, or what I think people want. All I’m gonna do is put out what I want. You know, life is too short to dwell in the past. I’m the type of person like, I never dwell on accolades, like, you never hear me in a real conversation bring up the amount of, you know, Grammys and stuff I’ve won. Like I really appreciate it, it’s no offense, but the thing that’s most important to me is what I’m doing next. The most important thing to me is getting the third shot on this video right.

 

Is this the first album you felt like you were doing—like, it was the purest as far as your vision goes? I always felt like that, every time. The only thing—especially when I did The College Dropout, it was really a new idea that caught people off guard. This album is a complete new idea and people will hear it and be like, Wow, this is some whole different shit that’s gonna like, change music again. It’s like, when The College Dropout came, it’s something that was built up over years and years of like, me arguing with Jay-Z to put strings on certain songs and him telling me, Nah, it’s gonna sound like—I’m not gonna say—he named the artist it was gonna sound like. But he’s just saying like, it’s not gonna sound like some hard rap shit. But we sampled strings! Because he had bad experiences with using live drums and just completely ruining the feel, but if you keep like, real drums, you can just mix the strings in a little bit. And it could work. So I did The College Dropout to not only to do music for me and to do good music, but to show people possibilities of what could be done. I think that’s our responsibility—to be like, fearless, to have the position of the masses’ ear and the radio’s ear and still like, push the envelope equal to like, an indie group. That’s why I was always supposed to be like the indie—the independent champion. I’m like as close to—I’m like Dead Prez on MTV. And that’s why it was such a big, terrible thing when I ran on stage on Justice, it was like, Aw, he’s one of them now. He’s no longer an art student, he’s no longer the kid who went to art school and stuff, it’s like, now he’s just—

 

He’s too big. Yeah. And that was like a great awakening to me, to not rest on your laurels, and not to be so caught up in your own hype. It’s like, you have to bow. There are people who just do shit better, or there’s a reason why certain things work. There’s a reason why the universe plans for certain things to happen the way they are. And the only thing that you can be responsible for is like, your art that you put out, and everything else is like the way people receive it. Like, there’s no awards that have ever been owed to me. I used to feel this sense of entitlement that’s completely immature.  Like, I needed to really get past that. It’s like the Chicago chip on my shoulder. Was it like a Napoleon complex? Was it like a nerd complex? Whatever it was, I kind of needed to get past it and just chill out. And it’s been a great detriment to people liking me. They didn’t like me being a spoiled baby, and now it’s like, people still make jokes about it but they don’t realize how I’m not that same person.

 

Right. They always make jokes about the awards and it’s like, mmm, I’m not really about what I win. If you ask me about my opinion, I’ll give you my dead-ass opinion. If somebody’s like, Oh, who was the best live performer in hip-hop? It’s like, dude, do you really want to put that category? But if someone’s like, Oh, who’s the best lyricist? I’ll be quick to be like, Oh, I think Wayne. I don’t know what it is. It’s like, so many good rhymes and stuff, like I’ll think of some fresh lines. When Gabe just now was like, thinking of like, “I wanna raise my kids without raising my voice,” it was a line I thought of when he was talking about how he had to raise his voice, but then it’s like, damn, Wayne just thinks of a lot of fuckin lines like that. I mean, I could be argued to be the best lyricist because, um, you know, my lyrics are like, so philosophical. Like, shit that should really stick with you, like that you could use in life later on and stuff like that.

 

Right. That’s been my complaint about certain artists that were held as like, the greatest MCs. I guess you could be the greatest MC, but it’s like, KRS-1 used to give you like, new views on shit.

 

How did you meet up with Murakami in the first place? Well, I don’t wanna do too much on that, just because it’s like, I don’t want to be politically incorrect with the answer, but, um, god just put me onto him, like, yo, this is my favorite artist, and I saw him, and he became my favorite artist. And then, um, I reached out to some different people to just ask to meet up with him cause I wanted to buy the Hiropon statue, the one with the really big titties where the girl is jump-roping? Originally I had to clear out my whole account to try to get it. And there were none available, but he had one in this other office in the middle of nowhere. I went out there, and just to see it in real life, I was just awestruck. It’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen, cause everything I’ve ever liked about anime or from the—everything is like, equal in my book, from fashion to sex to food to specific artists—it’s like, the reason I like KAWS more than certain other graffiti-based artists. It’s something in the fineness and like, that anime style, like, you know, how do you describe that? A thin pen, to get your point across, like these really thin strokes and stuff?

 

Like the economy of the stroke? It’s very focused. It’s like, it looks like, ah, damn, I don’t know how to describe it.

 

Sort of like your music: when you get to a level of mastery, you can tell in execution that there was a certainty behind the idea. Yup. That’s what it is. The certainty of the pen. I just really loved Murakami’s style and his color selection. I mean, it’s almost like, it’s almost like disrespectful to call what Murakami does with color a “color selection”; there seems like there needs to be a bigger word to describe what he does with that shit.

 

His color creation. Yeah, the spectrums and stuff. I picked up an old interview with him, from ’96 or ’98, and he’s talking about how someone wanted to make a book of his art, and the publisher said, “It’s hard to make a book of your art, because I find your sense of mission more interesting than your artwork. But you must leave the ideology out of an art book, otherwise the clients won’t buy.” And Murakami says, “But I want to be popular. I don’t have to be liked, I don’t mind being hated if I’m popular.”

 

There’s that risk that, with your album, you made something that’s totally popular, potentially like, hugely popular. Hopefully. Let’s hope it’s pop. Like, uh, they asked me, what genre to put it under, cause they’re like, this is a new genre of music. I was like, put it under pop, cause like, I’ll wear that. I love wearing a label that people think is uncool. I think that’s the biggest answer, to take the idea of people just like, wearin Ray-Bans out of the blue or Vans with $2,000-dollar suits. On a major music scale for me to go in and say, Oh, pop, put it under pop. It’s like taking something the people didn’t think was cool at one point and juxtaposing it with something that’s like, super cred. Cause like, okay, is it, uh, is it not good music now? Cause I think it’s a lack of good music in the pop field. I mean, people always say stuff is like, genius, like when it’s like, super obscure and shit. It’s like all these people in this really obscure world—it’s like when I got into like, art, cause I’m not “into” art at all, I’m just into what I like. I don’t get “into” it. I don’t really get into—I’m a very surface-type character.

 

Really? Yeah. I couldn’t tell you shit about those drum machines in there. Like, I just barely know how to use them. Now some people get into and like—I just barely know how to work this computer and stuff like that. The only thing that I’m really into, that I know more than I probably should know about is like, clothes. And that’s cause it’s like a super challenge for me because I really want to design but I really want to do something good, and, just my whole life I’ve never really been that talented at anything except for working at something to the point where it was good. And then after I’ve done it a few times, then I’m just good at it. It’s just like, something to think about. When people first heard me rap, it sucked, and now I’m arguably the best in the world. So I just worked at it till it was good. It’s like, that is the talent right there. And then having a certain taste level to say, I think this is good, I think this is bad. But now it’s like, I guess I could be considered talented to like, pull off the type of music that I pull off now.

 

Is the reason you’re singing on this album because you’ve kind of gotten to a place where rapping—you know, like, same way with Wayne. He’s now singing a ton of songs and doing Auto-Tune, not even fucking with rap that much, or even Andre, who like, on Love Below, he wasn’t rapping on half of that. Yeah, I’m not doing it cause I’m bored of rap. I think Andre was the first person to make the statement before Nas—Andre was the one to say hip-hop is dead. I liked his approach to that. He was like, look, I’m doing this, and hip-hop is dead. I like when people approach it where it’s like, what I do is right and everything else is wrong. It’s not really my strategy. I like to accept everything and say, yeah, there’s something good in that, but that’s the reason I like Jim Jones so much. When he disses me, it’s like, yeah, if you diss me, that means I’m the iconic, I’m the arch nemesis. I think in the world there should be nemeses and complete rivals and stuff like that. That means I’m like the poster child of what you want to represent the opposite of. And that should be there. I think there’s that in fashion, you’ve got like Margiela and you have Ed Hardy, I think those are like polar opposites but they both need to exist and stuff like that, and they can choose to diss each other.

 

It also drives creation. It doesn’t drive any creation for me. I’m gonna do what I do regardless, but, uh, I appreciate it. Like I appreciate the bad, I appreciate when bad things happen. Obviously when you listen to this album it’s very personal, and I just think that if I hadn’t been through the terrible things that I’ve been through—that I was the victim or the cause of—that I couldn’t deliver art on this level, and that’s the good out of it.

 

The language you use is concrete, like distilling the message down to like the essentials. Is that the same reason you love Jil Sander, or the minimalist ideal of taking away all the nonessential things? This is how I relate to minimalism: it’s like, the advantage I have to travel and see fashion shows and go to Japan and go to Australia, just traveling the world—I get to take in all this information, and I go to the studio and I know all these things now, and it’s not like by chance and stuff, it’s like just being super knowledgeable, and I might not remember every single artist’s name I put up, but I’m constantly hit with a barrage of visuals, and it’s like I have to throw it all up in a way, and that’s part of the reason I can do an album in three weeks. It took three weeks because I was like, playing basketball for half of the time and stuff like that.

 

Between that and you saying you’re not really being an expert on the drum machine or whatever, do you feel like you just absorb stuff and you don’t really have to think about it, and it just affects the work that you do? Well, yeah, but when you say don’t think about it—every comment people had to diss “Love Lockdown” I was like, yes you’re right, that’s exactly it. They were like, Man he’s a pop singer now, and I’m like, Yes, correct! They like, It sounds like he wrote this in five minutes, and I was like, You’re right, it took me five minutes. Because, you know, is something better if it took five years then if it took you five minutes? I feel like all the words are in you, so like if you listen to this, when you listen to the album, if I was murmuring and had to tell people the words and stuff, it was in me, but you’re just blocking yourself, you’re blocking your creativity, like society has put up something, so many boundaries, so many limitations on what’s right and wrong that it’s almost impossible to get a pure thought out, and that’s what I’m talking about with the hang-ups on religion and sexuality and all these different things. It’s like a little kid, a little boy, they are looking at colors at age two and shit, and no one told them what colors are good—why would anyone pick blue over pink? Pink is obviously a better color, you know before somebody tells you you shouldn’t like pink, because that’s girls, or you’d instantly become a gay two-year-old—you’d become gay at age two.

 

It’s like everyone’s born an artist, and born confident, and everything’s taken away from you. And you’re born fearless too. You’d run into the middle of the street, you see a couple people get hit, and then you’re like, ah shit, I’m standing back now. It’s like all these things that you build up, fearful—so many times people react off of fear. I’m acting off of “this is what I want to do, but I realize that I want to be popular, so let me balance how much I push the envelope and how much I take back.” I say I’m the Steve Jobs of rap, it’s like I’m not gonna give people too much at one time. Like, what’s the perfect level to do like Radiohead songs, but still get em in the strip club? How do you juxtapose that? And that’s what’s fun, and that’s what’s the challenge, and that’s where I feel like I’m lapping people.

 

And I hate when people act like if you don’t wanna be popular then you just don’t wanna be popular. Some people go buy the Audi, some people go buy the Benz, some people buy Bentleys, some people buy Aston Martins, whichever is an effect of your personality, but so many people try to put their personality on someone else. Especially me. They try to suggest to me what I should do. It’s like, I’ve read blogs that say, “Kanye don’t sing.” And it’s like, Hey, fuck you. Most people tell me “don’t rap.” It’s like, fuck you. What I want people to realize at this point is I don’t give a fuck. That’s why I made this album. If I gave a fuck, I wouldn’t use Auto-Tune. I’m using Auto-Tune because I don’t give a fuck. I like the way it sounds. I don’t care, this is the way I’m a put my shit up, this what I like the most, and if you like it, that’s great, and you’ll come to a concert and you’ll enjoy yourself and you’ll like it when it’s on radio, and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to fucking listen to it, you don’t have to fucking come to the concert.

 

My advantage, or the reason why that works for me, is that I actually do have a really pop ear. I kinda have good taste, so it works for me to just put out stuff that I like, as opposed to putting out shit I think other people gonna like. There’s hardly anybody that’s mainstream that’s good now, and that’s the reason why people say they hate mainstream. It’s like, no it’s not that you hate mainstream, it’s just like so few people that are really fucking good in mainstream. It’s like you cannot deny me, you cannot deny Wayne, you cannot deny Pain. You can’t, you know, we just—T-Pain, he taught me a lot. He would like come into the studio, he just brought a whole vibe and energy when he came down to Hawaii, and he would constantly joke, but the fact that he was constantly joking means that he was constantly expressing himself. When T-Pain goes into the booth, he can easily say, “You’ve officially been chopped and screwed,” and it’s just gonna come out of him because he’s open to fucking express himself. Anyone that closes their mind, and closes their expression like this, it’s like first of all lemme light some candles, now it’s like this lemme turn the lights down low, now it’s like this lemme get only the right people in the room, now it’s like this, and it’s finally to the point where it’s like this, and they can get a little bit out. But with T-Pain it’s like, I don’t give a fuck who’s in the room, I don’t give a fuck if it’s candles, I don’t care what it is, I don’t care how you gone feel about this joke, this funny to me, or what you think of my top hat, or my Oakleys.

 

Do you think that free flow, for you at least, goes hand in hand with what you were saying before, just being more mature, caring less. Yeah, it took me time to really be comfortable with who I was, cause it’s just my whole life. People have always been trying to tell me who I was. You know, when I used to dress hip-hop in Chicago, before hip-hop was a popular term, they said I was deep house, cause people always try to put a label on stuff. The only label that I’ll accept now is pop. And I said that from the gate. I was like, I don’t know if you remember interviews with College Dropout and I said, “I want this to be a pop album.”

 

Yeah, in the old FADER, the first cover, that was in there. I read it last week and I was like, everything that you’re doing is in that first thing. I was saying it from the gate, really fucking, okay “I’m into Louis Vuitton, I wanna be pop,” all these different things. I spent my whole check on those two bags I wore for those pictures. Those pictures are some of my best pictures, other than having a really bad haircut. Now it’s like the only thing is like pop. I subscribe to pop culture. I really like popular shit. I’m all about Walt Disney, Coca-Cola, Louis Vuitton, Nike. Like, I want my name to go down in history with Nike. Not just because I’m doing a shoe with Nike, but I want people to remember me the way they know Nike. That level of impact. It’s like who was the last person who really had it like that?

 

In the Raf interview you did he mentioned Bowie, which I thought was like, a really apt comparison. Like David Bowie was that dude who did whatever he wanted to do, and switched it up when people were expecting one thing. He would do something that was a complete 180, and he was also like one of the top-selling artists of his time. But still, like, had all his integrity, never tried to do anything to sell records. Yeah, it’s weird, because all this shit I’m doing, it’s like, I wanna be a pop artist. But everything else that I’m saying is against all principals of what a pop artist is. It’s very heartfelt. It comes from me, solely me. I wanna say something about the concept of ghostwriting on this album. I have like a lot of writers on this album. If you take “Love Lockdown,” it takes like seven writers. What I would do is, I go in and like, murmur stuff, and I get like really creative genius individuals to sit in the room with me, and my cousin Tony Williams, Esthero, Malik Yusef, Kid Cudi, Mr. Hudson, like all these different artists to sit there, and we’d go line for line and say, “What is the best way to word this one part that was only murmured?” and we’d replace the words. And that’s the explanation of when you see a lot of writers on it. Every melody, most every melody on there I thought of. There’s a couple melodies that Cudi thought of on the album, but it’s very much like this is my idea.

 

It’s interesting because you’ve said Kanye is a brand, that the College, Registration, Graduation, potentially Good Ass Job is like a brand. What we were saying before about the blog being like the Warhol Factory—like the production aspect of it, even what you’re saying about sitting there brainstorming lyrics with people—there’s a real sense of like a collective production with you at the top, and all these people, you bring them in to help drive your creativity. Yeah, to drive my idea. It’s like, one of those things where it’s like, you know what, it’s the Warhol quote, it’s like yeah, I could do it without a bunch of writers in the room, but this is faster, and I have more money than time.

 

Is Warhol one of your inspirations? Well, no, none of these people are my inspirations at all; people just compare me to them. I’ve referenced Bowie a couple times, but I don’t even know the big songs and stuff. I don’t know shit about shit. I just do me, and it gets compared to Warhol, it gets compared to Murakami, it gets compared. I don’t know anything about art; I don’t know that much about music. It’s like people are always referencing stuff, and I’m like, Oh word? It reminds me of Taz, like in fashion, cause Taz is a super crazy-dressing fashion icon, like, dude so many streetwear dudes and fashion people are like, “Wow this dude is radical,” and stuff like that. He might not know Margiela, or something like that, who’s like the king of all, England, everyone, art, fashion school, design school. Lesson A: Margiela is your god and shit, and that’s where I am with music. I’ve never really listened to a whole Bowie album. I went and I was like listening to some things, I know the big songs, and I was like a little kid too, I only know the stuff that was on the radio. That’s another thing about pop, it’s like, Yo, I want this shit to be on the radio. I always think about it like a four-year-old, how’s a four-year-old gonna react to this? So many people are snobby, but they never think about the kids. They never think about, anyone that would ever try to diss me, they never think that I’m trying to provide a better form of music on a major scale. It’s like, to me, in my opinion, I’m giving you a better option. It’s like, it would be weak of me to diss Pink or something like that and not diss a rapper. I always thought that was like Eminem’s tactic, the fact that he would always like, diss super easy targets and shit like that. It’s like, Oh, lemme just talk about how I don’t like the Pink song, or whatever—but you know I like Pink when she did the Linda Perry joints and stuff like that. But I think, okay, the number one pop song is the Pink song or whatever, and it’s like, I’m just personally not into it. It’s like, lemme take all the Pink shit out, cause it’s like, as a man, if you’re gonna fucking diss Pink, then you need to like diss some other rappers while you’re at, some shit that could actually cause you problems. So let’s just take the Pink shit out, cut the weak shit. Like, if you’re not gonna diss Jim Jones and shit, then why would you diss Pink? That’s like some pussy shit, so just take it out. But to like not use people’s name—I don’t think people have a lot of options, I’ve said this before, I’m backtracking. When I was a kid, it seems like there was a lot of great pop music. There was George Michael, Michael Jackson…

 

Madonna. I mean, Michael Jackson’s the king. The Police, and some of the one hit wonders and stuff, that was just great songs back then.

 

What do you think happened? I mean, I was a little kid so I didn’t know how the music scene worked back then, but was it a big tension between the concept of underground? Were there lots of underground bands in the ’80s? I guess it had to be, but it wasn’t like this Internet world either, so it’s either like, back then, nobody fucking heard you or everybody fucking heard you.

 

I think it’s probably that labels back then had the resources to throw money at a ton of bands, and the best ones would rise to the top. Sorta like baseball farm teams: you have AAA, AA, A, and the best players make it to the major leagues. And it’s like, if you weren’t in the major leagues, you were in no league almost, it’s like you never got heard. But now it’s like, cause people can discover their own music, there’s all these opportunities for independent bands to get heard. Now it’s a big struggle. It’s like wow, all this independent music that’s good, and it’s like blatantly better than the mainstream shit, so it’s less of a program. Like Rihanna was the last person to barely make it through MTV at MTV’s most influential stage, cause now they don’t play music, so it’s harder for them to break stars and shit. Now stars are broken on Disney or fucking American Idol. But there was a chance for MTV, like they helped break me, and like Rihanna was the last one to get a piece of MTV’s juice I think. She’s the last star. I’m not saying there aren’t somethings to come, but she’s like the latest, the latest greatest. But it’s interesting: How is music fed to you?

 

Just think about what you actually listened to as a child. You never had the opportunity to go on the Internet. You used to go to the store and you only had $10, you had the option of buying like one tape. If you didn’t have the money—it’s crazy the way they packaged music. You didn’t have the opportunity to listen to the music. Especially for me, like I’m like the only hip-hop dude I know where I was at, so nobody was buying the UMC tape, so I had to choose between the Pete Rock or the UMC, and if I didn’t have the money to get it, I’d like, um, I’d never get to hear the music. I used to steal music, literally steal the tapes. There’s times I walked through and I got caught in the metal detector, cuffed up and shit like that, or you know, kicked out of the mall, stuff like that. I was stealing music, so I was doing exactly what kids are doing today. And then there’s a big popular conversation, two or three years ago, about downloading. I think that’s the greatest thing ever, cause when I was a child, I couldn’t afford music and I couldn’t hear it and I think that’s the biggest crime. I’m Kanye West, I am the next Kanye West, at that point, right, or I’m the future Kanye West, and I can’t even hear music, I can’t be inspired.

 

I’m about to make sure that this motherfucker change people’s lives, redefine the scope of music, or a genre, or a generation. I’m in a situation—think about, it’s almost like, to an extreme, if I was Amish, or I was in a place where it’s like “No, you can’t have the radio,” I couldn’t hear music because it costs too much to hear it. That’s a concept that kids today don’t even have to worry about, the concept of music costing too much to hear. No one ever looked at it from that perspective. It’s almost like, superstars—their pool has to be a little bit smaller because it’s not making as much money. Or it’s a lot less jobs, that’s the way it happens all the time. It’s like it’s a little bit inconsiderate for me to speak on it, because of course I’m like top of the food chain—I’m like the one dude who’s not gonna lose his job or whatever—but it’s a situation like with car companies shut down, it happens in a lot of different industries.

 

It’s a cycle. Yea, like super asshole of me to speak on it because I’m like in such a good position.

 

But, you know, kids had your album before it came out, but then they still went bought it. There’s this indie rock label and last year their biggest selling album was available for free on the label site. You could download it free off their site, legally, and it still sold more than any other album. People went, and still bought it. It goes back to the quality thing, like, people will pay for stuff if they love it. Right, you hear it, and it’s like, “I wanna own it.” It’s a shame now, on the other spectrum of this with the downloading and stuff—the worst part of it is Virgin is one of my favorite stores of all time, and now it’s like so many Virgins that were near me that I can’t go to anymore. I used to like go look at books and stuff, video games, and music and stuff, and now its like, “Damn there’s no Virgins.”

 

What you said, about like not hearing a lot of Bowie, on the last album you had the semi-obscure Steely Dan, you had Daft Punk on there, you had like other samples that were surprising to a lot of people. Where’d you found out about those kinda songs, and how did you decided to use them? The Steely Dan, one of the producers that was signed to me—Brian Miller—had that beat, and we were actually gonna give it to Jay for his album that I was surfacing, but I kept it for myself.  And Daft Punk, A-Trak turned me onto it. And people were like really offended, caus you know music is special to people, so they hold it really tight to themselves. A lot of times when it becomes popular they feel like it’s not theirs anymore, they feel like it’s not just a part of their little group and stuff like that. But I feel like music is for everyone. Like when you were a little kid, did you really think about how many kids sing “Frere Jacques”? Like, did you have a problem with it? “There’s probably little kids all over the world singing ‘Frere Jacques,’ I don’t like it anymore.” But that’s people’s mentality and shit, and I think that’s a stupid-ass mentality, and I can’t make music for that mentality. I make music for good is good, and it should be the biggest.

 

It seems like with a lot of stuff you reference your childhood and kids being able to love the songs that you put out. But do you think there’s a relationship there with how much adults like your music? Like, people don’t think they should like your music, but just kinda can’t help themselves. For example, in my neighborhood in part of Brooklyn, three years ago 50 Cent owned that neighborhood. It was his music that was like the soundtrack. But now the same dudes are playing “Love Lockdown” the day it came out, just jamming the shit in their cars. Should I like it or should I not like it? Should I dislike it because it has Auto-Tune? Should I dislike it because dude, he has a suit on? Should I dislike it because of that? What was good about Graduation, it broke down a lot of barriers for people to accept my music and just to accept me. It’s like, okay, third time out, okay that’s just dude. It’s like you got picked on freshman year, by your junior year, its just like, okay, we’re done with the joke, we’re gonna stop throwing pennies now. So it was like my junior year, and this album I just skipped senior year and went to college. But I was thinking like high school years and stuff like that so people, they learn more about me, and accepted more. I made music that related to more people, that can’t tell me nothing in fashion, so now they’re open to hear other ideas, whereas if I had done it before that….

 

Would you have done it? If these songs had come to you a year ago, would you have put them on Graduation? I woulda just had the hooks and raps on them and stuff—that’s just where I was then. I got a lot of practice singing, I wouldn’t even put the disclaimer like “bad singing,” like Pharrell always puts the disclaimer. He’s like, “You know I sing bad.” Of course NERD is one of my favorite groups like that and I like Pharrell singing and stuff like that. But what’s good singing? Like American Idol singing? I’d much rather listen to Pharrell singing than like anybody from American Idol. I just like his voice—I like the perspective that he sings from. It’s intelligent and kind of rapper-y and I just like that better, you know? So for my shit, it’s like, I enjoy when I listen to it. I’m like, This is the most enjoyable thing I can listen to, I’d rather listen to this than most singers I can think of. That’s why I always get into so much trouble whenever I put it out. Cause I’m like, This is my favorite thing right now. And why shouldn’t you put out your favorite thing? You’re supposed to be trained to be like, No I like other shit way better, or other shit’s obviously better.  You know, when I was putting out my raps—like College Dropout—now I think I can rap better. But when I put it out I liked it. I wouldn’t have put it out if I didn’t like it. That’s the whole “he can sing, he can’t sing” shit. It’s like, I like the way it sounds, this is my personal opinion and stuff like that. What do you want from me? I like it, I put it out. Am I supposed to not like it because I just know that Sade‘s voice is better or something like that? It’s like, Oh, that’s not my voice. I like my voice, it’s good to me.

 

Did you have an epiphany, like, I wanna sing on the whole new album? I never even thought about it like that—I just thought about what I wanted to hear when I was making music. Even more than the singing, the song structures is like two bars and then a chorus, or the chorus ain’t come for like two minutes. Whatever, this music makes me feel like doing this at this point. I think all the songs, just like hook after hook after hook after hook after hook; it’s the musical version of like an Obama speech.

 

It’s like, I’m not into politics at all, but like I looked at the debate with the potential vice-presidents. I was like, What the fuck were you talking about? I didn’t know what they were talking about, like seriously, and people could just look at me like I’m an idiot or whatever because I say stuff like that; because people would be embarrassed to say like, Hey, when they talking about the national game this and that all that type of stuff, it’s like some of the stuff goes over my head. I’m not into it, like there’s a big quote people kept saying in politics this week and I told my friend, I was like, Yo, I’m not into it, I’m too into working on this album.

 

I don’t think a lot of people understood what those guys—like Sarah Palin and Biden—were saying. It also goes back to what you were saying about being an effective communicator; that’s why Obama is so great. Extract all the politics, as an orator and a speaker, he doesn’t get too deep into policy and politics. He just talks to people. Yea, I think that’s my issue. I think people get to deep. I think there’s time I used to get too deep. I could get too smart and that was stupid. That was about the most powerful thing I could ever say.

 

Speaking of the structure of the songs on the album, you mentioned Pink, obviously we talked a little bit about Red Hot Chili Peppers. I think you talked about them before, but you also said it was your Hall & Oates moment on one of those songs, then changing around the Tears for Fears lyrics. Where did those influences come from? Have you always been a fan or did it just like hit you? I was like really into good music. There was something about being a little kid that just made the songs I liked. There was no reason why I would like something or wouldn’t like something. It wasn’t like, you know, my mom never listened to songs that particularly appealed to me. Back then, the only songs they had for kids were like made by the Muppets and shit, like when I was growing up, there was no songs for kids.

 

Or Disco Duck. Yeah, like literately the songs for kids were songs for kids. It’s like, so I think you’re speaking about adults liking it—being mature but still having that child sensibility. I feel like “never lose your childhood, never lose that innocence.” Like, people need to understand. They’ll say, Oh he’s a big baby. And it’s like—exactly. In all the bad ways, but in all the good ways also.

 

Obviously it’s a very adult album—you’re dealing with some pretty heavy shit on there, expressing some heavy shit.  You reference American Pyscho. What did you identify with in that, is it more the movie or the book? Or just the story in general? It’s weird about the whole adult themes. Just to beat home the point again, and I said it before, but in the 70s and the 80s, what songs weren’t adult themes? So now, some of the songs that are like so geared to not being adult themes. The songs I was listening to as kids, I liked the melody, but the information dealt with stuff someone went through, like a real life situation. I think it takes experience to be like a great poet and communicator and I’ve just had more and more experience. And as life goes on I have more and more experiences, so hopefully I’ll just get better and better and better. Because it’s like, how do you wanna communicate? You wanna communicate through rap? Through poetry? Through song? The thing is getting the point across, and I think music—I mean melody, message—are the keys to really getting the point across; the reason why people teach you the ABCs with melody behind it. Okay, I think that’s the one statement where the interview could be like one line and shit: People taught you the ABCs with melody.

 

That’ll be the big quote. Yeah, these are ABCs of life and relationships and I’m gonna put melodies behind it.

 

But obviously referencing American Pyscho, that’s like a very, like…When I see that movie, I just feel like it was me. I feel like I can be like, uh, I have been crazy, I have dealt with people who are crazy towards me, I think that love can make you crazy, and you just embrace it. Crazy is the label the normal put on the exceptional, caus crazy is like, it’s all how you feel about something. It’s like feelings are the only facts, I learned that from girls. I found out they have this thing called “in my head.” We’d be like, Woah this happened, and they say, But in my head it didn’t. Okay, you’re right, because actually you can block shit out. So girls will block out things like number of sexual partners.

 

So it was like less about the part of the movie that’s about consuming, the emptiness of consumption. Like there was a running joke in the book and the movie, about like…I can’t finish the book, I don’t read at all.

 

I don’t read either, but I read the Wikipedia summary. Like seriously, I’ve never read anything other than like a magazine. Like the first two chapters maybe, scanned the rest, and I was like, I’m tired of looking up words, I wanna look up real people, talk to real people, have conversations. I wanna look at like TV, it’s more exciting than books. TV is blatantly more exciting than books. But you know I do read to stay up in a movie: What I’ll do is I’ll watch a movie and I’ll text, and that’s reading.

 

It’s not like you’re illiterate or anything. Yea, I’m not the best reader in the world, but TV is way more exciting than books. Why would I read when I have the opportunity to fucking watch TV? Go ahead, I just wanted to throw it out there, because it just pisses me off. I really feel strongly about it.

 

The movie, it’s exactly the same as the book, but one of the things that’s a running joke is…You said consumption?

 

Yea, is how obsessed he is with the brands of his suits and other people’s suits, and the business card. Isn’t that 100 percent Kanye West shit, like my whole shit? Every time someone walks in, I’ll peep the whole fit, I’ll see if there’s something I can gain from it. I’m like, Man, I need to add that to my repertoire. He’s like looking at the business card, and he’s like, “Girl what kinda bag is that? Jean Paul Gaultier?” It’s like one of my favorite scenes. And I loved his explanations. We’re actually gonna do some mix-tape shit with the explanations—it’ll just be on my album. And I like how he liked porn and stuff like that, except he took it too far. But I don’t think people embrace porn enough. Like, let’s look at this: society says that you’re supposed to wear clothes anyway, and fortunately for me, I’m really into clothes. But I’m also into watching movies that have no clothes in them, or just clothes in the first two minutes, depending on how long the story line is. So it’s like so many parallels in that movie, other than I’ve never like actually killed any girls or chopped them up. But I thought that was the whole thing of the movie: he hadn’t either, at the end, so it’s like, Wow, that movie really is me.

 

Had you heard about it before you saw it? When I saw the movie, I didn’t see it in the theatre, and they did such a good job on the retro shit that I thought it was an old movie. I was like, Yo did this movie come out in the 80s? But ask mad people, there’s mad people who really thought it was an old movie!

 

Yea that shit is ill. Lately you interviewed Raf, and been talking about Jil Sander, and then you’re wearing like the suit at Fashion Week with the button up shirt and everything. Is that the kinda stuff you wanna do for Pastel, or more like the stuff you wore on the Glow in the Dark Tour? I’ll definitely have casual suits. I’m not gonna attempt to do anything that rivals, you know, Tom Ford’s level of suit-making or something like that. I just wanna do the type of suit that you coulda had on right now, just add a jacket to it. Just like really cool, easy to wear stuff, but I want it to be mega popular. Some of the people in design, they hold things like, “And this is the limited, we only did 30 of these,” so that no one can have them. I guess certain things are gonna be more limited just by the price—it might be harder for people to get.

 

Are you trying to keep it sort of like minimal design, clean? I hope it’s just gonna be like the best. I just wanna get to the point, and I will get to the point, where it’s just super dope design shit. I just wanna make stuff that people feel good about having on and wearing, like, Hey that’s really nice. It takes time to get good like that. I’ve had stuff that I designed that I thought was good and I wear it and then I don’t get any compliments and it’s like, Man, this one’s not so good, I need to keep working.

 

The Air Yeezys, you designed those right? I’ve heard there will be only three pairs. No you can buy ‘em, but not till March though. Yea, I do good sometimes—sometimes it takes a little more work. Doing a clothing line, so many styles of pieces that I wanna do. It’s like I’m pretty good at doing gym shoes, because I’ve been designing gym shoes like since 4th grade. Every kid designs shoes in fourth grade, every kid drew shoes with Nike signs on ‘em. Certain shit, as a guy, is just gonna be innately better. It’s like, every guy could just play basketball a little bit; every guy if they had the opportunity to design a shoe with Nike, could probably do a pretty decent shoe cause you’ve been designing shoes your whole life and shit. Now design a pant, design a dress shirt, or something like that. You don’t have to be expressive; you don’t have to take it too far. It’s a really interesting challenge, because you know the end goal is to be like the biggest brand ever. The end goal is the same shit that got me kicked out of Columbia building, when I was like, “I’m gonna be bigger than Jermaine Dupri, I’m gonna be bigger than Michael Jackson.“ In fashion, I’m gonna try not to be kicked out the building.

 

Do you think the toughest thing about it is editing all the ideas down? No, editing is the easiest shit, it’s coming up with the great new ideas that’s the hard part. I’ve got a good design team that I’ve been building up. I’ve got a few past students from St. Martins, designers that experience five seasons of a line: I just found a guy to be President; I’ve got guys in there with graphic experience, styling experience. I don’t have the leeway to deliver some okay things under my brand, me saying, this a Kanye West product. The biggest thing I have going is a history of excellence. So I’d be more apt to really keep on working on it until it’s excellent than to put it out and hinder that in anyway. I really wanna put out something that’s not excellent, for what? Just to put something out? I don’t wanna put my name on something that’s not excellent. If you see my name on something that’s not excellent, it was a favor or some political bullshit. Just know, feel it in your heart know when you know it’s really a Kanye West stamp.

 

Are you surprised that you can walk by on St. Mark’s at the knock off places, or at a mall in Oklahoma and they have the slotted glasses that you wore like a year ago? Were you surprised at how ubiquitous those became? Because straight up, those are like weird-ass glasses. There hasn’t been a Michael Jackson since Michael Jackson, but when stuff like that happens, it’s little pieces of what he had—his level of influence—and its like that’s either the one-off or it’s the beginning of a lot of it.

 

You don’t think that’s your white glove moment? Yeah, I do think it was very much like that. But you know, Michael Jackson is the god of all pop music of all time, and it’s blasphemous to compare yourself to god. But it’s like, that was very Michael Jackson-esque. So you could say I was god-like because it was very god-like. See, that’s the type of thing a certain reporter would say, “Kanye says he’s god” and that’s not what I’m saying at all.

 

I wanted to talk about some of the songs. You’ve played me [“Coldest Winter”] three times now, and every single time, I get choked up. Just going through every single song, there’s a song for every mood. And even with your other stuff, there’s no deviation from the story, the narrative of it. So did you put the album together in sequence like that? Yea, we figured it out sonically, and it came together. Plus, it’s just ordained to come together. So, half of it’s like me, and half of it’s just like god, saying, This shit is gonna work together. He’s like, Okay, you don’t know this shit, but this song is gonna end the album. You don’t know this but this is the single. You don’t know this yet. And then I’m just doing songs in straight five minutes. The beats, ten, fifteen minutes—the basic idea of the beats. Some of them, like “Robocop,” I went back and re-programmed the drums. We just caught an ill vibe on that. Like, that beat, arguably, is just as ill as any beat I’ve ever done. Even though it’s a dance beat, still just like sonically, it’s so incredible. So I guess the answer is it just came together. I did think about story of it, and I thought about that with “Say You Will.” I figured out, Okay make this a fantasy. I thought it was ill because it was like a fantasy the whole time, and it’s also like the American Pyscho type shit, once again. The whole time, it’s just a fantasy. And each song I wanted to put just a bit of craziness in it, just something that typifies “Oh you could be crazy.” Whether it’s like the “system overload” and we lose control; you arguing and then start shaking; or say it’s like, I put your hand on your neck, and it’s obviously sexual. It’s easy to listen to, but some of the stuff you really listen to it, it could fuck you up a little bit for just a second. Like, “My friend showed me pictures of his kids, I’ve been showing pictures of my cribs.”

 

Like what it feels like if you get in a fight with your girlfriend or whatever, and you go outside for a walk for thirty minutes. You might think about breaking up with her, all will go through your mind, and then (snap), you go back in, and, y’all hug and you’re back together. But you’ve gone through the whole shit in your mind of the breakup. And I guess this one has a sad ending, with the “Goodbye my friend” if you relate it to relationships. But this, it made me think of my mother, and I was conscious of that when I wrote the lyrics—not to just make it specific to a relationship, that type of relationship. But it’s interesting that you say that, because you just go through all these emotions. Even the line, “I’m amazing,” is like I’m amazing, so I don’t love you anymore…you know what, I’m the shit still; you basically told me that everything I did ever in my life wasn’t shit, and I was a piece of shit, but you know what, I’m the shit, and no matter what you’ll never take that from me. “My reign is as far as your eyes can see, my light shines as far as your eyes can see.” I was trying to think of a third one: “My story is told, my story spreads as far as your eyes can see.” Caus it’s a change, each time and shit. What do you think could be a third one to that? Is story good enough, caus reign and light are very good.

 

Reign and light? Yea my reign, like kings reign, it’s a double entendre. [sings] “My reign is as far as your eyes can see, you’ll never take that from me; my light shines as far as your eyes can see, and no matter what you’ll never take that from me, my story will be told….”

 

I’ll think about it. Maybe I could get the line out you right now, caus I’ve been working on that for like a week now. A whole week, its been killing me.

 

The story of my life, that’s pretty major. Yea [hums]. Just being in a situation where people try to take things away from you, you just have to say to yourself, “I’m amazing.” And it’s weird; I thought it’d be cool to be like, Oh it’s a whole Kanye West album without ego. But this isn’t ego…or maybe it is ego? But like in a good way, you have to tell yourself this sometimes.

 

You were saying how quickly you recorded everything, like five minutes, ten minutes do you think by doing it that way, it’s more of a pure emotion? Yea, this is like my honest idea, this is how I just really felt. I go out, I catch the beat, and it’s like, I really feel this. And it’s like BAM, and then everyone is like super impressed, it’s like way impressive too. Like, “Say You Will,” I hummed the chords to that—or like programmed the drums—in like two seconds, and then was just like [sings]: “Hey hey hey hey say you will,” and everyone was like, That was the best shit ever. It’s really like I’m kinda killing it right now. For me, as a person who believes in god, I just have to give god the glory. Not only for what he’s delivering through me, but allowing me the experience and the education and the ability. Just giving me, to put it really simply, the ability to think, and to absorb, to learn, the ability to learn; and to work with T-Pain. It’s not that I want to make a song about what he would make a song about, but how does he get it out of himself? It’s like, there’s a lot more people that just wanna go in the booth and just freestyle and not be limited by the paper; think so hard. But if you’re really good at it, it just happens, and I think that’s one of the things about sports, I think that’s one of the good things about playing ball. You know, we played b-ball every day and I started getting mad nice and just beating everybody. It’s like, you shoot, and you can’t stop the ball, reposition it. It’s all like one idea, just like BAM, and next time you’re down the court, and you gotta shoot, each shot is like all or nothing. It’s all a feeling or emotion from your hands to it going to the hoop. That’s what I try to do in the booth, [motions] and some of the songs are just swishes.

 

Do you think about the unfiltered blog? it goes up instantly, and when you’re talking about this album, its the same thing—it’s the most modern way to do something: not rerecord stuff, not go through it a million times. That’s my thing. And I apologize to everyone for “Love Lockdown”—I actually apologize for rerecording it.

 

Why? Because what you were saying right there. I really woulda stuck it if I hadn’t rerecorded. It’s like, Ah, that’s how I felt. But then, certain times what I’ve learned—also with relationships—it’s like, would you rather prove a point or would you rather be happy? And sometimes I end up being happier to prove a point than just being happy period. I think with this one I woulda been happy to prove that point. But the fact that so many people liked the newer version, and it does sound better, I guess I’m more happy, period.

 

It’s like, going back to a blog post—to add a lick in there, you’re not changing the post, but you have the opportunity to make it just a little bit better. And you do have the chance to make it better. The illest shit would be if an artist went to the museum, and actually went up with like a paint brush after it was there, and changed it, and he said, “I’m the artist though, and this could be better.” Who’s to say you can’t change it anymore? Like that’s the shit I’ve done, with “Stronger” last time. It was completely different mixes, and I went back and redid the drums, and then re-serviced it to radio.

 

Really? Uh huh, the album version is completely different than the original radio leak. There was a newer radio leak, like me and Tim kinda went in, and adjusted the drums and stuff.

 

This is FADER’s 10th anniversary issue, and we’ve been talking to all these curators who pick cool stuff and giving us ideas for stories. When you came out on MTV awards and you became clear you were gonna make an album, it was like: Kanye is the far end of the spectrum, as far as like the Fader culture realm. Like, we have someone way down here, who has a little shop that sells little art books, then the magazine is somewhere in the middle, and then it comes up to you, pushing it all out into like the mainstream. So kids in my neighborhood wearing skinny jeans and skateboarding, those kids didn’t use to do that. I can’t think who else they’d be seeing that’d make them wanna do that. I went to like the Emmy’s, and they tried to diss me for wearing gym shoes, and like a Grey wool suit. I would just think, whenever I would put Vans on, when Jay would be like “I do this for my culture, I do this for the hood”, I’m like, I’m doing it for that, I’m doing it for where I came from. I came from being the only dude in my class that dressed in a certain way and then finding, “Oh there’s other people who think like me too,” they just weren’t in my school. And I think that’s what The FADER kids are made of, people who were different or wanted something better than what was the norm, but I had to come to the realization, it wasn’t the search of just something different, but it was actually the search of something better, a better solution, and the belief in the absolute right of this shit is better, and why do I have to be force-fed to do this. Why do I have to wear white Air Ones every day because everyone in my school does it? That was this whole world that College Dropout represented. Everything that was happening at that time, that seems like it was all lost and forgot about when I ran onstage at Justice. Ever since that happened it was a real tipping point in my career, like super reverse of that, like super “lemme look at the blogs lemme look at what people are saying lemme soak it in, lemme see what I want to accept and what I don’t wannt to accept” and I went through like a lot of hardships in the past couple years in like my real life to just now get to the point to go to MTV and be like, “Ok I’m gonna sing, this is what the fuck I’m gonna do, im gonna do what I want to do.” And FADER’s like “We’re gonna fucking put on the cover who we want to put.” It’s not who’s gonna sell the most magazines, its just like, we feel this is who we want to put on the cover. It to me feels like I’m on the right path, even on the path to be like biggest pop star and have the biggest selling tour. On sidebar, I got the sound fixed on the tour. The sound wasn’t that good, if you came to Madison.

 

The garden? Yea the garden sound was like…Fucked up. I remember that you guys had written something like—in the nicest way—the sound sucks. We don’t want to say it in a way that you shouldn’t see the show, you should see the show, but the sound, it’s like…and I fucking read that shit. I really read the blogs and shit. It was like, Look, you keep telling me every night that the sound is good—talking to my sound guy—look at this. They say the sound sucks. Fix this shit! But I think it’s the thing, and I don’t think I open my ears to the street as much as The FADER magazine, because being a magazine is not just being self-absorbed about being a magazine, it’s about absorbing everything around you. And I think I’m like 20 percent everything around me, 80 percent still self-absorbed and just total narcissism. Which is one of the keys to being a successful artist, you have to be a total narcissist. Because it’s not about me—I don’t spend as much time as I should developing myself as a person as I did developing myself as an artist. So I have to take time to say, Man, how can I improve as a person and shit? So say if you’re working for The FADER or you’re working for Nike, you spend a lot of time thinking about Nike. If you say Nike all day long, it doesn’t sound like you’re a narcissist, because its not about you and shit. But the Catch 22 is that if you’re an artist, I am my Nike, so I have to focus on myself as is, I have to look at all photographs, the paparazzi this, and the press that. And this got misconstrued. By default, I have to be narcissistic, because I’m just looking at myself as a brand. I keep trying to segue and say, “This is my comparison to The FADER.”

 

The FADER is such a different magazine because we never write about shit negatively, we just write about shit we love. That’s the way I do my blog too!

 

In that way, everyone that we put in there is kinda the same kinda person: they just do what they love to do, and that’s why we put them in the magazine. And that’s why I can still make it in there even though I’m a super big, over the top celebrity.

 

As far as people that we’d always put in the magazine, you’re like what we want to happen to everyone—we want all those people to be the biggest people on the charts, and it doesn’t happen that often. We feel really good when we see someone we put in there even get marginally big, so I was wondering what it feels like for you. Cause that was my first cover, right?

 

Yea, so now when you see the kids in the cities wearing skinny jeans, or when you see a kid like Cudi following your lead, how does that feel for you? Weird, ‘cause its like for non-artists, just regular people, following is a great compliment and that’s cool. I think I have good taste and if anyone were to mimic my taste I think it would be smart, because I agree with it. People used to come to my grandfather and be like, I like your outfit, and he’d be like, Well, you have good taste. Then it’s like, I like Cudi because he brings something to the table, and it’s a lot of shit that I can learn from him. He’s mad young, it’s like keeping your childhood close. He reminds me of my childhood—I worked at the Gap, he worked at BAPE; we both kinda came from the Midwest to New York. And I feel like he’s the next coming, because it wouldn’t be particularly just a rapper to be the next coming. It’s a new era, and once again, I’m not gonna say hip-hop is dead, but this album I think is gonna change music. I think it’s opening the doors too. Cudi’s in the right position, because he can walk through it. It’s like, you gotta have that fucking swag right now. I’m sorry, I almost went the whole interview without using that word. But you gotta have that, that approach, that attitude I think is what this maintains; it maintains a very rap attitude. That’s another thing I like about Jim Jones, just like the rap attitude. I always loved the Wayne attitude, when he’d be like he’s the best or all this type of shit. Okay, lemme just say this one off the record—I thought Lupe’s response was perfect to the Tribe Called Quest backlash. He was like, Dude, I never listened to it before. Everyone would say, How could you be Lupe and not listen to it?  Maybe it’s just like, I never listened to Bowie. And she’s like, What do you mean? You’re like really close to him. I never listened to him. But that’s also like the making of a star, just stick to what your fucking opinion is. Hip-hop now has all these rules to it, and hip-hop used to be about breaking the rules. So I think the most hip-hop thing I could do would be just do what I feel like doing. Cause people would be like, Keep it hip-hop, yo. How can you tell me fucking what hip-hop is? I’ve come from the church of hip-hop because hip-hop is religion for that matter. I’ve been in the situation where I was super underground; I hated everything that was on the radio and all that. At first I was spray-painting, skate boarding, I was busting my ass. I wasn’t that good—just because you want to spray paint or you want to skate board doesn’t mean you’re gonna be super nice at it. And like, now I ride a fix gear and shit, I do that because I’m like a minimalist. I like the lack of chords on the bike—it’s the best looking bike, and it’s the super funnest experience for me. I don’t know what it is about that one gear, you just feel like…

 

Dirt bikes it’s the same thing when you’re a little kid. Just one gear, and when you wanna stop you slam backwards on the breaks. And you’re so in tune. Dirt bikes are a little easier to ride, a little easier to get off em and shit. Willows just got his cast taken off and shit, from running into a car or something like that. I don’t wanna sound all god earth sun moon stars, but you’re one with the ground, and a fixed gear is the closest to—

 

Blogging. It’s a response: movement. Working with a label is like riding a ten-speed sometimes, up a hill, you know what I’m saying? And fixed gear is like—swish—and you’re moving. That’s the way I wanna put my music out. It’s like “Love Lockdown”—swish.

 

Cause you know I changed my tour. I completely redesigned the tour in like three weeks time for the European run. You know that would take the average person like six months to do it, because what people do is, they don’t do work. So many people do good in crunch time, so why not do everything on crunch time? So, when we were in Hawaii I would go to the studio every day and be like, We’re gonna finish the fucking album today. It would be like there are some songs that aren’t even done yet, mad shit that need to be filled in, and I be like, Let’s attack this like we’re gonna finish the album today. Because people are always like, I got time; the label had my release date in February. But why? I’m like, No, push my release date up to the closest possible thing, and if you tell me we have to have this shit mastered by next week, I will get it done. Cause I have to get it done, and it is what it is. How long am I gonna sit on something? There’s a completely different ideal behind it.

 

Do you always work this hard? Grind this hard? Today was an extremely hard workday just because I had a Pastel meeting after a meeting with Vanessa Beecroft; did you see that imagery?

 

Yea, are you gonna definitely do something? I want to. Could you imagine if you come to the listening session and her shit sitting there on like the yard, the lawn of the Getty? And it’s like you hear that album right there. [In an accent] “Went to another Kanye event, and it was good as usual.” You know who we reference a lot is a lot of Grace Jones, a lot of Jean-Paul Goude stuff. Jean-Paul Goude imagery is like—man, that shit they were doing back then, the whole thing, it was a thought beforehand. Like that conversation I was just having with Hype, you’d have similar conversations like that in the studio. Like, Okay, look, this is the plan, this is the plan, this is the plan, and then we could do that shit really quick, cause we knew exactly what the fuck we’re trying to doing, as opposed to…

 

Just trying to work it out on paper. On “Love Lockdown,” I’m like, “And I’m loving you, the way I wanted to.” I told my agent, like track this shit right now. And then Big Sean came in and said something and I was like, “Dude be quiet, just for one second”—don’t make it seem like I stun him in the interview—just like, “Yo, you right, just no one talk to me for one second.” And I went in and just freestyled the whole thing. And then “Love Lockdown,” that chorus didn’t come until the end of the freestyle, so I did the whole song and then at the end I was like, “Keep your love lock down, your love lock down…You lose!” Where did that fucking “You Lose” come from? It’s like so random! I like kinda random shit, I think it’s like way more, just like little kid, the duckie boots on and the suit coat.

 

Or when you go “Dude!” on Graduation. Every time I hear that I think it’s the funniest thing. Dude…I had “Dude” and “Sweet” but it didn’t fit. “Dude…SWEET.” Dude! I had this one part I gotta put on the album right before the music biz said, No, no, no. This is what it’s gonna say, just like a scene from a movie, “No, no, no, everything’s perfect but your dress is pissing my eyes off.” And it just goes to, might as well, people be saying that in real life and shit, just like putting it on there.

 

That’s what I was saying to about “Robocop.” If this comes out as a single, or on the album, every dude is gonna be talking about some Robocop shit. That is gonna be like everywhere. People are gonna just start saying that constantly. Yea my shit, I’m the only voice for the guys. Because rap dudes don’t rap about love, and R&B dudes rap about love, like “I want to love you.” So Pink is making songs, there’s all type of people, like Ciara—all these male bashing songs. So I’m like the only dude to speak up for the guys and shit, from an intelligent, really been-in-a-relationship type perspective. And I wear my heart on my sleeve, like actually literately, my heart on my sleeve.

 

I was trying to think about how you’re maybe the first interactive superstar…Yea, because people could be like, you should change that.

 

It feels like we’re a part of your life and your creative process: we go to your blog and comment on it and you’re speaking for the dudes. So it’s kinda like my version of Nike doing the iDs. It’s like everyone was like, “my iD and shit.” It’s just like the Radiohead shit with like the stamp. Do your mix and shit. Okay let’s just do a parallel again that get me in trouble: let’s say musicians are modern day kings or gods and stuff like that. Let’s take the Greek mythologies, like Zeus, and Hercules—let’s say that’s like me, Wayne, T.I., Jeezy, Justin Timberlake, Timbaland, all these people that affect culture and music and radio and stuff like that. I think the release of “Love Lockdown” was like somebody screaming at the fucking skies, “Fuckin, if he would fucking hear me right now then just change that shit” and like the weather changing. People were like, We screamed loud enough and he fucking listened to us. So when you say interactive superstar it’s crazy, its another parallel to the branding of religious branding, or a major brand like Nike, to the iD shit, to be interactive.

 

Interesting sidebar, Jeezy helped write on “Say You Will” and Lil Wayne helped on some of the “Robocop” shit. I just call people and be like, Yo. I feel like I’m the rap version of Marc Jacobs in a way too, because it’s like he stays at the Mercer; stays in the heart. I literately stay like half a block away from there. There’s that thing on the Internet where I was like, “Yo, do not shoot me in front of my house.” Everybody’s like, “He stays over there, yea right!” Nah, I really do stay over there. But I feel like I’m just one with the city, like the paparazzi never fuck with me over there…

 

In New York? Yea, I see them every day. They take pictures of me, and they be like, “Yo lemme take pictures of you.” If my outfit’s fresh I’ll say, Okay, cool. Other times, they’ll be far enough where it’s not gonna be like, Yo I’m up in your face and I’m gonna take a picture you don’t want me to take. It’s just not gonna happen on the streets of New York. But if people know where I stay and shit—and I like walk around by myself with no security—I feel like if someone wanted to actually kill you, it’s just like, all the security in the world can’t dodge long distance bullets. That’s the real, Okay-I’m-gonna-kill-you shit and I just hope, all I can do is keep on trying to do the greatest form of music that I can while I’m here. I hope I have a long life and shit, I hope no one would ever just…cause sometimes when you make things that are so great people can get obsessive about it like, “I love you so much; I hate you, I wanna kill you.” It’s just, like weirdos out there.

 

Like John Lennon. Yea, or Selena or something like that. That’s the risk of really breaking...it’s the good and the bad. It’s like you think it’s the most incredible thing to be such a fucking icon that people would copy your glasses or you could actually have your own Nike, or just have songs that would play at every sporting event. But the flip side of it is like that danger and shit like that. But I refuse to be paranoid, I feel like, Man, my life is in god’s hands. What happens, happen. I mean, I use security when I go to like certain rap concerts, but I usually only have like one security guard and it’s more just like when people wanna take a shot—just like if some paparazzi really fuck with me. But I have no beef with anybody, even in like Chicago, the most super gangsta city, there’s absolutely just no fucking beef. I think people really respect the type of music I make and the perspective I come from and my willingness to really help people too. It’s like, why do people have beef with whoever came before me, what are they doing? Or people are saying stuff to down people, like dissing people. I just never diss anyone. I feel sorry for people whose whole job is bringing up negative things about people; I’m just always trying to push forward positive shit, like help people out, and in return you get put in a good situation I think.

 

There’s just so much good stuff, why waste time? This made me think of something. You know, I haven’t done an interview in a really long time so there’s a lot of shit I wanna say. People always name like really great artists—and I don’t wanna diss them—but like some of the older artists [of the] 80s, 90s, shit like that. I super refuse to work with them. Like, why would I work with them? I’d much rather work with a brand new artist who has potential to do something new. I’m just like, I don’t wanna work with them. I might want to clear a sample or something, but I don’t wanna go in the studio or anything—if anything, I wanna compete with them. Of course I compete with what’s going on now, I’m not ignorant to like what’s going on, but I’m also trying to compete with history. I just need to take the time out and be like, Okay this is what I’m gonna do. The reason why I’d want to do a whole Jay-Z project is because he’s a super, interesting superstar, that can rap good as hell and stuff like that. But if you’re just like an artist, and not interesting, and not a superstar like that, or you don’t have a movement, why the fuck would I want to do anything with you? Like Jeezy really fucking means something. Jeezy is FADER world all day long. He’s a king FADER rapper. Jeezy or Wayne. Jeezy-Wayne-T-Pain. It’s not no fucking pop bullshit. That’s hypocritical that I’m using pop in a bad way, because really pop is some good shit. You know how people say, What would Jesus do? Whenever I’m writing a song, fixing the lyrics, I say, What would Jeezy do? That’s the whole thing, even though certain people look at me like a nerd. I come from a nerd perspective. Like, all my friends in Chicago are super gooned out, super gang banging, so I’ve just always been around those super goons my whole life. That way I’m able to be like in a room of super goons, or at a Paris show, is really cool. So I always try to write raps where I’m not gonna say I like to shoot somebody and stuff like that, but if you did like music like that, you didn’t have a problem listening to my shit. And just now I think I broke through with “Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” and “Flashing Lights” and you have “Put On” and “Love Lockdown.”

 

That leads to the final question. I wonder if you see the future for your life beyond music—do you think you’ll not want to make music anymore and go do something else with the same intensity? I can’t foresee myself not wanting to make music now, but I think it would just be like another skill. It’s like: Hedi Slimane like to design, loves to take pictures. Like at this point I super love to rap, but maybe love to perform more. I’m not at a point where it’s like don’t do music and shit, but what was so great about this album was like at any given time, I could just Superman in the booth and pull out arguably the best rapper in the world. Even though the words aren’t filled in on that, once it is filled in, that rap is just so advanced and so lapping motherfuckers. I’m gonna say once again with the ghost writing ideas: like, they’ll present a lot of ideas, but it really comes down to me. And I really only take a very small percentage of ideas from other people. Maybe I’m past that point of people discrediting me, whether I could come up with something creatively. But there’s always like a fight as a producer like, He didn’t really do it. Even right now as like a fashion designer, I haven’t even dropped anything and people have to defend me already about the fact that people helped me out. Like, the people at Louis are like, “No, he drew it.” Kim Jones is like, “No, he’s good.” Raf is like, “No, this guy is cool.” Everybody’s trying to discredit, like “its no way it could happen” But maybe I didn’t have to say anything defending that level of creatively. I guess that’s the reason why that was your last question—is this the final frontier of music? It’s funny, like on the Blender thing, “Now that Kanye conquered music, what is he gonna go do now?” I would think it’s not quite conquered yet—I would think there’s still a ways to go, there are levels. Like, did you see the Michael Jackson in Budapest concert yet? It’s like, if it’s not on that level, it’s not conquered yet. When I look up two years from now, three years from now and I’m doing my own concert for 500,000 people…maybe this is a beginning point, a starting point. It’s gonna be people that just discover, as big as a celebrity as I am, that really just discover me on this album. I know for Vanessa Beecroft, I’m sure she never listened to the older albums, but listening to this, I’m sure that she would like it. I learned so much from going to those fashion shows. I thought I was making some fashionable shit on the last album, and they weren’t playing my shit. It’s weird, it’s like, the last album was more pop than this one. This one has a potential, I mean, in production-style, even though it pushed the envelope a little bit. For this shit to be cut all the way down like that—but it doesn’t mean that this won’t pop, or it won’t be bigger than the other stuff. Pink is a great example. Let me say this in a positive way: she had the stuff that was “pop,” like Destiny’s Child type beats written by Candy, her first shit—kinda like black girl a little bit. And then she went with the Linda Perry shit. It was way stripped down, but it was bigger. I had this conversation with Jay after Graduation came out and sold like a million the first week. I was like, Yo, I don’t think I’ve done my best work. Like, picture this, a week after the joint, and I’m like, Man, I don’t think its on that level yet. He was like, What do you mean? And I was like, Dude, in my apartment, I’ll listen to Amy Winehouse, Feist, shit like that. Cause my shit’s all sexy and modern. It’s like, I want my music to be played the same place you could play a Feist song but I want it to still work in a strip club, still work in a car. Even though “Love Lockdown” is like instant class—instant best record ever, and that’s a beautiful thing. But even if it wasn’t, just to say, “You know, I wanna make a record that works like this” to challenge myself. I feel like so many artists just give up, they rest on their laurels; they become a big artist in this field. And that’s cool for people; I love Thom Yorke’s shit. And Thom Yorke, something tells me he’s not worried about being played in an Atlanta strip club.

 

One thing about traveling a lot, it gives me a lot more worries about places I’m not being played. I go to Starbucks everyday, listen, look at the CD rack, and I’m like, I’m not here. I could easily give up and be like, Well, I’m black, and I’m a rapper, and I’m a…. all this type of shit. Or, I could be like, Man, what could I do to get here? I mean, you only got one life and shit, who’s to say what you can and can’t do? And like “Love Lockdown” is just a great accomplishment in the idea of like Thom Yorke in the strip club.

 

What did Jay think about it? He knew what it was right off bat, he’s like Renaissance man, he’s into all that shit. All we keep saying: the four people that keep on coming up like “what are they gonna think when they hear this” are Thom York, Trent Reznor, Bono and Chris Martin.

 

I have to ask you about when you went up to Jenny Lewis. I was just really exciting to have “Love Lockdown” and “Heartless.” Those were the only two songs I had on the album, that’s crazy that they’re first and second single too. She said she was in a band or something like that, and her friend had a cool t-shirt on and I complimented it. They said they were song writers, so I was like, Man, listen to my song. It’s weird, some people who are bit more underground or singer-songwriters, some people like my music and some people just don’t—they just don’t like what Kanye West about. It’s like a half and half thing sometimes, and I thought this one would super win people over, like people who don’t fuck with me because they thought I diss Common at the Grammys. So it was exciting cause it was like, She looks like she might not like any of my songs. Let’s see what she thinks of this. I was doing stuff the same day, I was on the phone with straight businessmen, like, Yo, what do you think of this song? And played them “Love Lockdown.” Caus you know if I played them Barry Bonds, they were like, I don’t really know what’s going on. But I played them this one—can it connect? The other thing I wanna say about this: I’ll be in Paris, at clubs and shit, and they’ll play Jimi Hendrix, Rolling Stones. I’ll be like, I have no songs that fuck with this. [Sings “All Along the Watchtower.”] I was like, What the fuck, that’s better than what I do. It’s better, like fuck that, that shit is better than what I’ve done up to this point. I need to make music on this level. And I think “Coldest Winter” is a testament to that, cause that’s the one—it’s just like balls-out singing. It’s simple, but dramatic, and maybe “Coldest Winter” is the beginning of the next project. It’s weird, we thought 808s and Heartbreak was maybe the small project, and then we’d go back and do the real album Good Ass Job. But now this is gonna be so big that Good Ass Job is probably gonna be the smaller one. Cause I’ll go back and do Good Ass Job, I’ll make sure I’ll cover my bases and shit. I’ll do it for my fans, I’ll do it for myself—just to go in and rap, just an exercise on having that amount of words on a song for no reason, which is what rap is to me at this point. I don’t have the time, I am too old to remember all those fucking raps. I can barely remember my own raps, I can’t remember other people’s raps. I can barely remember raps off of Graduation that I don’t perform every night.

 

“Swagger Like Us” is massive right now—do you have as much fun making songs for people? I’ll still perform, but that was like a song, I was singing it. I’m singing like a rapper. It’s like, Man just slow it down, breathe it, and make the whole thing like a chant, the entire rap like a chorus. Make everything a hook, if it’s not a hook. Why are you saying, Oh but this the verse. Well, it doesn’t matter to me because it’s not a hook. Every element is a hook.

 

Right, every second is memorable. Is there time to waste words, and not have shit just like mad hooky? Like rap, there’s a lot of songs that got this format that like 16-bar, 8-bar, then the verse. It’s like, this is way, way tired. It’s not so much rap itself is dead, it’s just the formats, the styles and beats. Jimmy Iovine was talking about he go to rock concerts and shit and it’s a dynamic—some songs have a lot of bass, some songs are like very majestic. I feel like even though this has constant bass, it still is very dynamic.

 

When you do this stuff with Jay, are you gonna try and get Jay to do some new, new stuff for Jay? I think it should be “Takeover.” I think certain of Jay’s recordsy were perfect for his fans and perfect for big stadiums. And it’s just finding those. It’s like, “What You Know About That” comes once in a blue moon, but I just try to set the studio to “blue moon” so I get 10 of those. It’s like, let’s do ten “What You Know About That” and shit. I look at how many important songs there are a year, really. What if you can have eight of those or something. Last year, how many important songs were there? And I had at least like four or five: “American Boy,” “Flashing Lights,” “Good Life,” “Stronger,” “Can’t Tell Me Nothing.” “Homecoming” wanted to be, but I don’t know if it came to late.

 

“Swagger like Us” came out and it had M.I.A. on it. Most people don’t know that that’s M.I.A.’s voice from “Paper Planes.” For M.I.A. to be suddenly there—everyone that knows M.I.A. is equally excited that she’s on a song like that, and “Paper Planes” is huge. Such a great time. It’s like, Why does that happen? I’m like a vessel, and god has chosen me to be the voice and the connector and the gap. The modern day version of the gap to bridge things at a perfect time. It’s like the year of “Jesus Walks”: The Passion of the Christ and “Jesus is My Homeboy” t-shirts; “Gold Digger”: Jamie Foxx, Ray Charles, Grammys; “Stronger”: most amazing tour ever, Daft Punk resurgence, mad press on Daft Punk anyway. Now it’s like “Swagger” and “Paper Planes” big at the same time. It keeps on happening again, over and over. I can’t be responsible, I’m good but I’m not that good; there’s something else that’s involved with this. So my job is just to be in the studio, or next to Hype going over shit, and do videos. I just stand here and let god do the rest. I was super like scared and shit, like the MTV joint. But afterward, it was the best response I got on any performance. People like, It’s so good, you did so good. And I was like, Word! Just like being nervous, that’s the childlike shit again—why put yourself in the situation to be nervous again? You gotta just be confident the rest of your life? I mean, be confident, but I think it’s just a level of just adventure, and craziness, and delusion—delusions of grandeur. Like, Hey, maybe I can fucking sing! Maybe I can’t, it doesn’t fucking matter, but it’s exciting.

It’s fucking exciting. I’m really excited about this album. Yo so, Vanessa, you don’t have to put this in the interview, but she said right when she got the request to meet with me, and we told her the name of the album’s 808s and Heartbreak and she saw “Love Lockdown,” she said her husband had just broken up with her and they had been married for eight years. And the name of the album’s 808s and Heartbreak and I didn’t’ realize. I was sitting in the studio in Hawaii and I asked somebody for the number to the hotel and they were like 808, cause Hawaii’s area code is 808 and we just randomly do the whole album in Hawaii. I’m not trying to be all weirdo, connect the constellations like that, but this shit is like too meant to be.

Posted: October 23, 2013
Kanye West Unedited: The Complete FADER Interview, 2008