Kanye Opens Up to Steve McQueen: 'I Am the First Me'

Kanye doesn't grant interviews often, but when he does, it seems like he's been saving up his most excellent quips, one-liners, and insight for months.

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Kanye West doesn't grant interviews especially often, but when he does, it seems like he's been saving up his most excellent quips, one-liners, and self-directed insight for months—just for the thrill of unloading them at once. Remember that time he told The New York Times that "All I want is dopeness"?

Here's the latest, a deliciously rich discussion between West and 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen that matches the trend and then some. Published on Interview Magazine yesterday, the conversation touches on everything from West's discography thus far to his feelings of being pigeonholed, his reflections on racism, and the very nature of creativity itself. The quotable bits are too many to quote, so here are some excerpts.

On the subject of his most recent masterpiece, Yeezus, West confirms what critics have widely argued since June: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was "the 'Luke, I am your father' moment" and Yeezus the start of a new era:

Yeezus, though, was the beginning of me as a new kind of artist. Stepping forward with what I know about architecture, about classicism, about society, about texture, about synesthesia—the ability to see sound—and the way everything is everything and all these things combine, and then starting from scratch with Yeezus

Intriguingly, West reflects on how he harnesses his own creativity, which he calls "childlike":

I just close my eyes and act like I'm a 3-year-old. [laughs] I try to get as close to a childlike level as possible because we were all artists back then. So you just close your eyes and think back to when you were as young as you can remember and had the least barriers to your creativity.

And later:

I create like a 3-year-old. When you're 3, you wake up one morning and say, "I wanna ride a bike." And then the next day, you wake up and say, "I wanna draw." I don't want to be in a situation where, because I was good enough at riding a bike one day, then that's all I can do for the rest of my life.

Similarly minded is West's take on the widely mocked "Bound 2" video. He says we're just afraid of dreams:

 I think people are afraid of dreams, and that video is one of the closest things to the way that dreams look and feel, or the way joy looks and feels, with the colors. You know, I think there are rules to fashion, with the all-black everything, and rules to art, with white galleries. There are rules to how a lot of things are: the concrete jungle, stone pavement, brick walls. There are even rules to what a Brooklyn apartment looks like. But this video completely didn't respect any of those rules whatsoever. [laughs] It's a dream, and I think the controversy comes from the fact that I don't think most people are comfortable with their own dreams, so it's hard for them to be comfortable with other people's dreams.

It wouldn't, of course, be a Kanye interview if he doesn't address his haters, particularly after a year full of shots taken at the artist's ego. Right now, West says, marks the "beginning of me rattling the cage, of making some people nervous." He especially hates being pigeonholed as merely a "rap" artist—even by the Grammys—and he compares notes with McQueen about being marked as a black artist by a white audience:

I've never won a Grammy outside of the Rap or R&B categories. "Jesus Walks" lost Best Song to some other song; "Ni**as in Paris" wasn't nominated in that category. But those are the labels that people want to put on you. People see you in a certain way, so if I was doing a clothing line that had rock tees in it or whatever we just did for the "Yeezus" tour, which sells $400,000 of stuff in two days ... You know, I like Shame [2011] as much as 12 Years a Slave, but Hollywood likes the idea of a black director directing 12 Years a Slave more than it likes the idea of a black director directingShame.

Notably, there's only one topic that finds West a bit tongue-tied, unable to reflect a length or give much of an answer. That's love and fatherhood:

It's all brand new, how it feels to be a father. There are some things that I understand, certain things that I don't understand, certain things that I like to get off my chest in interviews, certain things that I want to talk about. But when we talk about love, I don't have an answer. All I can say is that I'm happy I have it.

Here's the full read.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.