Sorry, Kanye. The president would like you better if you weren't a jackass. That's what the president told The Atlantic's David Samuels, for his story "American Mozart: The Genius of Kanye West."
First off, Samuels basically had one of the coolest assignments in journalism: Following Jay-Z and Kanye around on the Watch The Throne tour, as the pair criscrossed the U.S. Samuels, does give an interesting insight to how the tour shifts and changes with each city he goes, from New Orleans ("the blackest stop by far, with the poorest-looking audience") to Kansas City ("the crowd here, unlike the crowds on the East Coast, is clearly enamored with Kanye") to New York City (full of "The cool kids of NYC, the bankers and record-industry peeps").
The thread which Samuels plays on throughout is comparing the firebrand that is West and the cool and very successful Jay-Z. And making his assignment even cooler, Samuels got to ask President Obama what he thinks of the whole thing:
“Kanye or Jay-Z?”
The president smiles. “Jay-Z,” he says, as if the answer should be obvious. When it comes to the most meaningful pop-cultural divide of the moment, the question of whether you prefer Kanye West or Jay-Z—the top two hip-hop artists in the world, who recently joined forces for a national mega-tour called Watch the Throne—Barack Obama is clearly a Jay-Z guy. Jay-Z is about control ...
“Although I like Kanye,” Obama continues, with an easy smile. “He’s a Chicago guy. Smart. He’s very talented.” He is displaying his larger awareness of the question, looking relaxed, cerebral but friendly, alive to the moment, waiting for me to get to the heart of the matter.
“Even though you called him a jackass?,” I ask.
“He is a jackass,” Obama says, in his likable and perfectly balanced modern-professorial voice. “But he’s talented.” The president gives a wink, poses for a few more pictures, and then glides away to meet with the rich Manhattan lawyers in the other room, leaving behind a verdict that he intended to be funny, and also entirely deliberate: even before an audience of one, the leader of the free world is still not letting Kanye West off the hook.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.