We Interviewed the Founder of Yeezianity, the First Religion Based on Kanye West
I often joke that, for me, listening to Kanye West is like a religious experience. Apparently, for some people, this is not a joke. Enter the best religion of all time: Yeezianity.
The church of Yeezus was founded about a month ago by a man who doesn’t want to tell me his name, because he fears that any name-association with the religion will ruin it’s goal to help people anonymously. According to the founder, in order to become a member of Yeezianity, you just have to believe in the principles—and in that moment, you become a member. The group follows what they call the “5 Pillars,” which are as follows:
1. All things created must be for the good of all
2. No human being’s right to express themselves must ever be repressed
3. Money is unnecessary except as a means of exchange
4. Man possesses the power to create everything he wants and needs
5. All human suffering exists to stimulate the creative powers of Man
As of this moment, Kanye probably doesn’t know about the religion that carries his name, but one would imagine he'd approve of the positive message about viewing yourself as a god. The founder of Yeezianity recently took out a Craiglist ad in hopes of gaining membership—and publicity. But before you start tweeting about how ridiculous this whole notion is, how this dude is probably just looking for internet fame, take note that the founder recognizes the absurdity of it all, and still requests to remain anonymous.
With hopes of understanding why someone would ever want to base a religion on a rapper who wears a discoball on his head while he performs, I called up the founder.
I created this thing about a month ago—and all I did was tweet it, and I don't have a lot of Twitter followers, so that didn't go anywhere. I was putting up other Craigslist ads and I just thought, "Well, let's see where this goes." I got some responses. I mean, you found it, so that's pretty awesome.
What have the responses been like?
The diversity has been substantial. There have been people who've sent me just straight up support—they must like the positive message about it. And then there are some people who've sent me a lot of Kanye hate mail, but that's cool. For example, on reddit, somebody posted and said, "Stupidity attracts itself." [Laughs] But I was like, hey, you could substitute that word for genius or anything else you want. Even a homeless dude sent me a reply, and asked if we could help him get on his feet. That's why I want to stay anonymous. I can speak to whomever I want with authority, and they won't know who I am. But on the whole, I mean, people who do and don't know who Kanye is alike probably think this is absurd.
First question: Is Yeezianity for real?
I believe in what it is, and that's real. But is there a real organized religion behind it? There is not. At first, I thought about putting on that it was—I thought that'd be more viral or whatever—but I'm not going to be able to uphold that. So right now, it's just an idea. I only created this a month ago, so we'll see where it goes. The idea has yet to get out there. Who knows what could come this way? But it's an idea, and before anything can manifest, it has to start as an idea. In a lot of ways, after I created it, I reflected on it and thought that this was just a rehashing of Christianity, but just throwing Yeezus instead of Jesus.
And you know what? That's why I felt Kanye did it. He just put the name there. Jesus has all this baggage and all these connotations, and Yeezus is this new thing—and that's why I say in the "Our Savior" part of the site, "We don't speak of his public persona." Because Yeezus is when Kanye elevates to that God-level, which I feel like we all have the potential to do. That's why if it takes off, in the future, people would forget Kanye and his antics, and instead focus on what the message is.
So you're not approaching Kanye as a "god," per se, but you're instead approaching him as someone who inspires you.
Exactly. He's a god. You're a god. Why Yeezus is the figure is because Kanye is the one who believes that the hardest, so that's why he's the model for behavior.
What is your background in religion? Are you a religious person?
I was a philosophy major in college, and since college, I've spent a lot of time studying and meditating on various religions. I'm not religious in the sense that I follow a religion. As a society, we have to move forward with the way we view religion and one another. The whole point of spiritual growth and expanding your consciousness is that you can hold two ideas that are juxtaposed to each other, and by holding them together, you understand the other better in it of itself. So I don't see it as, "Oh, are you a member of the Church of Yeezus, or are you a Catholic?" That's why with membership, there's no point where you're really a member and you have to, like, attend a meeting or something. Just when you think about it, you're a member for that moment.
It's interesting that you want to stay anonymous, which is why this seems like something more than you just trying to use this to get internet famous.
Yeah. I'm an artist, but I don't want this to be something I use to push what I'm doing, because I really believe in what it is. I don't want to compromise that by putting my artist name on it.
Talk to me about your relationship with his music and a figure, and what it is that attracts you to him—so much so that you, regardless the principles, want to start a religion based on a rapper.
First of all, he is the most honest person in our culture. He has the highest moral standards and highest integrity. He is the most creative person. And as it's typical with creative people, he gets a lot of flack from the lower minded masses. It's not even that they don't like him, it's that they don't know what he's doing because the press gives it this negative spin all the time. And now it's people feed on it so it's this constant negative trance. But, like, College Dropout is probably still my favorite album of all-time. When I was a teenager, I was a little lost and there were a lot of times I didn't have that person who was that underdog, who's coming up. And when he was coming up at first, the whole world was different. This was the George W. Bush-era where 50 Cent was the leader of the culture, and that whole jersey mentality, that whole gangster mentality was prevalent. And this guy, when he first came out, people were calling him gay because he would wear nice clothes. But there was something about it—all those songs, "Through the Wire," "All Falls Down," "Slow Jamz"—there's a force that attracts me to him. I didn't plan on buying his first album. This was back when Sam Goody was around. I saw College Dropout in Sam Goody and I was like, "I want this." There was something about the cover, something about it. And the day I heard it, it was like some kind of drug. I didn't know that those kind of things could be said or could be done.
The turning point for me was seeing him rise from what he was. Kids that know music now—they didn't see how he changed and evolved. It was his desire to change the whole hip-hop game and the major part of the culture that drove him to be successful. After he crushed 50 Cent in the whole Graduation versus Curtis release date battle, people realized, like, oh, rap can be different and you don't have to talk about killing people. [Laughs] He changed the whole fashion consciousness of black America, and he's still working on that. And he's still trying to open up the doors of what a creative person and entertainer can do.
Steve Jobs is dead. Walt Disney is dead. Most of the great creative geniuses of the 20th century are dead, or in a senile state. So right now, I feel like he is the man, and he's done it in a way that I've been directly exposed to it. Even getting with Kim Kardashian, that's amazing to me. Nobody thought he could have a relationship.
When did your fandom move into religion?
Honestly, it was from day one, right around College Dropout. It was like love at first sight. But I'm not a hardcore, hardcore fan. I went to the Glow in the Dark tour, but I didn't make it to the Yeezus tour.
Yeah. I wanted to, but I'm a little strapped for cash sometimes, so it was something I had to put aside, but I'm sure it would've been amazing. But I'm not the type of fan who collects everything that he does. I don't just listen to his music. I study it. I base what I'm doing and use his work as an example. In the world now, with Twitter and social media, I feel like people are just consuming and consuming, but I don't just want to consume what Kanye does. I aspire to do that. I want to create off of it. I want to follow what he's doing. That's why I say I'm his successor.
One of the "5 Pillars" suggests that "money is unnecessary except as a means of exchange." But you couldn't afford the Yeezus tour. Isn't that a little weird?
The thing is, that doesn't prevent me from continuing to pursue my desires. The Yeezus tour to me would be a luxury. I don't need to see Kanye at the Yeezus tour to do what I've gotta do. If you study the positive laws of attraction, if you really need money, and that's really the limiting factor, it's going to come your way. Obviously riches and wealth are something that has transcended time, but the way we view money is something of a recent phenomenon. 200 years ago, it wasn't about money—it was about land. If you go back to medieval Europe, it was about religious influence, or royalty. We still have a high level of status, but people obsess about money so much that it doesn't enhance their lives. If you want to become rich, riches doesn't mean more money, riches means more life. And money is just a means of exchange for that. It's just something you want to give you more life. That's what I mean when I say money is unnecessary.
Outside of the religion you've created, what do you think about the criticism of Kanye's raps that focus so much on wealth and materialistic things, while he publicly talks about how that stuff doesn't matter.
I'm not 100 percent on this because I'm still thinking about it, but when I see Kanye in the Zane Lowe interview, or the Sway interview, talking about how he can't get the backing from corporations and that's why he can't put out products, I feel like he's limiting himself in that he thinks too much about how he needs to get these dollars and cents or else he can't put it out. Based on what Kanye said about Walt Disney, I started reading the Disney biography last night, and apparently the dude was in a very fiscally unstable state and his entire company was in a fiscally unstable state for like 30 years. But he still put out some of the best work in that period. Sometimes, I think Kanye is a little attached to money but I don't think it's a contradiction because I think he's a lot less attached than many other people out there. But he does live in the world. It's still a factor. He can't just ignore it. This is an ideology for the future. Everything starts with an idea, and we're not there yet. We're not in this next level of man's evolution yet. We're still stuck in this money era.
What is your ultimate goal with Yeezianity?
The whole idea of putting Yeezus or Kanye—you know, I think in a lot of ways I want to create some controversy. I want people to be like, "This is absolutely ludicrous."
What does creating controversy do?
Well, it will certainly start a dialogue to some extent. But in a lot of ways, on a personal level, I want to attract Kanye to the point where I can meet him at some point. I'll be honest, if I had to go with what the ultimate desire was, first and foremost, and what stimulated the inspiration, it was that. I don't want to take the whole thing to a personal level, but there's no one out there doing what Kanye is doing. And how do you get someone like that's attention? I hope that's not selfish.
Isn't that problematic? Does your desire to meet him trump everything you've been telling me about this religion?
Well, I don't think so. A couple months ago I was living in a room in Boston, and this was a transition period in my life. My friends there, who I knew from college, they were, like, talking about 401ks now, you know? [Laughs] I was getting depressed, and then the Zane Lowe interview popped up, and at that moment, I was like, "This man gets it." When he speaks, it's like he's saying what I'm already thinking. If I met him, I don't see it as a humanizing thing or anything like that, because I don't view him as any more of a god than I see you or me as a god. But he's brought it to a high potential.
What would you do if you met Kanye?
I was thinking about this last night, and I don't know. Would I just burst out into tears or what? I don't really know how it'd be. But I can tell you that I don't see him as this thing that is not beyond earth. I know he is a human being like me. I know he takes a shit like me. I don't think it'd be crushing like that, but the thing is with this dude is that I don't think there is anybody else like him. He knows what he likes, and he'll endorse it. I've sent my work to pretty much every blogger or tastemaker I could think of, but it's hard to get their actual ears. So I want to see what he thinks of what I've done creatively. I want to stack myself up against him. That's why I want to meet him.
Do you believe in god? Like, god that isn't Kanye West?
Oh yeah. I was an atheist as a child. Like, even with Santa Claus, nobody could convince me that he was real. Even teachers in kindergarten were like, what the fuck, why won't this kid believe? But somewhere around eight or nine I began to develop an understanding of god, and it's grown since. Now, I've studied philosophy and I've read Richard Dawkins and I understand the arguments of all of that, but to me, it's not this thing of debate. This whole idea that science and god are in conflict is the absolute stupidest thing. If you read the writings of Joseph Brodsky, or Einstein, or any of these people, it's very obvious that science and god are completely intertwined. I also studied math in college, and there's no way you can study math and not see the absolute divine beauty of the patterns of nature. I mean, you do have to have faith, I suppose, because god is not something you can touch.
Eric Sundermann loves Kanye West, but probably not as much as the guy who founded a religion based on Yeezus. He's on Twitter — @ericsundy