What can Kanye West tell us about life? Pretty much everything, it turns out.
Photo by Jason Bergman
Whenever Kanye West does a thing that is not shrouded in an Illuminati-supplied hithlainian cloak of secrecy, invisibility, and non-disclosure agreements signed in triplicate with every page initialed, it is an event. Yes, Kanye West is arguably the most famous rapper on the planet, so by default everything he does is going to be covered, because people are interested in him and what he does. But unlike say Jay Z, with his carefully manicured public image, or Drake, who despite his emotional lyrics is an entertainer first and a public personality second, Kanye West is Kanye West, for better or worse, at all times. If he’s going to release a song, you’re going to know that it was the best song he was capable of creating at that current moment. If he plays a show, he’s going to play that show like it’s the last one of his life. If he accidentally runs into a sign, he’s going to run into that sign like he goddamn means it. He does not care that he might look like an idiot sometimes; instead, he is concerned that his looking like an idiot will eventually give people a better understanding of Kanye West. Some might call this egotistical; we’d prefer to think of it as self-aware.
Part of what has made Kanye such an interesting figure is his relationship with the press. Some time after the release of Graduation, Kanye West stopped giving interviews, instead relying on his blog, and later Twitter account, to relay whatever messages he chose not to offer in his music. And we were fine with that—Kanye is clearly a musical genius, and sometimes genius needs not explaining. Last year, shortly before Kanye recalibrated hip-hop by dropping Yeezus, Kanye broke his silence, speaking to both The New York Times and W Magazine for two very different pieces. In the time since, he’s given enough interviews that, simply by paying attention to him, you really get a sense of how his brain works now that he’s one of the biggest musicians on the planet. In that spirit, we mined Kanye West's recent interviews for nuggets of his own wisdom that you could apply to your every day life.
KANYE WEST’S GENERAL PHILOSOPHY
Dopeness is what I like the most. Dopeness—people who want to make things as dope as possible and by default make money from it. I don’t follow rules of normal celebrity. Sandals with socks. Keep it gangster.
Photo by Jason Bergman
KANYE WEST ON GENIUS
I’m a creative genius and there’s no other way to word it.
KANYE WEST ON EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD
Everything in the world is exactly the same.
KANYE WEST ON FASHION
Fashion isn’t always practical. It’s more about emotion. It’s more about swag. It’s more about, you know, pussy.
KANYE WEST ON THE POINT OF LIFE
Life is life, there’s ups and downs. It’s like a car crash—you could just be driving, and just out of nowhere it happens. The point of life is getting shit done and being happy.
KANYE WEST ON THE KIM KARDASHIAN GAME
In order to win at life, you need some Kim K skills.
Photo via Kim Kardashian's Instagram
KANYE WEST ON KANYE WEST
I’m totally weird, and I’m totally honest, and I’m totally inappropriate sometimes. And the thing is for me to say I wasn’t a genius, I would just be lying to you and myself. I’m not running for office, I’m just here to make good music, and make people feel good when they hear my music.
KANYE WEST ON BEING ABLE TO COMMENT ON KANYE WEST
The person who wrote that, were they involved with anything last year that was as culturally significant as the Yeezus tour or that album?
KANYE WEST ON YOUR PERSONAL SAFETY AROUND KANYE WEST IF YOU DISRESPECT KANYE WEST
Don’t ask me a question about something you saw in a tabloid. Don’t try to antagonize me. It’s not safe for you in this zoo. Never think that I’m not from Chicago for one second and think you can walk right up and disrespect me in front of my family.
Photo via @tonyhawk on Instagram
KANYE WEST ON HIS ASTRONAUT FAMILY
I’ve got my astronaut family. Becoming famous is like being catapulted into space—sometimes without a space suit. We’ve seen so many people combust, suffocate, get lost in all these different things. But to have an anchor of other astronauts and make a little space family…
KANYE WEST ON DEATH
I think there’s something kind of depressing about a product being final, because the only time a product is really final is when you’re in a casket. As my grandfather would say, “Life is a performance.”
KANYE WEST ON LONGEVITY
The longer your ‘gevity is, the more confidence you build.
KANYE WEST ON PROBLEM SOLVING
OK, now I’ve got the Will Ferrell sample, so I need to say something that finishes the verse. But people have to know not what it means. So it’s like problem solving to get to the point where you’re saying, “Going gorillas!” It’s difficult sometimes.
KANYE WEST ON GREATNESS
“New Slaves.” The second verse. I argue that it’s the best rap verse of all time. It’s the Coming to America or Anchorman of a verse… it’s everything that a rap verse is supposed to be.
KANYE WEST ON THE MEDIA
What the media calls “meltdowns,” I call “turn-ups.” The media does everything they can to break creatives, break artists, to break people’s spirits, and I do everything I can to break media.
KANYE WEST ON FIGHTING FOR JUSTICE
When you say justice, it doesn’t have to be war. Justice could just be clearing a path for people to dream properly. But you can’t win every single fight. It’s a long war, and if you’re out there trying to blow up every single building, you won’t win the war.
KANYE WEST ON PUTTING YOURSELF OUT THERE
A lot of people are very sacred with their ideas, and there’s something to protecting yourself in that way. But there’s also something to idea sharing, or being the person who makes the mistake in public so people can study that.
KANYE WEST ON CHOOSING FRIENDS
I hang around architects, mostly.
KANYE WEST ON KIMYE
The concept of Kimye has more cultural significance than what Page Six could write.
KANYE WEST ON INFLUENCE
I’m not into all that snobbery. Because you know what? We have the loudest voice, we have the loudest communication, and all we want to do is make awesome stuff—god flowing through us, and and us being little baby creators and shit.
KANYE WEST ON THE FUTURE
Like, you remember when you’d see future movies and everything was in the sky. Like, it moved in the sky. That’s the internet. That’s our future sky. We thought we knew it was in flying cars. We didn’t get flying cars, but we can send movies like in two seconds.
KANYE WEST ON BEING ABLE TO TELL THE FUTURE
I knew when I wrote the line “light-skinned friend look like Michael Jackson” [from the song “Slow Jamz"] I was going to be a big star. At the time, they used to have the Virgin music [stores], and I would go there and just go up the escalator and say to myself, “I’m soaking in these last moments of anonymity.” I knew I was going to make it this far; I knew that this was going to happen.
KANYE WEST ON BULLIES
There’s moments when I stood up to drug dealers in Chicago and said, “You can’t have my publishing. Come and kill me. Do whatever you’re gonna do, but you’re not going to bully me, you’re not gonna stop me, because my mother made me believe in myself.”
KANYE WEST ON SELF-ESTEEM
Go listen to all my music. It’s the codes of self esteem. It’s the codes of who you are? If you’re a Kanye West fan, you are not a fan of me. You’re a fan of yourself. You will believe in yourself. I’m just the expresso. I’m just the shot in the morning to get you going, to make you believe that you could overcome that situation that you are dealing with all the time.
KANYE WEST ON BEING COOL
I don't like walking around with people thinking I'm doing uncool shit, because there's nothing I'm doing that's uncool. It's all innovative. You just might not understand it yet. But it's cool. Family is super cool. Going home to one girl every night is super cool. Just going home and getting on the floor and playing with your child is super cool. Not wearing a red leather jacket, and just looking like a dad and shit, is like super cool. Having someone that I can call Mom again. That shit is super cool.
KANYE WEST ON KANYE WEST'S MESSAGE
"Fuck you" is my message.
KANYE WEST ON LOVE
When a kid falls in love with an airplane or a bike or a dinosaur—especially if you're an only child and it's not because of the book that the sibling was reading—it's like, fuck, you mean to tell me that the dinosaurs walked the earth and stuff like that?! That's amazing! You mean to tell me that these giant multi-ton crafts can fly that fast and that loud, and they can flip, and there's danger, the possibility of them exploding? That's fucking cool! You mean to tell me that this girl with this fucking body and this face is also into style, and she's a nice person, and she has her own money and is family-oriented? That's just as cool as a fucking fighter jet or dinosaur! And just as rarely seen.
KANYE WEST ON BELIEVING IN YOURSELF
People told me I couldn’t rap. People had all this advice for me about how I shouldn't try to rap. And I wouldn’t even say I’m a rapper, I’m more of a messenger than a rapper. I want to utilize the best resources that we have and have a conversation. And this new place that I’m going to and what I want to do it has to be someone that says because I’m—the thing is I’m speaking to everybody, but I’m also speaking and sending queues to the right people to say, “come and help me, help everybody else, you will win with me” you will win.
KANYE WEST ON BEING A RENAISSANCE MAN
Yeah. I’m not trying to regurgitate myself. I showed—showed people that I understand how to make perfect. Dark Fantasy could be considered to be perfect. I know how to make perfect. But that’s not what I’m here to do. I’m here to crack the pavement and make new grounds, you know, sonically and society, culturally. I’m gonna keep doing music, but what if people told me I couldn’t rap, what woulda happened? What if people told me I couldn’t perform. I’m only 36 years old; I have other goals and other things. And I’m gonna use my platform, every platform, to stand up and say, “I want to make something, I want to make the next Ralph Lauren.” I always felt like I could do anything. That’s the main thing people are controlled by, thoughts, their perception of themselves. They’re slowed down by their perception of themselves. If you’re taught you can’t do anything you won’t do anything. I was taught I could do everything, and I’m Kanye West, aged 36. So just watch the next ten years.
KANYE WEST ON INFORMATION
Steve Jobs made the internet usable. This is the information age, we barely scratched the surface. There is things that are moving. The entire music industry was hit by a fucking glacier by the internet and Sean Parker, just like that glacier up in there, and Steve was like no, no, wait a second, come on, give him a little time. There won’t be any music, if you just give it away like that. You know what I’m saying, but shit it’s changing.
KANYE WEST ON HAVING A HEALTHY SENSE OF HISTORY
People are going to look at this interview and say, “Hey, I understand what he’s talking about.” “People are going to look at this interview and say, “I don’t like Kanye. Look, he looks mad. I don’t like his teeth.” They’re going to say, “Why doesn’t he just focus on music? I liked him as music.” They’re going to say, “Hey, I want the old Kanye, blah blah blah.” But one thing they will do, they will play this interview in five years. They will play this interview in ten years and say, he called that, he called that, he called that, he said that was going to happen, that was going to change. I refuse to follow those rules that society has set up and the way they control people with low self-esteem. With improper information, with branding, with marketing… I refuse to follow those rules. It’s about truth, it’s about information, it’s about awesomeness, and the only luxury is time. Like I could care less about any of these cameras, all I care about is my family, I care about protecting my girl, protecting my baby, and protecting my ideas and my dreams.
Longingly compiled from Kanye's recent interviews with W Magazine, GQ, The New York Times, Interview Magazine, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers, and Zane Lowe, by Drew Millard, Eric Sundermann, Kyle Kramer, and Aliza Abarbanel.