I’m of two thoughts about Kanye West. One, I really enjoy his music – even the polarizing 808s & Heartbreak. It’s clear he’s gained the confidence (ego? brashness?) or maybe he’s always had it, to not feel beholden to anyone or any stereotype of what hip-hop and pop music should be. Very rarely do we see musicians swim out to the buoy because it’s there, because it’s seemingly unreachable and admit they care about reaching it. That reaching for something artistically grander actually matters. He’s the anti-indie rock band.
And in that sense Kanye West is one of the few authentic shining popstars left in the world. It feels like he matters.
At the same time, I often wonder if what we’re seeing is actually Kanye West or if we’re getting “Kanye West” the brand – everything a calculating shrewd manuever to sell records, keep his name in the spotlight, etc. It’s difficult to separate his music from his branded image.
All of that is to say that I couldn’t stop reading this interview he did with Sean Fennessey for Vibe.
You used to talk about being on a path, knowing your album titles and when you’re going to put them out. Are you still on that path?
I knew that path, but I guess the obvious answer is no because I didn’t roll with the original fourth album title [Good-Ass Job]. Life sometimes changes. I’m on a path that God puts me on. I don’t believe all of this happened by chance. I’m in the position that I’m in due to who my parents were, due to my attitude, and my taste, and my opinion. I used to drop albums and there was this big thing with me and the critics. I’m my own worst critic. You can’t find anything else wrong.
Did the critics bother you because you were so hard on yourself?
Yeah. And also, I didn’t realize at the time that my albums are open to criticism, which, at the end of the day, they are. These are gifts that I’m delivering the world. These aren’t term papers. These aren’t tests. With a song like “Diamonds,” it’s almost like I was trying to pass a test. Look how good I could rap, look how many instruments I could put on
this, look at me and Jon Brion, watch us show off. And it’s not that the record wasn’t good, but when you make a record like “Love Lockdown,” it’s like you’re not even trying to pass a test. You just do a Basquiat painting over the whole test. And sure, every answer is wrong, but look, it makes a beautiful picture.
Do you feel like you grew up and there are no more tests?
Yeah. But you never have to take a test. That’s what other people need to realize. They’re not at the mercy of other people’s opinions. It’s all what you believe in yourself. Your attitude determines your latitude. Because a lot of people are gonna thought-project. They’re gonna tell you what you can and cannot do. Like, Aw, man, I wouldn’t be doing that. Well, that’s you. God has put me in a really good space. He has a mission for me. There’s gonna be ups and downs. But there’s something He wants me to deliver to the world. He knows I was going through some dark times…and He shed some light in my life.
Until proven otherwise, I’m giving Kanye the benefit of the doubt. That is his music matters more than his image, even if they are both part and parcel of the same thing.
It is easy, especially in the culture we live in, to pull the rug out from under his feet and then laugh. Fine we all do it, I do it. But I genuinely believe that Kanye West actually cares enough about what he does to want to leave a lasting legacy.
It’s almost invigorating to hear someone say: “I’ll definitely sacrifice. Maybe I’ll make half of what someone else will make. But I think I’ll make history at the same time. Or change people’s minds about hip hop culture, about black culture. And do something that people will remember for the rest of their lives. That’s more important than money. ”