With the release of Yeezus set for next week, Kanye West has given his first interview in years to Jon Caramanica of The New York Times. The interview took place earlier this month at Malibu’s Shangri-la Studio, where Kanye worked with producer Rick Rubin on final touches for the new album. Kanye spoke candidly about the album and its recording process, as well as his past albums, his evolution as an artist, and how he perceives his place in the industry today. He also addressed the Taylor Swift incident, his criticism of President George W. Bush during Hurricane Katrina, and spoke about fatherhood. You can read the entire thing here.
One of the biggest takeaways from the interview is Kanye’s perception of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, an album considered by many to be the high watermark of his career thus far. In a question regarding his decision to interrupt Taylor Swift during the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, Kanye said he had “no regrets,” admitting that he felt peer pressured to apologize. He then explained that Dark Fantasy was “my long, backhanded apology. You know how people give a backhanded compliment? It was a backhanded apology. It was like, all these raps, all these sonic acrobatics. I was like: ‘Let me show you guys what I can do, and please accept me back. You want to have me on your shelves.'”
Asked whether he viewed the album as dishonest, Kanye replied, “Its always going to be 80 percent, at least, what I want to give, and 20 percent fulfilling a perception. If you walk into an old mans house, theyre not giving nothing. Theyre at 100 percent exactly what they want to do. I would hear stories about Steve Jobs and feel like he was at 100 percent exactly what he wanted to do, but Im sure even a Steve Jobs has compromised. Even a Rick Owens has compromised. You know, even a Kanye West has compromised. Sometimes you dont even know when youre being compromised till after the fact, and thats what you regret.”
“I dont want to come off dissing Dark Fantasy,” Kanye added. “Its me never being satisfied and then me coming and admitting and saying the truth. As much as I can air things out for other people, to air things out for myself, to say, I feel like this couldve been stronger.
Kanye was also candid about how he perceives his place in history, comparing his cultural impact to that of Apple founder Steve Jobs. “I think what Kanye West is going to mean is something similar to what Steve Jobs means. I am undoubtedly, you know, Steve of Internet, downtown, fashion, culture. Period. By a long jump. I honestly feel that because Steve has passed, you know, its like when Biggie passed and Jay-Z was allowed to become Jay-Z.”
Other notable excerpts:
On the influences of Yeezus…
“Yeah, its like trap and drill and house. I knew that I wanted to have a deep Chicago influence on this album, and I would listen to like, old Chicago house. I think that even ‘Black Skinhead’ could border on house, ‘On Sight’ sounds like acid house, and then ‘I Am a God’ obviously sounds, like, super house.”
What he learned from Rick Rubin…
“For him, its really just inside of him. Im still just a kid learning about minimalism, and hes a master of it. Its just really such a blessing, to be able to work with him. I want to say that after working with Rick, it humbled me to realize why I hadnt even though I produced Watch the Throne; even though I produced Dark Fantasy why I hadnt won Album of the Year yet.”
On 808s & Heartbreak being his album with the most impact…
“There are people who have figured out the exact, you know, Kanye West formula, the mix between Graduation and 808s, and were able to become more successful at it. ‘Stronger’ was the first, like, dance-rap song that resonated to that level, and then 808s was the first album of that kind, you know? It was the first, like, black new wave album. I didnt realize I was new wave until this project. Thus my connection with [the graphic designer] Peter Saville, with Raf Simons, with high-end fashion, with minor chords. I hadnt heard new wave! But I am a black new wave artist.”
Read through the entire interview here.