In typically candid fashion, Kanye West has opened up about a number of personal and controversial topics in an in-depth interview with The New York Times.
Speaking to Jon Caramanica across a number of locations — his rented Amangani Resort home, on car journeys, at a thrift store, on long walks — West spoke about the topics that have courted headlines over recent months — specifically, his widely publicized TMZ interview comments about slavery and his political stance. He also covered his relationship with Virgil Abloh and his what goes into his lyrics.
Here are the main five takeaways.
On that slavery comment
Having told TMZ that 400 years of slavery "sounds like a choice," West suggested to Caramanica that his words were misinterpreted, elaborating, “I said the idea of sitting in something for 400 years sounds — sounds — like a choice to me, I never said it’s a choice. I never said slavery itself — like being shackled in chains — was a choice.”
West added that in such situations he felt his voice was in an "unprotected" environment and that "I’m having to somehow reframe something that I never said."
On the subject of the original comments and the reactions that followed, he said, "By me saying slave in any way at TMZ left my voice unprotected. So it’s not a matter of the facts of if I said that exact line or not, it’s the fact that I put myself in a position to be unprotected by my tribe."
On Trump and his political stance
West said that, as an artist, supporting Hilary Clinton was expected of him, something he likened to an "arranged marriage," and something he rebelled against. “I felt that I knew people who voted for Trump that were celebrities that were scared to say that they liked him. But they told me, and I liked him, and I’m not scared to say what I like.” He did, however, say "I don’t agree with all of his policies," when Caramanica asked if he supported the Trump administration’s attempt to prevent Muslims from coming to the United States.
On his relationship with Virgil Abloh
During their conversations, Caramanica writes, West received a phone call from Virgil Abloh, during which the pair chatted about topics such as Drake and the ye album artwork. Thanks to this well-timed interruption, West elaborated on his relationship with the Louis Vuitton artistic director, and how there's room for both of their creative forces within increasingly overlapping industries: “You see me and Virgil’s relationship. I don’t know what might have been in your mind, but there might have been someplace where you wonder if those dudes still talk like that. And you saw, we do."
West continued, "It was this thing where it’s like okay, you’re not the No.1 rapper, Drake’s the No.1 rapper, but you’re the No.1 with shoes, or this or that. And it’s like, yo, no more No.1s. What’s the No.1 tree over there? Just be one of them. All of them are beautiful. If you cut one of those trees down, what would it be worth? Those look like $400,000 trees, just one of them, and look at how many of them are."
On the “I Thought About Killing You" lyrics and suicide
“Today, I thought about killing you, premeditated murder / I think about killing myself / And I love myself way more than I love you.”
Asked if “I Thought About Killing You" was literal or metaphoric, West responded, "Oh yeah, I’ve thought about killing myself all the time. It’s always a option and [expletive]. Like Louis C.K. said, ‘I flip through the manual. I weigh all the options.’”
West later added, "I’m just having this epiphany now, ’cause I didn’t do it, but I did think it all the way through. But if I didn’t think it all the way through, then it’s actually maybe more of a chance of it happening.”
On writing lyrics collaboratively
While aboard the candid train, West discussed lyric-writing collaborations — a question that arose after Drake had dragged him on “Duppy Freestyle," which ripped West ("I pop style for 30 hours then let him repeat") for using his lyrics on The Life of Pablo, which wasn't exactly a secret. Drake had penned the hook for "Yikes" on ye, too, as well as an entire verse, although the latter didn't make the final cut.
Lyrical collaboration is an important part of the process for West. After leaving hospital (where he was treated for "temporary psychosis"), he turned to various writers to help put structure to his notes on the experience. “It’s incredible how we just sit there and just think and rethink and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite. We’re not pulling off a magic trick here. We’re like Tesla, we’re not The Prestige,” he said, referencing the 2006 movie about competing magicians.
He also revealed that eight days before the release of ye, he'd written none of the lyrics — yet still found time to see Deadpool 2 twice.
To read the full interview, head over to The New York Times.
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