Kanye West x Steve McQueen Interview

yeezy3 yeezy4 yezzy1

Earlier this week, Interview Magazine released their 6-page feature story of critically acclaimed director Steve McQueen’s interview with one of the world’s most polarizing and fascinating artists in Kanye West. McQueen, who directed powerfully gripping films such as Hunger, Shame, and 12 Years A Slave, is no stranger to controversy and seemed to be right at home while conversing with West about a wide range of topics. As two masters of different mediums, the mutual respect and admiration West and McQueen had for each other was pretty evident. In 2013, West went on an impressive press run, engaging radio hosts, TV personalities and anybody else who would listen about his frustrations, current life situation, and most recent album. However, while candid and honest, West was still criticized by many for being incoherent or not making sense. But with McQueen’s piece, a telephone conversation between him and West, you get the sense that the latter was able to collect his thoughts and provide McQueen with truly awesome and inspired responses. Perhaps it was McQueen’s ability to center in on a main focus, or maybe it’s just the power of written word, but (in my opinion) the piece is one of the best and most accurate representations of Kanye West that’s been presented in some time. You can read the entire conversation over at Interviewmagazine.com (which I highly recommend), but some of the main highlights are quoted below.

~J.Mon

West on his creativity:

“STEVE MCQUEEN: It’s hard to make beauty. People often try, and more often than not, everything starts to feel sort of cheap or kitsch. But you express yourself in a way that’s beautiful. You can sing from the heart and have it connect and translate, which is a huge thing for an artist to be able to do. So my first question is: How do you do that? How do you communicate in that way?

KANYE WEST: I just close my eyes and act like I’m a 3-year-old. [laughs] I try to get as close to a childlike level as possible because we were all artists back then. So you just close your eyes and think back to when you were as young as you can remember and had the least barriers to your creativity.”

West on his 2002 accident:

“MCQUEEN: Let’s go deep very quickly then: Talk to me about who you were and who you’ve become—both before and after your accident, the car crash. Who are those two people, Kanye before and Kanye after? Are they different people? Was there a seismic change in who you were after you nearly lost your life?

WEST: I think I started to approach time in a different way after the accident. Before I was more willing to give my time to people and things that I wasn’t as interested in because somehow I allowed myself to be brainwashed into being forced to work with other people or on other projects that I had no interest in. So simply, the accident gave me the opportunity to do what I really wanted to do…”

West on Yeezus:

“MCQUEEN: Talk to me a little bit about Yeezus. The album before that one, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, was a phenomenal success. Did that wear on your mind when you went in to make Yeezus?

WEST: Yeah! So I just had to throw it all in the trash. I had to not follow any of the rules because there was no way to match up to the previous album. Dark Fantasy was the first time you heard that collection of sonic paintings in that way. So I had to completely destroy the landscape and start with a new story. Dark Fantasy was the fifth installment of a collection that included the four albums before it. It’s kind of the “Luke, I am your father” moment. Yeezus, though, was the beginning of me as a new kind of artist. Stepping forward with what I know about architecture, about classicism, about society, about texture, about synesthesia—the ability to see sound—and the way everything is everything and all these things combine, and then starting from scratch with Yeezus … That’s one of the reasons why I didn’t want to use the same formula of starting the album with a track like “Blood on the Leaves,” and having that Nina Simone sample up front that would bring everyone in, using postmodern creativity where you kind of lean on something that people are familiar with and comfortable with to get their attention. I actually think the most uncomfortable sound on Yeezus is the sound that the album starts with, which is the new version of what would have been called radio static. It’s the sonic version of what internet static would be—that’s how I would describe that opening. It’s Daft Punk sound. It was just like that moment of being in a restaurant and ripping the tablecloth out from under all the glasses. That’s what “On Sight” does sonically.”

West on his current life mission:

“MCQUEEN: It’s interesting how when Malcolm X ventured out of the United States for the first time, he went to Europe, he went to Africa, he went to Mecca, and then, when he came back to America, he realized that, to some extent, for him, it wasn’t about black or white, it was about people. In talking to you now, it seems like you feel the same way—that it’s never really been about race for you, but at the same time, it has very much been about that, if you know what I mean.

WEST: My mission is about what I want to create. It’s for people, for humanity. It’s about things that can make the world better. I’m not saying that I’m going to make a better world; I’m just saying that I will provide some things that will help, and my glass ceiling that I’m facing is based on my color. You know, I was looking at some cheesy-ass MTV videos a while ago, and it was so funny because it was like, “Wow, these videos are pre-Michael Jackson”—and people forget that Michael Jackson had to fight to get on MTV because he was considered to be an urban artist. This was, like, the greatest pop star of all time, and they told him, “We’re not gonna play your video because it doesn’t fit our format.”

West and McQueen on ghettoization:

MCQUEEN: It’s interesting how when Malcolm X ventured out of the United States for the first time, he went to Europe, he went to Africa, he went to Mecca, and then, when he came back to America, he realized that, to some extent, for him, it wasn’t about black or white, it was about people. In talking to you now, it seems like you feel the same way—that it’s never really been about race for you, but at the same time, it has very much been about that, if you know what I mean.

WEST: My mission is about what I want to create. It’s for people, for humanity. It’s about things that can make the world better. I’m not saying that I’m going to make a better world; I’m just saying that I will provide some things that will help, and my glass ceiling that I’m facing is based on my color. You know, I was looking at some cheesy-ass MTV videos a while ago, and it was so funny because it was like, “Wow, these videos are pre-Michael Jackson”—and people forget that Michael Jackson had to fight to get on MTV because he was considered to be an urban artist. This was, like, the greatest pop star of all time, and they told him, “We’re not gonna play your video because it doesn’t fit our format.”

West on his attitude:

“MCQUEEN: I would say that most black people don’t walk around thinking about being black. People tend to think of themselves as individuals, and it’s only when they’re confronted in certain situations that they become “black.”

WEST: And that’s not just a black thing—it’s a world thing where the biggest slavery that we have is our opinion of ourselves. That’s why my attitude is so shunned. It’s not a matter of me believing in myself that’s so scary to everyone, it’s the idea of everyone else starting to believe in themselves just as much as I do that’s scary.