Kanye West Talks His Career & ‘Yeezus’ Album with The New York Times

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Kanye West at the 2013 Governors Ball music festival in New York.

When your debut album, “The College Dropout” came out, the thing that people began to associate with you besides music was: Here’s someone who’s going to argue for his place in history; like, “Why am I not getting five stars?”

I think you got to make your case. Seventh grade, I wanted to be on the basketball team. I didn’t get on the team, so that summer I practiced. I was on the summer league. My team won the championship; I was the point guard. And then when I went for eighth grade, I practiced and I hit every free throw, every layup, and the next day I looked on this chart, and my name wasn’t on it. I asked the coach what’s up, and they were like, “You’re just not on it.” I was like, “But I hit every shot.” The next year — I was on the junior team when I was a freshman, that’s how good I was. But I wasn’t on my eighth-grade team, because some coach — some Grammy, some reviewer, some fashion person, some blah blah blah — they’re all the same as that coach. Where I didn’t feel that I had a position in eighth grade to scream and say, “Because I hit every one of my shots, I deserve to be on this team!” I’m letting it out on everybody who doesn’t want to give me my credit.

And you know you hit your shots.

Yeah — you put me on the team. So I’m going to use my platform to tell people that they’re not being fair. Anytime I’ve had a big thing that’s ever pierced and cut across the Internet, it was a fight for justice. Justice. And when you say justice, it doesn’t have to be war. Justice could just be clearing a path for people to dream properly. It could be clearing a path to make it fair within the arena that I play. You know, if Michael Jordan can scream at the refs, me as Kanye West, as the Michael Jordan of music, can go and say, “This is wrong.”

You’ve won a lot of Grammys.

“[My Beautiful] Dark [Twisted] Fantasy” and “Watch the Throne”: neither was nominated for Album of the Year, and I made both of those in one year. I don’t know if this is statistically right, but I’m assuming I have the most Grammys of anyone my age, but I haven’t won one against a white person.

But the thing is, I don’t care about the Grammys; I just would like for the statistics to be more accurate.

You want the historical record to be right.

Yeah, I don’t want them to rewrite history right in front of us. At least, not on my clock. I really appreciate the moments that I was able to win rap album of the year or whatever. But after a while, it’s like: “Wait a second; this isn’t fair. This is a setup.” I remember when both Gnarls Barkley and Justin [Timberlake] lost for Album of the Year, and I looked at Justin, and I was like: “Do you want me to go onstage for you? You know, do you want me to fight” —

For you.

For what’s right. I am so credible and so influential and so relevant that I will change things. So when the next little girl that wants to be, you know, a musician and give up her anonymity and her voice to express her talent and bring something special to the world, and it’s time for us to roll out and say, “Did this person have the biggest thing of the year?” — that thing is more fair because I was there.

But has that instinct led you astray? Like the Taylor Swift interruption at the MTV Video Music Awards, things like that.

It’s only led me to complete awesomeness at all times. It’s only led me to awesome truth and awesomeness. Beauty, truth, awesomeness. That’s all it is.

Gary Hershorn/Reuters
Mr. West interrupting Taylor Swift’s appearance at the MTV Video Music Awards at Madison Square Garden in 2009.
So no regrets?

I don’t have one regret.

Do you believe in the concept of regret?

If anyone’s reading this waiting for some type of full-on, flat apology for anything, they should just stop reading right now.

But that is something that you apologized for.

Yeah, I think that I have like, faltered, you know, as a human. My message isn’t perfectly defined. I have, as a human being, fallen to peer pressure.

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On this album, the way that it emphasizes bass and texture, you’re privileging the body, and that’s not snobby.

Yeah, it’s 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.

Visceral.

Yeah, visceral, tribal. I’m just trying to cut away all the — you know, it’s even like what we talk about with clothing and fashion, that sometimes all that gets in the way. You even see the way I dress now is so super straight.

Does it take you less time to get dressed now than it did five years ago?

Hell, yeah.

You look at your outfits from five or seven years ago, and it’s like —

Yeah, kill self. That’s all I have to say. Kill self.

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