Kanye West Gives the Most Humble and Self-Effacing Interview of His Career

JK! 'Ye is still gloriously arrogant in 'New York Times' Q&A

Kanye West New York Times interview
Yeezus, complex Photo by Getty Images
Kyle McGovern WRITTEN BY
Kyle McGovern

Sweet Yeezus. Just days after Kanye West closed Governors Ball Music Festival 2013 by screaming "I Am a God," the New York Times has published a lengthy Q&A with the egomaniacal rapper that confirms what we all already knew: Kanye West loves Kanye West. Jon Caramanica spoke with the Dark Twisted MC for several hours over a period of three days and got him to open up about his latest album, working with Rick Rubin, and how he fully expects to be recognized as the next Steve Jobs. Seriously, he said that to a reporter.

The interview is filled with similar pearls — for instance, 'Ye basically admits that the only reason he apologized to Taylor Swift for that infamous VMAs interruption is because the entire planet peer-pressured him into it. Even for a guy who once proudly rapped, "I'm on my own dick," that shit cray. We've collected several other highlights below, for your reading pleasure, but be warned: "If anyone’s reading this waiting for some type of full-on, flat apology for anything, they should just stop reading right now." 

On being the "Michael Jordan of music": "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.'" 

On his instinct to speak his mind: "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." 

On how even his shortcomings make him the greatest: "But I think the fact that I can't sing that well is what makes [808s & Heartbreak] so special... I love the fact that I'm bad at [things], you know what I'm saying? I'm forever the 35-year-old five-year-old. I'm forever the five-year-old of something." 

On where great art comes from: "I'm going to be cliché for a minute and say that great art comes from pain. But also I'd say a bigger statement than that is: Great art comes from great artists. There's a bunch of people that are hurt that still couldn't have made the album that was super-polarizing and redefined the sound of radio." 

On predicting his world fame: "I knew when I wrote the line 'light-skinned friend look like Michael Jackson' [from the song 'Slow Jamz'] I was going to be a big star. At the time, they used to have the Virgin music [stores], and I would go there and just go up the escalator and say to myself, 'I'm soaking in these last moments of anonymity.' I knew I was going to make it this far; I knew that this was going to happen." 

On his personal and professional lineage: "I am my father’s son. I'm my mother’s child. That's how I was raised. I am in the lineage of Gil Scott-Heron, great activist-type artists. But I’m also in the lineage of a Miles Davis — you know, that liked nice things also." 

On actually feeling humbled: "I want to say that after working with Rick, it humbled me to realize why I hadn't — even though I produced Watch the Throne; even though I produced [My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy] — why I hadn't won Album of the Year yet." 

On his fashion style from five, seven years ago: "Yeah, kill self. That’s all I have to say. Kill self." 

On the virtue of his fashion projects: "But the passion is for humanity. The passion is for people. The passion is for the 18-year-old version of myself. The passion is for the kids at my shows. I need to do more. I need to be able to give people more of what they want that currently is behind a glass. I don't believe that it's luxury to go into a store and not be able to afford something. I believe luxury is to be able to go into a store and be able to afford something." 

On setting trends: "Respect my trendsetting abilities. Once that happens, everyone wins. The world wins; fresh kids win; creatives win; the company wins."  

On becoming the next 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, it's like when Biggie passed and Jay-Z was allowed to become Jay-Z. I've been connected to the most culturally important albums of the past four years, the most influential artists of the past 10 years. You have like, Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, Henry Ford, Howard Hughes, Nicolas Ghesquière, Anna Wintour, David Stern. I think that's a responsibility that I have, to push possibilities, to show people: 'This is the level that things could be at.' So when you get something that has the name Kanye West on it, it's supposed to be pushing the furthest possibilities. I will be the leader of a company that ends up being worth billions of dollars, because I got the answers. I understand culture. I am the nucleus." 

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