In a new interview with i-D, Kanye West spoke with fellow studio wizard and Neptunes mastermind Pharrell Williams, comparing his own impact to that of Michael Jackson.
“It felt like you really tore down the walls and the doors much like Michael Jackson did a generation before, and in a way, he’s very similar to Michael Jackson, in the ways where Michael Jackson was doing covert, super gangsta stuff, like he’d just pop the needles off,” West said during their conversation. “He kissed Elvis Presley’s daughter on MTV. Black culture used to be… we used to be fronting all night, but Michael was doing stuff that was different to what we were programmed to understand as being what we should do.”
And after the compliment, West spoke on Jackson’s influence, later drawing parallels between their own lives by saying that the media’s portrayal of Jackson — similar to that of West — is usually negative.
“We should have something that says we can’t allow any company to tear down our heroes. Not on The Shade Room, not on social media and especially not in documentaries,” West said, likely referring to Leaving Neverland, the 2019 HBO documentary focusing on Jackson’s child sexual abuse allegations. “I’m like every time the media isn’t happy with me it’s like, ‘Here they go. They’re gonna come and Wacko Jacko me.’ Which in some ways, they’ve tried to do.”
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Also in the interview, Pharrell and West discussed the pandemic and its lasting impact on the world.
“Life’s going to have a different kind of gravity than it’s ever had before,” Pharrell said. “It’s also gonna make us really separated. We’re disconnecting from each other even though online we’re probably more connected than we’ve ever been. It’s a bit like the Tower of Babel, if you will. We’ve never been this close, and there’s a lot of advantages that come with that. There’s a lot of disadvantages, too, and a lot of grey areas.”
The discussion follows West’s donation of $2 million to support the families of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor and his establishment of a 529 education plan to cover Gianna Floyd’s — Floyd’s 6-year-old daughter — college tuition.