One of the most celebrated and controversial artists in music history, Kanye West is an iconoclast without compare, a modern-day Jekyll and Hyde whose staggering genius in the studio is overshadowed only by his maniacal public persona. We sat down with the 21-time Grammy winner to discuss the methods behind his madness and his ambitions for the future.
1. Throughout your career, your music has received virtually unanimous critical acclaim. What inspires you to create such consistently great music?
My best music always comes from a place of pain or physical hardship. Everyone knows that I recorded “Through The Wire” when my jaw was wired shut. But what people don’t know is that I wrote College Dropout in the throes of a 106-degree fever caused by an infection from a Hot Wheel I got stuck in my ear canal. They don’t know that I made 808 while suffering from a life-threatening case of botulism that I contracted from drinking too much canned milk—the reason the vocals sound so different is because I recorded them inside an iron lung. And that raw, visceral urgency you hear on Yeezus? That wasn’t even intentional; I was slowly being swallowed alive by an anaconda in the studio, and my emotions at the time really came through in the verses.
2. How much of your ego is authentic and how much of it is an act?
I’d say 30 percent of it is actually an act; 40 percent of it is authentic, but I’m under the impression it’s an act; 20 percent of it is an act that is so convincing that even I believe it; 9 percent of it is a really bad act that anyone can see though; and 1 percent of it is sincere but I’m lying about it right now.
3. You’ve previously expressed an interest in designing video games. Is that something you’d still like to do?
Yes, absolutely. Just yesterday I thought of a great button combination I’d like to find a home for. It goes Up, Down, Down, Down, Y, B, A, Up. Another good one I thought of is Left, Right, Left, Right, A, C-Down, B, A, C-Up. Oh! And there’s also L, R, R, L, R, R, X, Circle, Square, Right, L, Left, R.
4. Given your wife’s work in entertainment and reality TV, your marriage is always in the spotlight. Do you think the public gets an accurate representation of what your personal life is really like?
No, not at all. Our lives aren’t nearly as dramatic and glamorous as the media makes them out to be. Once the cameras go off and the paparazzi go home for the night, Kim is just an ordinary 54-year-old tax assessor with a mustache and a pair of khaki Dockers, and I’m just a low-level digital marketing manager making $48K a year at a logistics company. Honestly, I’d love to live the high-rolling superstar lifestyle that you see in the tabloids, but the truth is that we’re just a couple of middle-class, nine-to-five schmucks trying to hack it in the rat race just like everyone else.
5. You were famously critical of President Bush for his handling of Hurricane Katrina. What are your thoughts on the current administration?
I’ve got no problems with how the Trump administration is handling Hurricane Katrina.