Kanye West returns to the front page of GQ by covering the magazine’s August 2014 issue.
Inside, the rapper talks to staff writer Zach Baron about everything from marrying Kim Kardashian and protecting their daughter North to details regarding his upcoming eighth studio album, as well as his new single reportedly called “All Day.”
Yeezy also admits to Drake claiming his throne, and how Drizzy is the most popular rapper right now. “Let’s be honest, he got last summer,” Ye said, while questioning whether he still wants the top spot and also noting that he never would have “given it up” until last summer. (Pause.)
He is one year removed from Yeezus, the record that took all of West’s prodigious pop gifts and made a show of immolating them one by one. He’s also got a new record—maybe even a full-on pop record, though he hasn’t decided yet.
He knows he is no longer the most popular man in rap. “Currently that spot is taken,” West says. “Let’s be honest—he got last summer.”
[Kanye:] “You know. There’s only one person.”
[Kanye:] “Yeah. He got last summer. And I’d never given it up till last summer.” Now he’s thinking about taking it back. “It’s a real question for me. Do I want to?”
Here are more highlights from the lengthy interview:
You got married… You’re the lead subject in practically every tabloid on the planet right now. Are you comfortable in that position, having that many eyes on you?
That wasn’t my goal. My goal is just to be respected as a man when I walk down the street with my family. I don’t care what your job is, you’re not gonna talk down to me, you’re not gonna try to get a rise out of me. I’m a man first. And in establishing that, some interesting things have happened. [laughs]
Like that TMZ video from last year, where you’re walking with your pregnant fiancée with your head down to avoid the paparazzi, to the point where you walked into a sign and hit your head. Then TMZ made fun of you for walking into the sign. How do you live like that?
It’s difficult. And then put on top of that the idea of going and taking meetings with people, and people say, “We don’t want to work with you, because we saw you get mad about running into the sign.”
Does that kind of mockery feel like an effort to de-fang you?
But also, there’s no fangs. I don’t have fangs. I’m a porcupine. I’m a blowfish. Like, I’m a—what’s the fish that blows up?
Yeah. I’m a blowfish. I’m not a shark, I’m a blowfish. So that perfect example about me hitting my head, it’s like a blowfish. I wasn’t coming out of my house going to a paparazzi’s house to attack them. I’m defending my family in front of my own house. I’m defending my name as someone’s screaming something negative at me. That’s a blowfish. People have me pinned as a shark or a predator in some way, and in no way am I that. I wouldn’t want to hurt anyone. I want to defend people. I want to help people.
Can I read you something? The New York Post’s Page Six has an account of your wedding that reads, in part: “Kanye returned one hour before the wedding and didn’t like the all-white bar that was in front of the Gold Toilet Tower. He took a saw and started sawing it in half himself. Two men held the bar stable as he sawed, and sawed, into the bar, defacing the entire front, screaming at everyone around him. He said it looked like a bar from Texas. Then he ordered two pieces of raw wood to be nailed onto the front of the bar. Once the wood was in place, ‘Now,’ he said, ‘it’s art.’ The Italian construction teams looked at this guy and couldn’t believe what they were seeing.”
For the person that wrote that, were they involved with anything last year that was as culturally significant as the Yeezus tour or that album? They didn’t even talk there about the photographs, or the dress, or Andrea Bocelli singing, or the marble tables. They’re like: “It’s a gold toilet.” No. The bathrooms—that usually would be a porta-potty—were wrapped in a fabric that was neutral to match the fort. The bar was terrible, and the wedding planner didn’t approve it with me. I was having issues with this wedding planner the entire time on approvals, and I get there and they threw some weird plastic bar there. So the same materials that were used to cover the bathroom, we said, “Let’s just use that, because this is all we have to make the bar look better.” Which it did, in the end. And anyone knows that you cannot pick up tools yourself, because of—what are those rules about the workers?
Yeah, unions. You can’t do that. It’s illegal. That’s false.
Then they say you gave a forty-five-minute toast to yourself.
And what I talked about in it was the idea of celebrity, and celebrities being treated like blacks were in the ’60s, having no rights, and the fact that people can slander your name. I said that in the toast. And I had to say this in a position where I, from the art world, am marrying Kim. And how we’re going to fight to raise the respect level for celebrities so that my daughter can live a more normal life. She didn’t choose to be a celebrity. But she is. So I’m going to fight to make sure she has a better life.
How does it feel when you read something like that account of your wedding or you see a photo of you looking glum at a zipline go viral?
My feelings don’t matter anymore.
Of course they do.
No. One of the things that I said at the speech was, anyone that’s at this table has had to defend me or Kim or both of us at some point in their life. Ask a boxer: “In the third round, when he hit you from the side on your ear, how did that specifically feel?” You wouldn’t ask a boxer that. Because you know they’re there to fight. Meaning now you know I’m here to fight. I’m here to fight for the re-education of what celebrity is. To say, “Yes, we are celebrities, but yes, we’re also innovators, we’re also inventors, we’re also thoughtful.”
Are you the father you hoped you’d be? There’s that song on Watch the Throne, “New Day,” where you and Jay Z talk about your unborn children, and you basically say: “I want my kid to be completely the polar opposite of me.”
And the joke was that I was supposed to say on the song, “Come on, Jay, you know we’re both gonna have daughters.” And I’m so mad, because you know when I pop that creative-genius shit? If I had had that, that could’ve been my one moment where I’m like: “Okay, fuck all the conversation. Look at that. I called that one.”
On marrying Kim Kardashian:
Kim is this girl who fucking turns me on. I love her. This is who I want to be next to and be around. And then people would try to say, “Well, you know, if you’re a musician, you should be with a musician, and if you want to design, you need to be with a girl from the design world.” I don’t give a fuck about people’s opinions.
Because when a kid falls in love with an airplane or a bike or a dinosaur—especially if you’re an only child and it’s not because of the book that the sibling was reading—it’s like, fuck, you mean to tell me that the dinosaurs walked the earth and stuff like that?! That’s amazing!
You mean to tell me that these giant multi-ton crafts can fly that fast and that loud, and they can flip, and there’s danger, the possibility of them exploding? That’s fucking cool! You mean to tell me that this girl with this fucking body and this face is also into style, and she’s a nice person, and she has her own money and is family-oriented? That’s just as cool as a fucking fighter jet or dinosaur! And just as rarely seen.
On Jay Z and Beyoncé not attending his wedding:
All that, I wouldn’t even speak on. It doesn’t even matter to me whatsoever, who would show up. Because the most important person to show up there, to me, was Kim. And that’s all that matters to me. I had to fight for that for seven years. But the fact that these other people showed up that are from such different worlds but have done such dynamic things—they’re all, in a way, equal to what Kim has done in TV or what I had done in music.
I was so moved that I just wanted people to stop and think they weren’t sitting at a table full of fashion people, they weren’t sitting at a table full of celebrities, they weren’t sitting at a table full of movie directors. It really was a representation of the way we receive information today, post-Internet.
And so Page Six can’t overshadow the main point: Carine Roitfeld was sitting next to Kim Kardashian. That alone to me is like the same moment when I brought Mos Def to the studio with Jay Z. It’s about the people, and the fact that they’re from different walks of life, and that they’re working together and not discriminating against each other. There was a class system, and now there’s a creative class system, and I think that’s what you were talking about a bit—the class system of creativity.
On Yeezus — his most controversial album to date — one year later:
I think Yeezus is the beginning of a completely new era of music. It was all new rules. It just broke every rule possible. None of the ideas were popular ideas. Even “Bound 2,” when the video came out, I think people’s apprehension—I mean, it’s the same as any other Kanye West video. You just have colorful bears running around. It was completely morphed and weird and psychedelic and really druggy. I would have just liked to have had more nudity in it. That’s the only thing. I just want to do crazy, colorful shit like that that has more nudity.
“New Slaves.” The second verse. I argue that it’s the best rap verse of all time. It’s the Coming to America or Anchorman of a verse. You know, it’s got the funny shit. It’s got the antagonization. It’s got patterns. It’s got social and political consciousness. It’s got struggle. It’s got bravado. It’s everything that a rap verse is supposed to be.
Even lyrically, I think about certain lines that I say on my new single, which is called “All Day,” that usually Jay would say, but Jay’s not on there. So I say, All day, nigga, it’s Ye, nigga. Shopping for the winter, it’s just May, nigga. Ball so hard, man, this shit cray, nigga. You ain’t getting money unless you got eight figures. Right?
People definitely weren’t getting water first on Yeezus. I do fight with myself to say, “Keep fighting.” But also, you know, you can’t win every single fight. It’s a long war, and if you’re out there trying to, like, blow up every single building, you won’t win the war.
When I was sitting and trying to do a collaboration with the Gap, in the meeting, when they’re like, “No, because you’re a celebrity, and you have a bad reputation, and you don’t know anything about clothing, so we don’t want to do this”—in that meeting, there’s no extra single that I could have done that could have got me that deal. There’s no extra Grammy that I could have won that could have made it more real. And that’s the reason why I had to express the way I feel. Which all rhymed just right there.
But Yeezus was extremely purposeful. And what came from Yeezus: Paparazzi are nicer to me. The entire fashion industry is nicer to me. I do have a collaboration coming out. Young designers that would go and work at a house now look and say, “Wow, maybe we could potentially work at Donda. Maybe we could work for Kanye. Maybe that’s a real thing.” Because designers that are geared up to only want to work at a French fashion house are completely under the perception that it wouldn’t be cool to work for a celebrity.
On his upcoming, currently untitled, 8th studio album:
I hope I can get one of these songs out in the next couple of weeks, just to have something up and running. But I think most likely September. I go back and forth. Like, should it be September or should it be October? Should it be November? When Beyoncé was working on her last album, she took a while. I was thinking it could somehow come out in June, like Yeezus, and just kill it for the summer. But then I’m like, I have to work on Adidas and be with my child.
This time three years ago, here at the Mercer, working on “Niggas in Paris,” at this time in early June, it was apparent it was still not finished. I had the “married at the mall” line, we had “that shit cray,” Jay had his verse… Jay finished his verse. He always finishes, and my shit is always kind of open. Like, “Okay, now I’ve got the Will Ferrell sample, so I need to say something that finishes the verse. But people have to not know what it means.” [laughs] So it’s like problem-solving to get to the point where you’re saying, “going gorillas.” It’s difficult sometimes.
But now, for the new album, one new thing could change everything. I had an idea of the way I wanted to do the album. And then I got a new song that’s so good that the album has to be balanced against it. This song is a song that can be in the club like “Don’t Like” or “Niggas in Paris.” Whereas before I was working on the album and I had these beautiful songs, they were just more songs. They weren’t saying, “Okay, tuck your whole summer in.” They were just saying, “Hey, I’m a great musician, I make these beautiful songs, and they have all this meaning, and nobody can make anything that means this much.”
When I work on an album, it’s fun at certain times. There’s some accomplishments, and sometimes there’s a bit of frustration. And it’s usually like a nine-month process, right? This is a multi-lifetime process that we have now embarked on. Meaning starting now, you’re just starting to see a glimmer of what the idea of West will mean. So right now, at this age and with this visibility and with the skill sets that Kim is now giving me, I think I have a good chance of success in building something that has longevity, high integrity, high success rate, and is very fulfilling, not only for me creatively but also in adding fulfillment to people’s lives. Adding ease. Adding wonder. Adding magic.