Kanye West says the darndest things. On his unrelenting quest to become his own species of hip-hop artist, he has established a reputation as irreverent, controversial, and unapologetic. Though he makes time for public grandstanding by claiming a US President “doesn’t care about black people” or interrupting the VMAs, he remains mostly quiet when it comes to one-on-one conversations with the press.
To promote his new album Yeezus, West broke his relative silence to speak with Jon Catamanica for the New York Times. The full interview is filled with tantalizing quotes, third-person self-references, comparisons to geniuses, and over-the-moon narcissism. Here is some of what West had to say, largely without context.
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.”
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.
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”
I am so credible and so influential and so relevant that I will change things.
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.
I’m like, the anti-celebrity, and my music comes from a place of being anti.
If you don’t make Christmas presents, meaning making something that’s so emotionally connected to people, don’t talk to me.
If you walk into an old man’s house, they’re not giving nothing. They’re at 100 percent exactly what they want to do. I would hear stories about Steve Jobs and feel like he was at 100 percent exactly what he wanted to do, but I’m sure even a Steve Jobs has compromised.
I love the fact that I’m bad at [things], you know what I’m saying? I’m forever the 35-year-old 5-year-old. I’m forever the 5-year-old of something.
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.
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.
“Dark Fantasy” was my long, backhanded apology. You know how people give a backhanded compliment? It was a backhanded apology. It was like, all these raps, all these sonic acrobatics. I was like: “Let me show you guys what I can do, and please accept me back. You want to have me on your shelves.”
I was always considered this crazy hothead kid, but I would always just go and just really break bread with someone who I respected. I will completely bow to anybody I respect.
I mean, I am my father’s son. I’m my mother’s child. That’s how I was raised.
I would go to museums and just like, the Louvre would have a furniture exhibit, and I visited it like, five times, even privately. And I would go see actual Corbusier homes in real life and just talk about, you know, why did they design it?
I feel like I don’t want to be inside anymore. Like, I uninvited myself.
Yeah, kill self. That’s all I have to say. Kill self.
The longer your ‘gevity is, the more confidence you build. The idea of Kanye and vanity are like, synonymous. But I’ve put myself in a lot of places where a vain person wouldn’t put themselves in. Like what’s vanity about wearing a kilt?
I want the world to be better! All I want is positive! All I want is dopeness! Why would you want to control that?
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 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.