The BBC just released the first of four segments of an intimate conversation Kanye West had with interviewer Zane Lowe. The interview started typically enough, with West remarking on his 2013 album “Yeezus” — on its recording process, his aims to subvert mainstream radio, how “Blood on the Leaves” was once intended to be the opening track. He didn’t want to pander to the styles that dominate today’s Top 40, so as to allow the album’s influence to endure.
But Lowe pressed on, and struck a nerve with West in discussing the societal barriers West faces in his art.
Some call them ‘Ye’s drawn out speeches “rants,” but Kanye calls them “motivational speeches.” “I got to a point that Michael Jackson did not break down,” he says. “I have reached the glass ceiling, as a creative person, as a celebrity… I’ve been at it for 10 years and I look around, and I say, ‘Wait a second, there’s no one around here who looks like me, and if they are, they’re quiet as fuck.’ That means, wait a second, now we’re seriously in a civil rights movement.”
Kanye drops a couple hints that breaking into architecture and such has been on his mind lately, but his forays into high fashion get him into a controlled rage at interview’s end. “Rap is the new radio,” he announces, before continuing:
“Where’s the culture at? I’m sitting in the middle of it, whether I’m at a dinner with Anna Wintour or at a listening session with Pusha, or me and Virgil (Abolh, West’s adviser) are in Rome giving our designs to Fendi and over and over getting knocked down. We brought the leather jogging pants six years ago to Fendi and they said ‘No.’ How many motherfukers you done seen with the leather jogging pants? So when I see [Saint Laurent creative director] Hedi Slimane and it’s all like, ‘This is my take on the world.’ Yeah, he’s got some nice $5,000 jeans in there… There’s some nice ones, some good shit here and there. But we culture. Rap is the new rock stars.”
“It’s been like that for a minute,” Lowe adds.
“It’s been like that for a minute, Hedi Slimane,” he yells back. “It’s been like that for a minute. We the new rock stars and I’m the biggest of all of them!”
It’s hard to argue with West. Given hip-hop’s ubiquitous place in worldwide culture and his place on its throne, he sees himself as a cultural leader with the responsibility of tearing down the barriers before it.