“We still haven’t seen a video as good as that video. Like five years later, we still haven’t seen a video that good,” says 36-year-old rapper Kanye West, referring to his controversial interruption of Taylor Swift’s speech during the 2009 MTV VMAs where he exclaimed that Beyoncé should have won the award for “Best Female Video” for “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It).” In the last five years, West has had a beautiful daughter, met “goddess” and “love of his life” Kim Kardashian, started the “product experience and design company” DONDA in honor of his mother, and swam successfully through the backlash of that moment that shifted society’s perspective on him to the negative.
During an interview with AMP Radio’s Michelle, West explained that he’s not “fearless.” He just has courage. “I have fear but I overcome my fear,” he explained. “I know how to swim through backlash. I can tread water through backlash…If anything, that’s all giving me power. Negative. Positive. It’s all energy. And I can use energy.”
In the days following Miley Cyrus’ much-debated performance at this year’s VMA awards, West was one of the first people to contact the 20-year-old pop star and he calls her a true “artist.” Comparing his later performances like “Runaway” to some of his earlier ones, West says that Cyrus probably was trying to do too much. “The more experience you get, the more you simplify,” said West. If Cyrus was doing her performance creatively from a “DONDA perspective,” West would have wanted her to twerk more. “I just think her entire experience should have been twerking.” On the other side of the spectrum, West praises Lorde and other singer-songwriters like that for their creative takes on modern culture.
West infuses every part of his conversation with the DONDA perspective. He seems more passionate about being able to have creative input in all facets of the world than in the one facet he is most well-known for: music. West says DONDA is an example of “what happens when you get amazing thinkers in a room together and eliminate what they normally do,” when you get rid of the “clichés that they slip into.”
Although West says that he’s struggled to get backing from big corporations, brands, or fashion houses, that it’s all starting to come together thanks to the grace of God. West has been given “free will and creative space” and DONDA has given him a platform to express himself positively. Despite people’s perceptions of Kanye West and his infamous ego, West says that DONDA’s not “ego based in any way.”
“The most genius thing about the way I create is to create with other geniuses,” explained West. One recent example includes West going to Tyler the Creator for advice on something artistic. He said that Tyler is an “artist, innovator, and a good mentor.”
“He helped me out with some of the merch,” said West, talking about his highly-stylized Yeezus tour merch. “He’s so talented and understands things because he went to film school that I don’t.” Kanye would e-mail him and ask him if he could help him make videos, naming Tyler’s banned Mountain Dew commercial as an example of great art. “You know what should be banned? Stuff that’s wack,” asserts West. “The world is controversial. The world is classist. The world is racist.”
According to West, he doesn’t take advice from anyone older than him, especially the corporate heads that try to instill their antiquated values on his fresh ideas. Some of the best creative concepts are from young people who are relevant right now. West bemoans that these great thinkers are subjugated to paying their dues for twenty years before they are given the chance to give their creativity back to the world. At that point, they are no longer relevant. Naming Howard Huges and Steve Jobs are inspirations, even calling Jobs a “god,” West thinks that most of the creative thinkers are in Silicon Valley. Hollywood and the music industry is too afraid to think outside of the box.
Part of West’s passion is that he mixes creativity with the fight like an athlete. Athletes are encouraged to fight, but creative people are shot down and “these are the people with the ideas.” West, in turn, calls himself a “creative genius” because he doesn’t know any other way to explain his power. He just wants to make “life more awesome” and imbue some of his blessings on the rest of the universe. He has his dream girl, family, and friends around him, and he wants to get to the point where he can have a strong creative output but still be at home as much as possible to spend time with his daughter North and fiance Kim Kardashian.
He’s even talking about being her soccer coach and designing uniforms (and a chic minivan) to class-up the soccer mom experience. For him fashion is not about fashion in that haute couture, highbrow sense; that’s “too high a skill-set.” Fashion is what makes sense in daily life, about “being more awesome with the blessing and the position” that West was put in.
Wearing a hoodie and jeans in the studio, West says. “I want to stop using the term fashion because Eve made Adam bite an apple and since then it’s been illegal to be naked. I’m helping the people follow the law in style.” West is also trying to follow the quintessential American dream and calls his engagement to Kardashian as All-American (after joking that anything is possible since he was getting married to Kardashian and wasn’t an NBA player): “It seemed so all American. I love being American and I love family. I love having a family and I feel so blessed and I feel like God gave me exactly what I wanted so now I have to do the right thing in God’s eyes also. Just follow what God wants me to do.”
It’s clear that while West is, according to him, not rich enough to start the fashion line he dreams of, that he’s rich in many other things. He says that while he may not be the richest or best-looking man on the planet, he’s the most relevant 36-year-old voice in fashion and culture today. “I got a trillion dollars worth of voice,” asserted West. “I’m the most relevant voice on the planet Earth,” he said later, “So don’t try to tell me anything…help other people.”
“Every time I talk it is a crack in the matrix,” said West passionately. “ Nobody is going to fire me tomorrow so I can say anything I want to say and luckily I want to say positive things and I want to make my momma happy and I want to do God’s work.” For him, God’s work is much like what God would do himself: create cities, create gyms, build apartment complexes, have a part in the mostly theoretical Hyperloop train. In fact, West cites God as his number one inspiration. God is the “greatest creator of all time. “
“If I’m being creative, my greatest inspiration is God,” explains West. “You know, he made our universe. If you gotta push hard to create on a more major scale, nothing is more major than what God has created.”
As evidenced by the million ideas coming out of his mouth in a brief thirty minute interview, rather than thinking he is God, West seems like he’s just trying to keep up with God. The creator whom West holds in such high regard was a little rebellious too, creating humans with the free will to do whatever they want. For West, he’s a similar visionary. Everyone has the free will to love or hate him. “React how you want,” he says. “Any energy you’ve got is good energy.”
–Nadia Noir, 97.1 AMP Radio Los Angeles