Kanye West opens up in a rare 2013 interview, which just surfaced today.
Originally taped for Stones Throw’s Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton documentary, the 22-minute interview focuses on J Dilla and Madlib, but also on the overlap between fashion, hip-hop, and the film industry.
The unvaulted interview, released in full by Hypebeast, also allows Kanye to reveal more of himself. “I’m lucky because I’m from Chicago and because I’m from Chicago, I don’t give a fuck,” he says. “I care, but don’t give a fuck. That’s what it is. Someone from Chicago is very sincere. They got their heart like that, but they don’t give a fuck about what anybody else is saying, as long as it’s from the heart. That’s what it is to be from Chicago or be from the Midwest.”
During the Q&A, Yeezy even examines his career’s triumphs as they pertain to J Dilla’s legacy. “I’m extremely spoiled and extremely blessed to be able to do songs like ‘Jesus Walks’ and for them to work,” he says. “Songs like ‘Can’t Tell Me Nothing.’ For me to be able to keep it real and make money off of being real is an extremely blessed situation, but it’s also a responsibility. It means you’ve been given an opportunity to be an inspiration and to be in the lineage of what Dilla did, and Mos Def and Kweli and all that, it’s like, you can never forget that. You can never forget ‘The Message,’ what hip-hop is about, what Public Enemy is about. Fuck a Maybach. You know? Respect to the Maybach family because I know them, but I just feel like people are controlled with money and perception and they’re very fearful.”
Elsewhere, the conversation finds Mr. West exploring his underground roots, his appreciation for Madlib, and “No More Parties in LA,” which was finally released three years after the interview took place. Watch the full interview and read highlights from the conversation below.
On J Dilla: “I met J Dilla at Common’s crib, just down the street, here in L.A. They were staying together. I just remember looking at that MPC, and thinking, ‘Those drums came out of that MPC,’ like, arguably the best drums in hip-hop history. I just remember just vibing with him and having so much respect and just wanting to work with him more…We only focused on music. Me and Common would go play basketball, go to the movies, and hang, and all that, but me and Dilla just focused on tracks. He had that organic feel, but still the sonics would break through, and he would give you that warm sound that could still cut through speakers. It’s like he was making Quincy Jones production sessions inside of his MPC. Most producers that can make music that knocks, which is like 90 percent of producers can make things that knock, especially with Fruity Loops and all that, the sound was usually colder. My sound is known for being colorful and warm. But sometimes, I’d be challenged on my mixes. That everything didn’t knock as much as I wanted it to. Maybe by the time it came out, it did, but people didn’t realize I did 27 mixes to get to that point. But Dilla, every time, that kick just sat so perfectly, and his swings, his shuffles on his beats, his snare choices, the way he sampled shit, it sounded like, and felt like drugs. His music sounded like good pussy.”
On fashion & hip-hop: “Hip-hop producers are very similar to fashion designers and that’s one of the reasons why I’m so interested in fashion, because it’s the same thing. People sample. They’ll take a military jacket and modernize it like I’ll take an Otis Redding sample and modernize it. Texturally, what what Margiela was to fashion is really similar to what Dilla was to music…As hip-hop producers, we’re all designers in a way. So perhaps, maybe, I was like the Marc Jacobs of hip-hop and he was more like the Margiela of hip-hop. Pete Rock was the Jean Paul Gaultier of hip-hop, and Q-Tip was Galliano.”
On directors & hip-hop: “You can make that same comparison to like the Cohen Brothers or Tarantino, the way they put textures in. Tarantino is like Wu-Tang, to me, so I always do these ways that creatives parallel.”
On Motown & Stax: “I’ve got a special place in my heart for anyone from the Midwest. It’s in the middle of America and so close to Motown, which was my favorite. My favorite record label of all time is Motown. That era of music was my favorite. [But] my favorite artist is James Brown. I also love Stax. To me, Motown and Stax were kind of like Bad Boy and Ruff Ryders at [their] height. You have Biggie and DMX. Or you can add Roc-A-Fella to that mix.”
On Jaylib & Radio: “Dilla perhaps might have been a bit more of a scientist, perfectionist, and Madlib might’ve been a bit more crazy, M.F. Doom, O.D.B. with it. That combination, that juxtaposition, was what made it so impactful. Also, the fact that that is there, and my respect to that, and the fact that I came from that underground place, that is the balance, that is the anchor for College Dropout to work. It has to be anchored in an entire community of people that believed in a certain type of anti radio music. Radio has a connotation because it’s so formulaic. People figure out the formula that works for radio. So few people are fighting against it. People that are fighting against it don’t have the opportunity. They get compressed. That’s when you get things like the American Music Awards. When you see it, you’re like, ‘Why the fuck would I watch this?'”
On Dilla’s Death: “It’s extremely shocking. As an artist, we look at it more selfishly than anything. When Biggie passed, when Dilla passed, because as artists, we give of ourselves. He was giving the world so much, Biggie was giving the world so much, ‘Pac was giving the world so much. They were giving all they had so to lose that, we lost another point of inspiration, and it’s amazing. How could we lose Biggie, ‘Pac, Dilla, Steve Jobs, Michael Jackson? It almost makes you feel like the devil is winning, like the system is winning and shit. All these people who fought so hard…That’s what gives me my fight, just thinking I have to work on behalf of Dilla. When I put a weird ass, this Jamaican sample, it works at first, but it’s not until I put [a sound effect on it] that it sounds like art or it sounds slightly wrong. Now we go to the radio, now that it’s wrong, motherfucker. Play this. Play this 5-minute song that completely fucks up your programming. Play this. That’s the best respect we can pay to great artists that have inspired us so much, to never sell out. We gotta fight. We gotta make music that, if Dilla was alive, he’d like this, or if Biggie was alive, would he respect what we’re doing now? When we named the song ‘Ni**as in Paris,’ it was so brash. If the Grammys don’t nominate that as Song of the Year, then fuck ’em. We keep the shit hip-hop and keep it moving.”
On Madlib: “When we were doing Dark Twisted Fantasy, I had this Madlib joint and the song was ‘No More Parties in LA.’ And RZA told me to not do the song because L.A. ni**as might take it the wrong way and shit. The sample for it was the same shit I used for ‘New God Flow.’ I used that ‘Shake that body.’ I was like, ‘This is the most amazing sample and also Ghostface got that from an old school record also so it was good just to vibe. I went in and met with Doom and Madlib had this whole record set up in another room. Kweli came through that night. It’s just those moments where you meet with these people and understand that this is a culture and lifestyle and inspiration for so many and it’s not like a fad. Literally, when I was 14, I was considered weird coming out of Chicago because I was just hip-hop as fuck. It feels amazing when you can walk into these spaces and live inside the creative zone, where people keep it to that level of purity…I’m gonna go back to that song — ‘No More Parties in LA’ — I’m going to do the record.”