Kanye recently sat with “12 Years as a Slave” director Steve McQueen to discuss his year in press,almost losing his life, the Grammys,’Yeezus’, and pretty much everything he spoke about in the Zane Lowe interview this past october. McQueen also directed the high talked about ‘Bound 2’ video that Ye filmed with his fiancé Kim Kardashian.
On his art background:
“I’m a trained fine artist. I went to art school from the time I was 5 years old. I was, like, a prodigy out of Chicago,”
“I’d been in national competitions from the age of 14. I got three scholarships to art schools … and I went to the American Academy of Art. So the joke that I’ve actually played on everyone is that the entire time, I’ve actually just been a fine artist. I just make sonic paintings, and these sonic paintings have led me to become whatever people think of when you say ‘Kanye West …’
On the car accident:
MCQUEEN: Let’s go deep very quickly then: Talk to me about who you were and who you’ve become—both before and after your accident, the car crash. Who are those two people, Kanye before and Kanye after? Are they different people? Was there a seismic change in who you were after you nearly lost your life?
WEST: I think I started to approach time in a different way after the accident. Before I was more willing to give my time to people and things that I wasn’t as interested in because somehow I allowed myself to be brainwashed into being forced to work with other people or on other projects that I had no interest in. So simply, the accident gave me the opportunity to do what I really wanted to do. I was a music producer, and everyone was telling me that I had no business becoming a rapper, so it gave me the opportunity to tell everyone, “Hey, I need some time to recover.” But during that recovery period, I just spent all my time honing my craft and making The College Dropout. Without that period, there would have been so many phone calls and so many people putting pressure on me from every direction—so many people I somehow owed something to—and I would have never had the time to do what I wanted to.
MCQUEEN: So basically, it allowed you to focus, and you realized at a certain point that it was now or never—and that you had to do it now.
WEST: Yes. It gave me perspective on life—that it was really now or 100 percent never. I think that people don’t make the most of their lives. So, you know, for me, right now it seems like it’s the beginning of me rattling the cage, of making some people nervous. And people are strategically trying to do things to mute my voice in some way or make me look like I’m a lunatic or pinpoint the inaccuracies in my grammar to somehow take away from the overall message of what I’m saying …
On the Grammys:
MCQUEEN: It actually stunned me to find out that you’ve never won Best Album at the Grammys. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, but it’s kind of odd, considering what you’ve done in music over the last decade.
WEST: I wasn’t even nominated for Best Album this year. This year, I only got two nominations by the Grammys: for Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song.
MCQUEEN: Well, that’s my problem with all this stuff. It’s ghettoization—and I’m talking about country as much as rap. It’s all just music. And I’ve got a problem with people kind of trying to categorize it, where it’s either good or it’s bad. I find it all odd, to be honest. Have you ever been nominated for Best Album?
WEST: I’ve been nominated for Best Album maybe three times. I made Dark Fantasy and Watch the Throne less than a year apart and neither of them got nominated. “Ni**as in Paris” [off Watch the Throne] wasn’t nominated for Best Song either. But let’s go into the fact that I have the most Grammys of any 36-year-old or 40-year-old or whatever, and I’ve never won a Grammy outside of the Rap or R&B categories. “Jesus Walks” lost Best Song to some other song; “Ni**as in Paris” wasn’t nominated in that category. But those are the labels that people want to put on you. People see you in a certain way, so if I was doing a clothing line that had rock tees in it or whatever we just did for the “Yeezus” tour, which sells $400,000 of stuff in two days … You know, I like Shame  as much as 12 Years a Slave, but Hollywood likes the idea of a black director directing 12 Years a Slave more than it likes the idea of a black director directing Shame.
MCQUEEN: Talk to me a little bit about Yeezus. The album before that one, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, was a phenomenal success. Did that wear on your mind when you went in to make Yeezus?
WEST: Yeah! So I just had to throw it all in the trash. I had to not follow any of the rules because there was no way to match up to the previous album. Dark Fantasy was the first time you heard that collection of sonic paintings in that way. So I had to completely destroy the landscape and start with a new story. Dark Fantasy was the fifth installment of a collection that included the four albums before it. It’s kind of the “Luke, I am your father” moment. Yeezus, though, was the beginning of me as a new kind of artist. Stepping forward with what I know about architecture, about classicism, about society, about texture, about synesthesia—the ability to see sound—and the way everything is everything and all these things combine, and then starting from scratch with Yeezus … That’s one of the reasons why I didn’t want to use the same formula of starting the album with a track like “Blood on the Leaves,” and having that Nina Simone sample up front that would bring everyone in, using postmodern creativity where you kind of lean on something that people are familiar with and comfortable with to get their attention. I actually think the most uncomfortable sound on Yeezus is the sound that the album starts with, which is the new version of what would have been called radio static. It’s the sonic version of what internet static would be—that’s how I would describe that opening. It’s Daft Punk sound. It was just like that moment of being in a restaurant and ripping the tablecloth out from under all the glasses. That’s what “On Sight” does sonically.
MCQUEEN: So Yeezus was about throwing away what people want you to do—the so-called “success”—so you could move on to something else.
WEST: It’s the only way that I can survive. The risk for me would be in not taking one—that’s the only thing that’s really risky for me. I live inside, and I’ve learned how to swim through backlash, or maintain through the current of a negative public opinion and create from that and come through it and spring forth to completely surprise everyone—to satisfy all believers and annihilate all doubters. And at this point, it’s just fun.
Full story and photos via of Interview magazine