Kanye West: 'I Don't Have One Regret'

Rapper talks about 'Yeezus,' family and career in a wide-ranging interview

June 12, 2013 8:35 AM ET
Kanye West
Kanye West
Shareif Ziyadat/FilmMagic

Kanye West has no regrets. In a rare and far-reaching interview with The New York Times, the oft-controversial rapper talked about his new album, Yeezus, compared himself to Michael Jordan and Steve Jobs, expressed frustration for not receiving the recognition he believes he is due and pinpointed the moment he knew he was "going to be a big star."

And he would have done all of it all over again. "I don't have one regret," he said.

He was referring specifically to the 2009 incident when he interrupted Taylor Swift onstage while she was giving an acceptance speech at the MTV Video Music Awards, but the concept seems to apply throughout West's life.

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"I think what Kanye West is going to mean is something similar to what Steve Jobs means," West said. "I am undoubtedly, you know, Steve of Internet, downtown, fashion, culture. Period. By a long jump. I honestly feel that because Steve has passed, you know, it's like when Biggie passed and Jay-Z was allowed to become Jay-Z."

He continued, "I've been connected to the most culturally important albums of the past four years, the most influential artists of the past 10 years," a trend he aims to continue with Yeezus. West collaborated with Daft Punk, RZA, Chief Keef, Hudson Mohawke, Justin Vernon and Rick Rubin on the album, which is due out Tuesday. West said he sought out Rubin because of the producer's minimalist aesthetic, which West wanted after building bigger and broader sounds on his previous albums.

"I'm still just a kid learning about minimalism, and he's a master of it," West said. "It's just really such a blessing, to be able to work with him. I want to say that after working with Rick, it humbled me to realize why I hadn't – even though I produced Watch the Throne; even though I produced [My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy] – why I hadn't won Album of the Year [Grammys] yet."

It's an omission that rankles West, despite his having won 21 Grammys in his career so far. The rapper said he often feels as though he's fighting for simple fairness, for himself and the artists coming up after him. "Anytime I've had a big thing that's ever pierced and cut across the Internet, it was a fight for justice. Justice. And when you say justice, it doesn't have to be war," West said. "Justice could just be clearing a path for people to dream properly. It could be clearing a path to make it fair within the arena that I play. 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.'"

West said he was keen for his Chicago roots to show through on Yeezus. "I knew that I wanted to have a deep Chicago influence on this album, and I would listen to like, old Chicago house," he said. "I think that even 'Black Skinhead' could border on house, 'On Sight' sounds like acid house, and then 'I Am a God' obviously sounds, like, super house."

The rapper also touched briefly on his impending parenthood with pregnant girlfriend Kim Kardashian – "I just don't want to talk to America about my family," he said. "Like, this is my baby. This isn't America's baby" – and recalled when he realized his people would soon recognize him in public.

"I knew when I wrote the line 'light-skinned friend look like Michael Jackson' I was going to be a big star," he said, referring to a lyric from his song "Slow Jamz." "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."

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