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Kanye West: 'I'm the Number One Living and Breathing Rock Star'

Rapper explains the story behind writing 'I Am a God'

June 24, 2013 3:05 PM ET
Kanye west
Kanye west
Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Kanye West has drawn fire for the presumption people have associated with the song "I Am a God" from his new album Yeezus, but the rapper had his reasons for writing the tune. In a new profile with W, West said a Paris Fashion Week snub last fall inspired the defiant cut. West, a sometime fashion designer, had been invited to a hotly hyped runway show on the condition that he didn't attend any other shows.

"So the next day I went to the studio with Daft Punk, and I wrote 'I Am a God' . . . 'Cause it's like, Yo! Nobody can tell me where I can and can't go. Man, I'm the Number One living and breathing rock star," West said, comparing himself to Guns N' Roses frontman Axl Rose, late Doors singer Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix. "You can't say that you love music and then say that Kanye West can't come to your show! To even think they could tell me where I could and couldn't go is just ludicrous. It's blasphemous – to rock & roll, and to music."

The New Immortals: Kanye West

"I made that song because I am a god," he later said with a laugh. "I don't think there's much more explanation. I'm not going to sit here and defend shit. That shit is rock & roll, man. That shit is rap music. I am a god. Now what?"

The 36-year-old rapper showed a more self-aware side, too. "God's little practical joke on me – as an intellect who doesn't like to read a lot – is like, I'll say some super philosophical shit, but I'll say it the wrong way," West said, laughing. "I'll use the wrong word, so it goes from being really special to completely retarded."

Still, West is aware of his narcissistic leanings. "On one end, I try to scale it back," he said. "Because I don't want to close any of the doors needed to create the best product possible. But my ego is my drug. My drug is, 'I'm better than all you other motherfuckers. Kiss my ass!'"

Yeezus has received positive reviews, with many critics noting West's propensity to change and explore new sounds with each new album. The progression is natural for West. "I'm not comfortable with comfort," he said. "I'm only comfortable when I'm in a place where I'm constantly learning and growing."

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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