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Kanye West on the Taylor Swift Incident, Tupac, the Grammys and More

Rapper opens up to '12 Years a Slave' director Steve McQueen in sprawling new interview

January 21, 2014 11:25 AM ET
Kanye West
Kanye West
Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic

Kanye West was characteristically blunt and self-aware as he addressed the ups and downs of his career in a sprawling chat in Interview, telling 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen it was "God, sex and alcohol" that helped him navigate the negative backlash after he upstaged Taylor Swift at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards.

"I don't have an addictive personality, so that means that I can lean on what might be someone else's vice just enough to make it through to the next day," West continued. "You know, just enough religion, a half-cup of alcohol with some ice in it and a nice chaser, and then . . . " To which McQueen added, "A lot of sex."

Where Does Kanye West's 'Yeezus' Rank on Our List of 2013's Best Albums?

West also spoke about being in tune with his artistic ambition and spirit, pointing to old Tupac interviews in which the rapper spoke simply about how he "wanted the thugs to be recognized," a mission somewhat realized, for example, in the stunning success of Jay Z.

"But my mission is very different from Tupac's – and I'm not Tupac," West continued. "But I think that when I compare myself to Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, Howard Hughes or whoever, it's because I'm trying to give people a little bit of context to the possibilities that are in front of me, as opposed to putting me in the rap category that the Grammys has put me in. In no way do I want to be the next any one of them. But I am the first me."

West added that he encounters a similar kind of marginalization at the Grammys – where this year his latest record, Yeezus, notched just two nominations, for Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song for "New Slaves" – as he does in his other endeavors, such as his forays into fashion. As he's stated, or shouted, in previous interviews, bringing his various ideas to fruition hasn't come easy, despite his towering success. And while he said his goals as an artist have never necessarily been about race, West noted that roadblocks spring up because of the color of his skin.

"[P]eople forget that Michael Jackson had to fight to get on MTV because he was considered to be an urban artist," he said. "This was, like, the greatest pop star of all time, and they told him, 'We're not gonna play your video because it doesn't fit our format.'"

Still, West has no intention of letting anything slow him down in the future. He's certain that he'll be able to find the success he's had as a musician in whatever field he chooses.

"I'm like a broadcaster for futurism, for dreamers, for people who believe in themselves," West said. "We've been taught since day one to stop believing in our own dreams. We've had the confidence beaten out of us since day one, and then sold back to us through branding and diamond rings and songs and melodies – through these lines that we have to walk inside of so as to not break the uniform or look silly or be laughed at. So I hope that there are people out there laughing. Laugh loud, please. Laugh until your lungs give out, because I will have the last laugh."

West is reportedly already at work on a follow-up to Yeezus, teaming with previous collaborators, producers Rick Rubin and Q-Tip, for a record that may see release this summer. He's also set to reboot his Yeezus tour – which Billboard named the second most successful of the year, falling only behind the Paul McCartney juggernaut – with a string of East Coast dates this February. 

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Song Stories

“Don't Dream It's Over”

Crowded House | 1986

Early in the sessions for Crowded House's debut album, the band and producer Mitchell Froom were still feeling each other out, and at one point Froom substituted session musicians for the band's Paul Hester and Nick Seymour. "At the time it was a quite threatening thing," Neil Finn told Rolling Stone. "The next day we recorded 'Don't Dream It's Over,' and it had a particularly sad groove to it — I think because Paul and Nick had faced their own mortality." As for the song itself, "It was just about on the one hand feeling kind of lost, and on the other hand sort of urging myself on — don't dream it's over," Finn explained.

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