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Kanye West Talks 'Breaking Down Walls' on 'Seth Meyers'

The rapper also performed a career-spanning, seven-song medley in five minutes

February 26, 2014 9:05 AM ET
Kanye West
Kanye West
Peter Kramer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

In five minutes, Kanye West gave viewers of Late Night With Seth Meyers a history lesson in Kanye West last night, performing a medley of seven songs stretching back to his debut, The College Dropout. His performance, viewable here, featured "Jesus Walks," "Touch the Sky," "Stronger," "Heartless," "All of the Lights," "Mercy" and "Black Skinhead." Full of fiery vocal delivery, seamless segues and a generous dose of flashing strobe lights, it was a conscious display of versatility following an interview with Meyers that focused mostly on just how versatile West is, with topics ranging from the rapper's forthcoming foray into fashion to how he's like Michelangelo (the artist, not the turtle).

Kanye West's 15 Best Quotes of 2013

One of the funnier exchanges about versatility happened when Meyers asked West about omitting curse words during his many performances on Saturday Night Live. The rapper said it's just part of the job of spreading his message. "Dropping cursing is the least of my worries creatively," West said. "I feel like it's a necessity for an artist like me, a very punk, forward artist to be on SNL that many times. That's why I come and do talk shows so you guys have an [beep] in the matrix every now and then."

Beyond the bleeps, West said that he wants to get his message across via multiple formats, not just music. Speaking on his fight to break into the fashion world, he said that people talk to him in ways that they must have addressed past trailblazers. "It's like, 'No Kanye, you can't run faster,'" he said. "'This is the limit that was made. The walls that Michael Jackson broke down for you, and Jay Z and Russell Simmons broke down for you, this is the end of it.' I'm in the process of breaking down walls that people will understand 10 years from now, 20 years from now."

Furthermore, West explained how he interprets his own creations differently than most people. By his perception, his art is multimedia. "For me, I give you paintings, sonic paintings," he said. "I have synesthesia; I can see sound. So when I do fashion I just want to give you sculptures.

"It's like Michelangelo," he continued. "The Church wanted him to paint, and he wanted to do sculptures. The difficult thing for me that everyone doesn't understand is I just want to use marble and make sculptures. But due to the fact that I'm a celebrity and all these things, they're like, 'No, you can't do this. You have to do this kind of [fashion] line.' It's kind of the first of its kind. That's the reason why there's been a lot of confusion as to why I want to do it, to why he's just so frustrated about it. Like, 'Why doesn't he just do music?' It's an overall creative expression."

But that's not to say that West can't have fun with his art. When Meyers asked him if he plans on softening his approach now that he is a father, he gave a funny, dry answer. "I think artistic, intellectual kid-friendly songs," West said. He summed it up with this comparison: "If you sat down and talked to Quentin Tarantino, [and asked] like, 'Are you going to make G-rated movies?' It's Quentin Tarantino."

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Song Stories

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

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