Before the Grammy nominations were announced in December, Kanye West said, "If I don't win Album of the Year, I'm gonna really have a problem with that." West seemed afraid that his televised comments – most notably, "George Bush doesn't care about black people" – would land him in hot water with the nomination committee. But the morning he learned of his eight Grammy nods (for his second album, Late Registration, as well as collaborations with Common and Alicia Keys), West was feeling better. "Before, everything was so scary because it was so great," says West. "I acted like I needed to protect myself, because what if this is not around forever? Now I'm more comfortable with just being here. I can chill out for a little bit."
Are you happy with eight nominations?
Yeah, I am.
You didn't expect more?
No, I was thinking about eight. That's what me and my friends calculated. We had this feeling about eight. It's fine. I could've been nominated for Producer of the Year. I produced Mariah, Common, John [Legend] and my album. That could possibly constitute a nomination.
What's your first memory of seeing the Grammys?
I remember Michael Jackson picking up Emmanuel Lewis and saying [in a high voice], "My inspiration is this man!" [Laughs] I remember Fiona Apple's speech and when ODB got up there.
What performances have knocked you out?
I liked when Train did "Drops of Jupiter" [in 2002].
Yeah. That was the first time I'd heard that song, and I was like, "Oh, shit, this is great!" The performance was that good.
TV Grammy people like to pair up performers – who would you like to get onstage with?
I hate that shit.
You just want to be up there by yourself, huh?
I'd wanna perform with Jamie [Foxx] or Adam Levine. But I don't like the way that the Grammys team up the old and the new.
What was the best Grammy party you went to last year?
I haven't been to one that was as over the top as a Puff Daddy or Jermaine Dupri birthday party. Maybe I just haven't been to the right Grammy party yet.
Mariah is gonna be tough to beat this year.
I think a lot of people are gonna get behind Mariah because of the comeback story. Not to discredit her at all, but I think I deserve it over her, because "Gold Digger" sounds like nothing you've heard before. "Diamonds [From Sierra Leone]" doesn't sound like something you've heard before. And I stand by that statement, and I'm gonna say that to the end. And statements like that could be the very reason why she possibly could win over me. The thing that we tried to do with this album – we weren't trying to just make good records, we were really trying to push the envelope and change music.
When you win, who will you thank first?
I've got a couple of bullet points, but I haven't started practicing my speech yet.
This story is from the February 9th, 2006 issue of Rolling Stone.