With the multiplatinum success of his debut album, The College Dropout, Kanye West, 27, had one hell of a freshman year in the music biz. Well, not exactly a freshman year — he’s been scoring major hits since 2001 as a producer for Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, Ludacris and others. “Kan the Louis Vuitton Don” — as he likes to be called — proved his utter domination by ruling the charts, the radio waves and MTV He checked in with us on the day he received ten Grammy nominations, more than any other artist this year.
How much of 2004 do you remember?
Every moment I had to soak it in, I’d stop and soak it in.
Can you describe your year in five words?
Overwhelming, unpredictable, sensational, confrontational and inspirational. Can I give one more? Powerful.
How many bottles of Cristal did you pop in 2004?
Only about ten. I don’t particularly like champagne that much. I like Hennessy and Coke — I’d say I ordered that well over a hundred times.
Is that more or less times than you’ve had sex in 2004?
Hmm… I’m not really that sure. I’d prefer not to say.
Did you flip out at any point?
I used to flip out all the time. I remember flipping out when Rolling Stone only gave College Dropout three-and-a-half stars. Now, every magazine is calling it the album of the year. I bet that won’t get printed.
What’s your favorite album of the year, besides your own?
Franz Ferdinand‘s album is incredible. I like the energy, the vibe of that record, the gritty drums and the songwriting.
Did it make you dance?
I can dance a little bit, but I don’t do good with white-people dances.
When have you been happiest this year?
Working on videos, being in post [production] and seeing the video come together. Like when we got the color right on “Jesus Walks” — that really vintage feel.
What was your favorite vacation spot?
I was at the Four Seasons on Maui, chillin’ with my girl. It’s the best hotel I ever stayed in. That shit was crazy. You just lay out on the beach, but what was dope about it ‘was they’d bring you popsicles and stuff.
Was there a moment late this year when you listened to College Dropout and said, “Shit, this is awesome!”
Yeah. Especially now that I’m working on the next album, I had to listen to the competition, listen to the best albums. For College Dropout, I listened to The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill at least a thousand times while I was working on it. Now I got to compete with College Dropout, The Love Below, Midnight Marauders, Jodeci, John Mayer, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lil’ Wayne and Juvenile.
What’s the best gift you received?
There’s the ten Grammy nominations, but from a lot of people I received the gift of inspiration.
Ten Grammy nominations – you’re killing the competition. How does it feel?
It’s not about the competition. It’s about competing with yourself. That’s why when I play video games, I like playing racing games instead of fighting games. Fighting games are won by beating someone else down. Racing is a matter of figuring out your technique and driving as fast as you can – and that’s how my life has been this year.
What’s the most money you bet on a poker hand this year?
I don’t play poker. I played some blackjack and lost about $2,000 on one hand. That was a happy moment [laughs].
How much pot did you smoke, roughly?
None, actually. I used to have a girl that smoked weed, and that didn’t work out. [Sings] “I don’t know why I get so high.” My head starts hurtin’ and all. If you think about it, nothing compares to this whole ride I’ve been on, the way I feel onstage and the audience is singing my song. I guess that’s how a crackhead must feel when he’s smoking crack. If he’s gotta take hits to keep it going, I gotta make hits to keep it going.
What did you buy your mom this year?
I got her a drop-top Mercedes-Benz CLK500 and a house in L.A.
Who’s the coolest person you met?
I don’t know what’s cooler: meeting John Mayer this year for the first time, or meeting Michel Gondry, the director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and all those White Stripes videos. I saw him at Dave Chappelle’s Block Party.
What do you have planned for 2005?
Avoiding the sophomore slump.
This story is from the December 30th, 2004 issue of Rolling Stone.