Kanye West on ‘Connecting’ With Trump: ‘When He Was Running, I Felt Something’
Kanye West released an in-depth interview with radio host Charlamagne tha God on Tuesday. Over the course of a nearly two-hour conversation that ends with a scenic hike, West – who says he’s now living “an Hermès-level existence” – speaks candidly about identifying with President Trump, his visit to the hospital due to mental health issues, his fraught relationship with Jay-Z, his frustrations with the lack of radio play for songs from The Life of Pablo and more. Here, some highlights from the discussion.
West was inspired by Trump’s presidential victory.
Charlamagne repeatedly presses West on his recent public statements of support for Trump. “You got a guy like him who’s clearly trying to marginalize and oppress people, people that look like you,” Charlamagne says. “Can you still love a person like that?”
After pausing to think, West responds, “I don’t have all the answers that a celebrity’s supposed to have.” “But,” he continues, “I can tell you that, when he was running, it’s like I felt something. The fact that he won, it proves something. It proves that anything is possible in America. Donald Trump can be president of America. I’m not talking about what he’s done since he’s in office. But the fact that he was able to do it – remember when I said I was gonna run for President? I had people that was close to me, friends of mine, makin’ memes, talkin’ shit, now it’s like, oh, that was proven that that could have happened … from what we’ve been doing in fashion to me wearing the pink polos, to me being out-spoken, to me being ostracized because of the Taylor Swift thing, or the George Bush thing, who I’m dating, who I’m marrying, who I’m talking about, all of this is an outsider thing. When I see an outsider infiltrate, I connect with that.”
West would still “meet with Trump today.”
“I’m not gonna let myself off easy by saying, ‘oh, I met with Trump cause I was going through something,'” West tells Charlamagne. “I ain’t gonna give the universe that. Nah, I’ma face it. And they’re gonna face me. This [the West that met with Trump] was the ‘Ye that wanted to do something to change something. And I would meet him today. And I would talk about Chicago. First. We could talk about some more things. We could eventually get into a lot of elements. But we’ll start there.”
West’s associates told him not to share his feelings on Trump.
“I always think about that Dave Chappelle skit … [about] the blind racist,” West says, answering a question about his decision to meet with President Trump. “I felt like when I came out and said what I felt, that was almost like a Clayton Bigsby moment where everyone’s head exploded: ‘My ‘Ye, George-Bush-don’t-care-about-black-people, cannot in any way [say that]’ … So many people around me said, don’t express your feelings. Why? Your brand, your this, your that … They say, well, what makes George Bush any more racist than Trump? … My response is, racism isn’t the deal-breaker for me. If that were the case, I wouldn’t live in America.”
West was also inspired by Bernie Sanders’ platform.
“It’s a time for the unconventional,” West asserts. “I’m not a traditional thinker. I’m a non-conformist. So [Trump’s victory] relates to the non-conformist part of me. But I’m also a producer. I like to segue things. I like to take ‘Otis,’ chop it up. So what’s the ‘Ye version? The ‘Ye version is the Trump campaign and maybe the Bernie Sanders principles. That would be my mix.”
West was wounded when Jay-Z didn’t come to his wedding to Kim Kardashian.
“I was hurt about [Jay-Z and Beyoncé] not coming to the wedding,” West tells Charlamagne. “I understand they was going through some things. But if [we’re] family, you’re not gonna miss a wedding. I’m not using this interview to put any negative things, but I gotta state my truth.”
Charlamagne then prompts West with some therapist-like questions, asking if he has brought this up with Jay-Z. “I think you gotta address what bothers you, ‘Ye,” the radio host says. “Those are questions you can get answers for. Some things you can get answers for. But that one you can.”
“I don’t think the answer fixes it,” West replies.
West’s issue with Jay-Z was compounded by a misunderstanding over touring money.
“Me and Jay’s issue, my issue, came down to information,” West says. “I’m super hungry for information. I need information more than I need validation, more than I need finance.”
Charlamagne asks about pointed lines from Jay-Z on 4:44: “You give him $20 million without blinking/ He gave you 20 minutes onstage, fuck what was he thinking?”
“That concept that he gave me the money, that’s what frustrated me,” West responds. “Actually, the money he got from Live Nation. Roc Nation was managing me at the time, and that’s normal that you would give someone money – it was a touring deal. But the fact that it was worded that it came from – I’m a very loyal, emotional artist-person – that made me feel that I owed more than just the money itself. It put me under a bit more of a kind of controlled situation.”
“That said,” West continues, “I think there was some love in that on Jay’s part because he did have to co-sign for it when the Live Nations and these different companies wouldn’t co-sign for me and I was in debt, Jay did have to go and say, ‘I’ma co-sign for ‘Ye.’ Have you ever did something for someone that was positive, but something about the way you did it blue the whole thing up? Jay did something that was positive, but the fact that I didn’t receive the information in the right way … I always feel like, I’m out here in Hollywood, my mom has passed, I don’t know who I can trust. I can’t trust nobody.”
West’s onstage “rants” were important.
Charlamagne asks West if the lengthy on-stage speeches that he gave during his Saint Pablo tour – during which he compared himself with Donald Trump and called out Beyoncé – came from a place of fear. “I think to do the rants, though, [was] brave,” West responds. “I think we’re in a place now where bravery is more important than perfect. Feeling is more important than thought. People put so much thought into what’s going to happen. I actually think that the rants came from a place of bravery, and I had enough of politics. That’s the world we’re in right now. People are speaking their truth. People are expressing themselves. I’ve been waiting for this moment.”
West’s visit to the hospital left him drained of his confidence.
“One of the things that was incredible when I got out of the hospital was, I had lost my confidence,” West admits.
“That’s like Michael Jordan with no jumper to me,” Charlamagne says. “What do you mean?”
“I never had the empathy for people who lacked
confidence – I had so much of it, I didn’t know what it was like to be without
it,” West explains. “[I didn’t have] that Black Panther, Superman-level confidence … I wouldn’t speak up … I didn’t have me.”
At the end of the interview, West states that he’s still taking medication, and that this might be partially helping him regain the confidence he lost. “There’s power in being controlled and calm,” he says. ” … Once the kryptonite is gone, I got the confidence, everything is possible: … raps, stadium tours, designs, companies, ideas to ignite the next generations. I’m just a vessel, and that’s my job in the universe: As a servant to the world, I have to be me.”
West was stung when President Obama called him “a jackass.”
“Obama came to me before he ran for office and he met with me and my mother to let me know he was going to run for office, because I am his favorite artist of all time,” West says. “Because I am the greatest artist of all time. It only makes sense. He has good taste.”
“‘Ye got his confidence back!” Charlamagne says.
“It would have been good if this video didn’t get out, but you saw the video [where Obama called West ‘a jackass’],” West continues. “You know, he never called me to apologize. The same person who sat down with me and my mom, I think should have communicated with me directly.”
West also became increasingly jealous as Obama brought other rappers to visit the White House instead of him. “I felt a way a little bit about Obama that I’m your favorite artist, you play ‘Touch the Sky’ at the Inauguration, and now all of a sudden, Kendrick, Jay, all the people you invite to the White House, these your favorite rappers now. I ain’t got no problem with these rappers, but you know I’m your favorite. But I’m not safe. But that’s why you love me. So just tell me you love me. And tell the world you love me. Don’t tell the world I’m a jackass … something about me going onstage was similar to what you was doing [by running for office], because I’m fighting to break the simulation, break the set-up.”
West was frustrated with his lack of radio play.
One of the factors irritating West in the aftermath of The Life of Pablo‘s release was the lack of a big hit single from the album. “Khaled got this song, Drake got this song that radio’s playing to death,” West tells Charlamagne. “But ‘Saint Pablo’ ain’t playing.”
“We’re doing [the] Saint Pablo [tour],” he continues, “and the cultural impact is incredible, but I’m looking for other forms of validation. Just because it’s not playing on the radio – ‘Father Stretch [My Hands]’ is in the club, on the radio a bit – but to put that same amount if not more work and you’re used to it coming out like Graduation, where everything is everywhere, it’s frustrating. Really ever since the Taylor Swift moment, it had never been the same, the connection with radio. Whatever powers that be, it was much harder after that … If you’re an artist and you’re signed to a major label, you want to be on the radio, especially if you’re popular, if you’re one of the most famous people on the planet and people love your music.”
West felt the fashion world turned on him.
“I was 45 minutes late [to a fashion show], and they LeBron-ed me, bro,” West explains. “Remember when LeBron went to Miami and they killed him and burned his jersey and all that? I had just done [Madison Square Garden] – Young Thug on stage, plug in the iPhone, 16,000 people, streaming live, a breakthrough. Soon as I was 45 minutes late, I felt it was the fashion community getting the right to say ‘nigger’ without saying it. It was like, we know you come through stepping on necks and all that … but if you get out of line, boy, we gon’ roast you. It affected me because I’m an artist. And it affected me emotionally.”
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