My life is like disney world,” says Kanye West. “It’s like a never-ending dream. And now it’s not as scary as it was before.” Speaking on the day his smash second album, Late Registration, earned eight Grammy nominations, West insists success has mellowed him. “I’m more comfortable with being here,” he says. “I can chill out for a bit.” But West certainly found a way to raise some hell this year. On September 2nd, during NBC’s live Hurricane Katrina telethon, he said what millions were thinking: “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” He checks in while driving around L.A. “That’s what celebrities do,” he says. “They drive through the hills in Hollywood.”
Rolling Stone named Late Registration the year’s best album.
Oh, wow! Damn! Thank you! I think System of a Down should be up there also. Just like with my music, they use all different genres. They have a message, and they say whatever the fuck they wanna say. I like how it takes you on a ride. It’ll be smooth and melodic, and then next thing it’s superhard.
What was your best surprise this year?
What surprised me most was the impact of my voice on NBC. It’s just magical that I can say something that’s a popular opinion and it really has an impact.
When did you come up with “George Bush doesn’t care about black people”?
I knew I wasn’t going to read the whole [scripted] levee thing, because we’d practiced that earlier. I didn’t think about Bush until the telethon. I saw him [on TV] – I’m like, “Wait a second, dude, that guy over there, he doesn’t care.” But America was already headed that way. I think it was a common opinion.
You also spoke out about homophobia in hip-hop, saying, “Everyone in hip-hop discriminates against gay people.”
I got more backlash for that than for the Bush comment. It’s wrong, and so many of my friends do that. We gay-bash. We feel like it’s OK to call a gay person a fag. We fought so hard to make it so white people couldn’t say the word “nigger” to our face. But it’s not far-fetched to picture a black person calling a gay person a fag to their face. So that shows you the climate, where we’re at right now. And it’s not about racism, it’s about discrimination.
Any recurring nightmares this year?
My last nightmare, a couple of weeks ago, was my girlfriend had some guy’s number in her phone. She was lyin’ about it, like, “I don’t know what you’re talking about!”
You weren’t in R. Kelly’s closet, were you?
Maybe not that extreme.
This story is from the December 29th, 2005 issue of Rolling Stone.