HipHopSite: Talk a little about the album. I know you have Jay-Z, ODB, Freeway, etc. But what can fans expect from you? Conceptually and with your flow? Guests and production?
Kanye West: See, here’s the thing. All those usual questions that you ask about an album don’t really apply. Outside production, that’s not what this album is about. This album is like, back when uh, trying to or attempting like when Raekwon made Cuban Linx or when Tribe would make an album. One producer. One sound for the whole shit.
HHS: Okay. The fact that you dropped out of college and pursued your dreams of music is well documented. But it seems like everyone wants to be a rapper or producer these days. What advice would you give to these aspiring artists regarding school because unfortunately not everyone can make it?
KW: You’re putting your life in your own hands. You got certain niggas that was drug dealers. And certain niggas was drug dealers and was able to go off and start businesses and get houses from it. Other niggas got killed or locked up. You’re taking your life into your own hands. If you not conforming to what society wants you to do, you’re taking your on life in your own hands. Hold on… [Clicks over]
KW: Hello, what were we saying?
HHS: Yeah, you were just answering the question about school and saying ‘That’s your own choice.’
KW: Nah, that’s not what I said. Whenever I speak in interviews, I hate that. I did not say ‘It’s all your choice.’ I said ‘You’re taking your life into your own hands.’
HHS: Aright, I apologize.
KW: I’m real specific and they [media] always change my words. Your own choice and your life into your own hands are two different things. You know what I’m saying? That’s why I hate written and printed interviews because they don’t fuck with how I talk. They gotta cut the words down. Let’s go into that. Yo, I hate interviews, Source, XXL, whoever, they cut the words down. They try to cut your words down. They got something they want people to, whatever vibe they called it. They want to portray you to the listeners. Instead of having the listeners make their own decision about you.
HHS: So you feel like the XXL story [September 2003], they portrayed you the wrong way?
KW: I mean it’s all good, they [XXL] just changed some of my words. And The Source definitely portrayed me in the wrong way.
HHS: Like when you say they changed your words do you mean they actually changed some of your direct quotes?
KW: Yes, they changed some of my direct quotes.
HHS: I know sometimes journalists may cut down words in a quote. But I’ve never heard of actual words being changed.
KW: Right. So how do I get on top of that? The thing is I’m out here trying to do records and working on Jay’s album and doing different shit, and touring doing shows. How can I be concerned? I don’t have the time to be listening to the tapes with the transcripts. XXL, they gave me a “Nigga [Negro] Please”. I said ‘I’m not competing with producers right now. I’m competing with rappers… I’m don’t spit lines, I spit conversations.’ So are you trying to say that I’m not going to compete with rappers?
HHS: I think the way that that they’re looking at it is, the producers that have come before you, and you were an MC from the start so its unfair for me to characterize you this way, but I’m just trying to give you an idea of how it’s being perceived. The producers that came before you that rhymed, they were producers that rhyme. Where as you’re a MC that produces in a sense from what I’ve been reading and hearing your flow. You flow a lot nicer than most of the producers that rhyme.
KW: Thank you so much.
HHS: Yeah, I’m just saying its going to be hard for you to overcome but…
KW: Yeah, I love the challenge.
HHS: Given that you had a near death experience as you recount on “Through the Wire”, what are your beliefs on death? Reincarnation?
KW: I feel like I’m here for a reason. I don’t believe in reincarnation. Sometimes I wonder if I believe in heaven. I know I believe in Jesus. I think 50% because it was instilled in me. That’s what we call on. Like Kweli said ‘We need something to rely on.’
HHS: I had read about your Good Records label. Are you planning on doing any kind of movement in Chicago like how Beans went back and got Philly rappers?
KW: Yeah, I got one rapper from Chicago right now, GLC, the hood celebrity, the knockout king and I got this artist from the Midwest named John Legend, and I got Consequence. He’s from Queens. I don’t have the time for the type of music I make. I don’t make fast food, so I can’t have too many to focus on.
HHS: Are these projects that are coming real soon?
KW: My album has to come out first. Consequence and John Legend have managed to put out their own CDs. That’s the one thing I like. They’re getting their work on. Waiting for me, they’re just using me, we’re using each other. Like that’s how it is for me up at Roc-A-Fella. I get a lot of fame off that Roc-A-Fella chain.
HHS: Speaking on Roc-A-Fella, I had read that you funded the video for “Through The Wire” out of your pocket. Does that concern you in the sense that maybe Roc-A-Fella is not fully committed to this project?
KW: Nah, they will because I did that. That put me on everybody’s radar. You gotta think about it, I’m on TV. Can you imagine how many calls Jay-Z, Dame, and Biggs get talking bout’ ‘Yo, this Kanye kid, I like him.’ Or don’t like him, or whatever they want to say. Basically, people are talking now. And for the most part, ‘Through The Wire’ is such a good look for a new artist. It’s like the past five years in five minutes. You know I came up with the entire concept. And I did it with Coodie and Chike.
HHS: Okay. How did your collaboration with Little Brother come about? How did you hear about them? Also, when will the two joints be released and on what vehicle?
KW: Well Source had never given me a quote and quoted one of Little Brother’s rhymes ['Yo-Yo']. I thought that’s something I would say. That’s another thing.
HHS: What’s up?
KW: The fact that Source ain’t give me a quote or XXL never gave me no quote on no rhymes. It’s like I could give a fuck about any of their opinions.
HHS: But how credible is that? They gave Benzino a quotable. As soon as The Source did that, they lost all credibility. Everyone was like ‘Yo, it’s over.’ I’m not even looking at this anymore. You don’t need that to signify that your rhymes are dope. I mean how did you feel when you saw Benzino’s rhymes up in there?
KW: I don’t know. It was fucked up. I just feel like good people should have quotes though. Certain people have rhymes that you love, but they don’t look that good on paper when you read them. I got rhymes that I wish people could just really read them. I’mma definitely print out all the lyrics on my album.
HHS: So joints that you did with Little Brother, do you know when they’ll be released?
KW: I don’t know. I think someone is going to have to pay dearly for that [laughing].
HHS: You have a lot of unreleased work such as Royce Da 5’9 ‘s “Heartbeat” that has received really good feedback. Do you have any other unreleased tracks that you worked on that you would like to be released?
KW: The Royce Da 5’9′s “Heartbeat”, I’ll never do anything for Royce. He never paid me for that and someone had bought the beat. Well, he two-tracked it off the Pro Tools and put it out. And then the people who were going to buy the beat decided they didn’t want the beat because of that and never cut me a check.
HHS: So you actually didn’t authorize that?
HHS: You come from a politically charged background, are there any current social issues that you have strong feelings on? And if so, are you doing anything to actively try and remedy that?
KW: Um, The school systems are similar to the prisons because a lot of times, there are so many behavior problems that you have to deal with that you never actually get to learn. The kids that are able to learn have to deal with the kids with the behavior problems and it’s like your trying to teach 30 kids at once. And half of them are acting bad as hell, it’s like almost impossible for people to excel . The test scores are crazy low. It’s like a vicious cycle. Where white kids, they parents use big words around them when they little kids. So when it’s time for school, they know these words like ‘We can get past that. Quick, keep moving. Keep moving.’
HHS: What was your experience like going to school in Chicago?
KW: I went different schools. I went to a magnet school in the suburbs. I went grammar school in the city. Vanderpool. It was a magnet school also. And I went Chicago State University. That’s the last college I dropped out of.
HHS: So you seem like if you weren’t going to be an MC or Producer, you were going to be a scholar. You were going to Magnet schools.
KW: That’s not what I was trying to be. I actually got a scholarship to go to art school. I used to draw. I was into something creative. Something more influential.
HHS: So did you do any artwork on the album?
KW: It’s not really that much artwork on my album as of right now. It’s more based off pictures and concepts. Like “Through The Wire” [the video] is a piece of art. I was very involved in how the board moved, the color of the board, the color of the Polaroid around it, the grain put on top of it, when to take the grain off, how we pulled away from the board at the end, and Chaka Khan, like, the actual spot where it says ‘We bring you through the wire.’ All that is going into graphics and art. Art is not just ‘Yo, I can grab a pencil and put something on paper that’s in your likeness.’
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