A previously unseen 2013 interview with Kanye West has been uncovered by Hypebeast, featuring the rapper discussing his views on music and fashion. It’s especially fascinating because the conversation took place before West had signed on with Adidas. As well, West wasn’t yet a father.
West calls out a number of musical artists, and lauds J. Dilla in particular, but also mentions Q-Tip, James Brown, Jay Z, MC Hammer, Biggie Smalls, Tupac, Michael Jackson, RZA among others. He also makes an interesting connection between music production and fashion design.
Check out some of the higlights below:
On producer J. Dilla: “He had the organic feel but still the sonics would break through and he could give you a warm sound that still cut through speakers. It’s like he was making Quincy Jones production sessions just inside of his MPC,”
On his own sound: “My sound is known for being very colorful and warm, but sometimes I’d be challenged on my mixes that everything didn’t knock as hard as I wanted to. Or maybe by the time it came out it did, but people didn’t realize I did 27 mixes to that point, but Dilla every time that kick just sat so perfectly.”
On connection between hip hop and fashion: “Hip hop producers are very similar to fashion designers. And that’s one of the reasons why I’m so interested in fashion because it’s the same thing. People sample from…they take a military jacket and modernize it. So we would take…so I’ll take an Otis Redding sample and modernize it. So textually what Margiela was to fashion is really similar to what Dilla was to music. It really parallels a lot.”
On why J. Dilla’s sound was so attractive: “People are looking for that reality. You want good and bad. You want salt and pepper. You want hot and sweet. He was able to capture all of that and sometimes just give you an amazingly, emotional connective melody.”
On comparing rap artists to designers: “Perhaps I was the Marc Jacobs of hip hop and [J. Dilla] was more the Margiela of hip hop and Pete Rock was the Jean Paul Gautier of hip hop and Q-Tip was the Galliano or something.
On Motown: “I have a special place in my heart for anyone from the Midwest. It’s in the middle of America and it’s so close to Motown, which was my favorite record label of all time. That era of music was my favorite. Now, my favorite artist is James Brown. And I also love Stacks. To me Motown and Stacks was like Bad Boy and Ruff Ryders at the height.”
On radio: “[Formulaic radio formatting] is why you get the American Music Awards. When you see it, you’re just like, ‘Why the fuck would I watch this?’ And it’s to the point where it’s like, there is no Michael Jackson anymore. You literally got like pop stars, you know copying what [Michael Jackson] did, copying what MC Hammer did. That purity isn’t there because the system compresses talent so much and tries to demonize the truth so they can control and sell product.”
On his ability to create freely: “I’m like extremely spoiled and extremely blessed to be able to do songs like “Jesus Walks” and for them to work. Songs like “Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” for me to be able to keep it real and be able to make money off of being real is an extremely blessed situation. It’s also a responsibility.”
On death of inspirational artists: “It’s amazing, how can we lose Biggie, Pac, Dilla, Steve Jobs, Michael Jackson? It almost makes you feel like the devil’s winning. Like the system’s winning and shit. Because all these people that fought so hard. You know and that’s what gives me like my fight. Just thinking I have to work on behalf of Dilla.”
On hip hop as an art form: “Hip hop is just as important as Basquiat and Warhol.”