There are a few things Kanye West doesn't do: take kindly to perceived slights, make generic hip-hop tracks and, for the past year or two, interviews. Since embarking on a press blackout, West has not sat down with an interviewer or expressed himself publicly in the media much at all, except on his albums or on his blog.
But last week, while performing in Asia, Kanye broke his media moratorium, sort of — holding sway on how he views his music and explaining why he's essentially stopped doing interviews.
While he was technically on an interview chat show taking questions from an unseen group of interviewers, West pretty much controlled the Q&A session and turned it into a fascinating monologue on his artistic process and legacy, his admiration of the Fab Four, as well as dropping impromptu Broadway and country versions of songs from his upcoming album, 808s & Heartbreak.
"Every time that I perform I'm always thinking ... my plan is to be the greatest performer of this generation," West says in a clip of the interview. Aspiring to become that kind of transcendent artist, West said that when he performs older songs like "Jesus Walks" or "Through the Wire" now, those tunes have become "embedded" in his fans' minds as they've lived with the songs. "That's why whenever bands come out and say, 'This album is better than the Beatles,' it is impossible to make an album better than the Beatles unless you've got 30 years," he explained. "Beatles records — people have known them their whole lives ... hopefully five years from now people still play 'Love Lockdown' and people still play the records that I'm doing right now."
West said he's always been a big believer in melody driving records, pointing out that songs like "Stronger" and "Gold Digger" were able to become international hits because they had that hummable quality. "The reason why I'm one of the big artists is I was always interested in that melody," he said. "I was like, 'Yo, let me stop f---ing around, I'm just gonna, like, make it be all melody!' My lyrics are from the same perspective. It's not no R&B get-down-on-your knees-and-beg-a-girl type bullsh--. It's still, like, guy music, but it's swag on it."
With the melody safely in place, 'Ye explained how he's created an entirely new genre of music by eliminating the "bullsh--" pop music people typically make and injecting some swagger from someone who is "super credible" in the hip-hop world. "I come into the lane where there's a bunch of bullsh-- being made and be like, 'Okay, such and such, you gotta compete with this. And this has 72 bars of real-life lyrics that's from my life that I wrote. Now compete with that.' And I'm going to perform it and people are going to believe what I'm saying because they know my whole story."
And Kanye had a little message for his friends at iTunes: He's got a name for his hybrid sound — Pop Art — and the folks at Apple can choose to honor that and give 'Ye his own unique designation in their store. Oh, and the only other music he thinks could currently fit in there is Pink Floyd.
Getting back to melody, though, Kanye said he believes the grooves he's created for the new album are so classic and "Broadway-esque," that he dropped a live a capella version of "Heartless," sung in a cheesy Broadway voice. He then put on his best Johnny Cash voice and sang a country & western version of "Amazing," as proof of how universal the song is.
"I'm trying to make those songs that are just classic songs," he said.
Asked about his sometimes-difficult relationship with the media, Kanye explained why he's taken to just speaking directly to his fans through his blog. "It's, like, bam! I just say exactly what I want, the amount of stuff I want," he said. "Whenever I have an opinion or something I want to dispute ... my biggest problem I used to have [was that] the media ... would word things in a certain way to make me look like a monster. I just be emotional, like a little kid or a spoiled brat sometimes, and it's like I want to say something and I still have to use the media to get my point across. ... I love being able to directly connect to my fans. ... Before that, you would always have to go through the media, and someone would say, 'And this is my opinion of what he's about to tell you right now, check it out.' And I was like, 'No, I don't want all that. I just want to say exactly what I want to say."