“You know how fucking creative I’d have to be to make me?”
Oh yes, Kanye West was in town last night, presenting his new film ‘Runaway’ to a roomful of minor celebs and journos at Piccadilly’s Bafta venue. It was followed by a TWO HOUR Q&A that took in everything from music to art, fashion, Taylor Swift, dreams, visions, hiding in Hawaii and Michael Jackson’s penchant for Ed Hardy clothes.
And there were enough pearls of wisdom flying from the stage to string a thousand necklaces. For those that think his genius musings begin and end with Twitter, behold these ruminations from the night:
On making a more commercial single: “’Power’ was me chilling out a bit. I’ve been making new couches for the music industry. Is it OK if I just sit in one?”
On his affinity with European fashion houses: “I don’t know if I was a Parisian or a Roman in a past life”.
On Lindsay Lohan jeopardising his chances of becoming a fashion designer: “What 9/11 was to Arabians, Lindsay Lohan was to artists attempting fashion. It destroyed any chance of me getting my name on a label”.
On himself: “I’ve learnt to accept what God has given me, without covering it up with ego”
And on himself again: “God has prepped me to be a soldier and to fight for my art”.
And again: “I only have 80 or 90 or 100 years to make a difference”.
Yep, last night was An Evening With Kanye West, a few hours in the Court Of The Jester King, and it didn’t disappoint. I’ve met him before (he drew a self-portrait of himself for me at the NME Awards once, scrawling “THE GREATEST” over his head and taking a picture of the artwork on his cameraphone) but yesterday really was illuminating.
Watching him in full flow was fascinating; being in his presence is like being at the tweet motherlode, coming as close as you can to the tempestuous furnace that spits untempered ego, classic quotes, and controversy at every turn. And as he introduced the film and stepped up for the Q&A afterwards he was part musician, part director, part comedian and wholly interested in pushing himself as an artist.
It was his comic side that dominated though – and it wasn’t always intentional. His microphone was too quiet at first, then too loud, and he pulled an unwitting “is this thing on?” type remark to an uproarious crowd. He, however, remained po-faced. Then as the lights fell at the start of the film he shouted from the back: “It’s still very rough”. Later, when asked if he’d like to continue a career as a film director he suggested he might work with George Lucas. Cue belly laughs from the front row backwards. “No, really”.
It was difficult to tell how serious he was being, but there was a sense that he was well aware of his more ridiculous musings, and when you see him in the flesh it becomes clear he plays up the rampant egotist / sky-high dreamer image with glee. And even when he’s at his most fanciful, there’s a self-awareness that flies against the common misconception of him as a pseudo-aesthete buffoon.
This was evident in the film itself. Yes, it features a body perfect model (Selita Ebanks) as a sexy phoenix that falls to earth and in love with Kanye, is full of fast cars, dreamlike sequences, explosions, banquets and a million other bits of cannon fodder for a cynical press to pounce on at its release in two weeks. But halfway through there’s a moment when a guy at his celestial dinner party turns to him as says “do you know your girlfriend’s a bird?”, to which he replies, deadpan, “No, I never noticed that”. We’re never completely lost in the clouds of Kanye’s head. The guy might compare himself to Matisse and Picasso but he’s more grounded than he seems.
So we have a clown that knows what he’s up to, but at the same time someone crushingly honest. He nearly cried at one point in the Q&A when asked about his acceptance into the fashion world and while he does himself no favours by wondering if he was a Parisian in a former life, he talks about everything he does (and tries to do) with a passion you can’t argue with.
He’s a loveable fool, a fake egotist, a dreamer (yes, I know how that sounds, but he is), and genuinely dementedly dedicated about his art, be that the Good Friday tracks, commercial singles like ‘Power’, the baffling collaborations with Mr Hudson, or the vaguely pretentious but actually quite enjoyable Longest Music Video Ever.
At twelve thirty, when the tubes had shut and the Q&A had continued for ninety minutes uninterrupted and the less dedicated half of the auditorium had defected toilet bound, we walked out. The organiser did the whole “one more question” thing but Kanye was staying until literally everyone had posed a question. The session had descended into the worst kind of music mag interview – even the shyest people in the room were starting to put their hands up and ask what books he liked. One guy said he liked a certain track best but couldn’t name the song. It was an embarrassing mix of fawning and Smash Hits pop facts and we had homes to go to. But we came away really, really liking Kanye West. Let’s have a toast for the douchebags.