Kanye West’s Interview With ’12 Years A Slave’ Director Steve McQueen – 10 Key Quotes

First ‘American Psycho’ author Bret Easton Ellis, now Oscar-nominated director Steve McQueen: Kanye West has gradually given up allowing journalists to interview him since 2010’s sparkling rap opera ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’, instead talking almost solely to pop culture luminaries like the ’12 Years A Slave’ director. McQueen spoke to the rapper for the latest issue of Interview magazine, which surfaced online this morning. Alright, so McQueen fails to challenge West on any subject, least of all his problematic definition of slavery on ‘Yeezus’ – doesn’t a man who’s just directed a film exploring the horrors of slave trade America in the 1840s have anything to say about Yeezy’s portrayal of his struggle to launch a fashion label as a form of slavery? But it’s still a fascinating conversation about creativity and the glass ceilings imposed on black men and women between two men at the height of their respective games that makes for great reading. Here’s ten key quotes from Kanye:

On the car accident that threatened his life, and left him with his jaw wired shut for months in 2002:

“It gave me perspective on life—that it was really now or 100 percent never. I think that people don’t make the most of their lives. So, you know, for me, right now it seems like it’s the beginning of me rattling the cage, of making some people nervous… all we have is today. You know, the past is gone, and tomorrow is not promised.”


On not being afraid to make mistakes being key to his prowess:

“As my grandfather would say, “Life is a performance.” I’m giving all that I have in this life. I’m opening up my notebook and I’m saying everything in there out loud. A lot of people are very sacred with their ideas, and there is something to protecting yourself in that way, but there’s also something to idea sharing, or being the person who makes the mistake in public so people can study that.”


On following his own ‘Empire Strikes Back’, the critically lauded ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’:

“I just had to throw it all in the trash. I had to not follow any of the rules because there was no way to match up to the previous album. ‘Dark Fantasy’ was the first time you heard that collection of sonic paintings in that way. So I had to completely destroy the landscape and start with a new story. Dark Fantasy was the fifth installment of a collection that included the four albums before it. It’s kind of the “Luke, I am your father” moment. ‘Yeezus’, though, was the beginning of me as a new kind of artist… It was just like that moment of being in a restaurant and ripping the tablecloth out from under all the glasses.”

A hint at what gave ‘Yeezus’ its improvised, urgent feel:


“I remember that we were shooting the “New Slaves” video before I’d even finished the second verse. We were on our third shoot day, and I was in the studio still finishing it because my lyrics aren’t written beforehand. It’s very important to me that they’re completely in sync with what’s happening in society at that time—that they’re very timeless, but very up to date.”

On why he values imagery so highly and a surprise influence (worth it just for the image of Yeezy bouncing around his living room to ‘Like A Prayer’)

“Madonna, I think, is the greatest visual musical artist that we’ve ever had. If you look at her photo log, the photographers that she was able to work with throughout her career framed her in the proper way. It was the proper context. It was that visual that made sure that everything was gonna cut through in a certain way.”


On the reaction to his ‘Bound 2’ video:

“It’s a dream, and I think the controversy comes from the fact that I don’t think most people are comfortable with their own dreams, so it’s hard for them to be comfortable with other people’s dreams. I mean, look, it took some time for us to be comfortable with a walking, talking mouse, but that became an icon. So this stuff, what I’m doing now, is the beginning of me throwing out what it means to be a rapper—you know, with the gold chain.”

On the progress Tupac made for young black men (and on secretly being into horoscopes):

“I’d be biased to think that the community of Geminis is the most consistently in tune with what their spirit is telling them to do or why they have breath in their lungs. But I do think that creative Geminis—Tupac, Biggie, Prince, Miles Davis, all being Geminis—have, throughout history, been really in tune with those things. You know, some different friends of mine have been showing me these interviews that Tupac did and how they’re very simple and to the point. I watched them, and one of the things that Tupac kept saying is that he wanted thugs to be recognized. Now Jay-Z is a multi-hundred-millionaire who came from the streets, so Tupac’s mission, in a way, has been realized.”

On his first forays into film making:

“If I want to design a product, or if I think of a new way for us to view films, then I want to be able to do it. And what happened was that when we made Watch the Throne, it was such an accomplishment, and I had a bit of money in my account, so I just started chasing other dreams. I did two fashion shows in one year—at one of them, I had go-karts that people could ride. I also shot a film in “surround vision,” where I had seven screens—three in front of the audience, one above, one below, one to the left, one to the right.”

On the concept of ‘New Slaves’ and why some people don’t like him:

“The biggest slavery that we have is our opinion of ourselves. That’s why my attitude is so shunned. It’s not a matter of me believing in myself that’s so scary to everyone, it’s the idea of everyone else starting to believe in themselves just as much as I do that’s scary.”

On whether or not he can keep up his level of creative power for another ten years or more:

“One-hundred percent. Easy as cake, easy as pie. Too many people are scared. But it is my job to go up every night and talk about this kind of shit. It is actually my job. I’m like a broadcaster for futurism, for dreamers, for people who believe in themselves… I hope that there are people out there laughing. Laugh loud, please. Laugh until your lungs give out because I will have the last laugh.”


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