As Kanye West’s recent release streak comes to an end with the arrival of Teyana Taylor’s album KTSE, the rapper has given a rare print interview with the New York Times in which he discusses his remarks on Donald Trump, slavery, suicide and the possibility of his wife Kim Kardashian West leaving him over those recent controversies.
In conversation with the Times’s pop critic Jon Caramanica, West explained that his repeat endorsements of the US president were in keeping with his refusal to filter his thoughts. “I felt that I knew people who voted for Trump that were celebrities that were scared to say that they liked him. But they told me, and I liked him, and I’m not scared to say what I like,” he said. “Let me come over here and get in this fight with you.” He added, “I hear Trump talk and I’m like, I like the way it sounds, knowing that there’s people who like me that don’t like the way it sounds”, and clarified, when pressed on Trump’s “Muslim ban”, that he does not agree with all of the president’s policies.
West refused the expectation from his family and culture at large that, as a black man, he should vote for Hillary Clinton. “It was like an arranged marriage or something,” he said. “And I’m like, that’s not who I want to marry. I don’t feel that.” He credited the motivational speaker Tony Robbins with helping him get his voice back after a period of high medication and low self-confidence, and said that doing so has made him a better father and artist: “I was living inside of some universe that was created by the mob-thought, and I had lost who I was, so that’s when I was in the sunken place,” he said, referencing the state of purgatory from Jordan Peele’s film Get Out. “You look in my eyes right now – you see no sunken place.”
He also commented on remarks made to TMZ about slavery: “When you hear about slavery for 400 years … For 400 years? That sounds like a choice,” he said in an interview in the gossip site’s Los Angeles newsroom on 4 May. West clarified to the Times: “I said the idea of sitting in something for 400 years sounds – sounds – like a choice to me, I never said it’s a choice. I never said slavery itself – like being shackled in chains – was a choice. That’s why I went from slave to 400 years to mental prison to this and that. If you look at the clip, you see the way my mind works.”
Having his intentions misunderstood was “awesome”, he said, comparing himself to Nat Turner, the American slave who led a rebellion on 21 August 1831. “I think that my personality and energy mirrors Nat Turner, or it had in the past, but that showed me that also that Nat Turner approach would land me in the same place Nat Turner landed, and that I would be legendary but also just a martyr. But I guess we’re all martyrs eventually, and we’re all guaranteed to die.”
In a song called Wouldn’t Leave from West’s latest album, ye, he intimates that Kardashian West threatened to leave him over his comments. Following the TMZ interview, he called members of their family to ask if she was considering a split: “So that was a real conversation.”
West also expanded on lyrics to the song I Thought About Killing You in which he appears to contemplate suicide. “I’ve thought about killing myself all the time,” he said. “It’s always an option … Like Louis CK said: I flip through the manual. I weigh all the options.” He discussed his diagnosis with bipolar disorder, and his pride at “learning how to not be on meds”, having taken “one pill in the last seven days”.
In comments that may agitate the loyal fanbase that has stuck with him through his recent controversies, West talked candidly about his use of co-writers such as CyHi the Prynce, Consequence, Malik Yusef and Cardi B’s collaborator Pardison Fontaine – a source of contention in hip-hop. “This is a really interesting moment,” he said of publicising the process. “It’s kind of a controversial moment, right?”
If there was a through-line to be found in West’s recent approach to his career, it lay in his comments about the importance of artistic responsibility – or the lack thereof. “We need to be able to be in situations where you can be irresponsible. That’s one of the great privileges of an artist. An artist should be irresponsible in a way – a three-year-old.”
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