How does Jay retiring affect you?
Um, um, [long pause], um, I’m just trying to, as always, whenever I brought beats to the table, when I brought joints to Jay that I thought would mean something to the world, “Lucifer,” blah blah blah blah, I always wanted Jay to be no. 1 because I knew that would help the Roc be no. 1. I want to just keep on bringing it to the table to help keep our label as hot as possible. If this installment of the Roc-A-Fella chapter of the dynasty can help keep Roc-A-Fella near the top, then I’m helping to pay back to them for everything they done for me.
Do you think you can be the top guy the way Jay was?
Um, I don’t think it’s a matter, I think there will be one point, some glimmering moment in time where I will be the no. 1 rap artist in the rap game, period. The thing is, that’s not to take away from anybody, but everybody has their moment. Everybody gets their moment to shine.
Everybody gets that one moment where you look at Billboard and they are no. 1. Everybody gets that one moment where you go to a school and you ask 50 little kids—no don’t use that number—where you ask 20 little kids, "Who’s your favorite rapper?" and they all scream out Kanye West. There’s going to be a time like that. That’s not to take away from any other rapper, everybody is going to have their time. I feel like that time is real close to me.
Yup, I feel like it’s going to come with my debut album. I feel like it’s already come for certain little kids with “Slow Jamz.”
Did you read Bleek’s comments about you? [Ed. Note—In an interview with SOHH, Bleek said "Kanye didn’t put in no work"]
What did you think about that?
Me coming into Roc-A-Fella, when I came into Roc-A-Fella, I was on the train with, I guess in everybody’s eyes, weird ass Italian shoes and extra smedium shirts. How could you ever look at me like a rapper? I don’t even look like a fucking rapper. He’s right, I wasn’t there, I didn’t pay all the dues that they been through to build up Roc-A-Fella itself. I’m kind of just riding the wave of Roc-A-Fella.
You have to have been there from the beginning to have paid the dues to say that you are going to carry the torch for them. That’s why I always call myself as I do on the last song of this album, “The Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer of the Roc.”
People ask me why I didn’t perform at the Madison Square Garden show. Jay announced me, in the part that you see in the [“Through the Wire”] video, “I’m the newest member of the Roc-A-Fella team and I’m a bring Dame and Hov mad more cream.” That’s a quote from Ma$e, who is my favorite rapper of all time. I say that, and then in the video we make it look so glamorous, like I got my chain and we move on. What y’all don’t realize is that as I keep on rapping, I’m rapping to a crowd, and about six bars in completely bombing in front of 20,000 people in my own city, completely embarrassing the entire Roc-A-Fella.
I was spitting a wack ass rap I guess. I wasn’t spitting the right type of rap for being on stage and people didn’t know I could rap or didn’t know who the fuck I was or had never seen myself in a video. I was completely embarrassing the entire Roc-A-Fella staff to the point where, man, I could imagine what those conversations were like on that tour bus, and I know that stuck Jay-Z’s memory.
And the thing is, everybody knows that I’m crazy, so at any given time I might do some shit to completely embarrass them or something like that. Every show that’s come around since then, Jay-Z didn’t want to take any chances with the loose cannon of Roc-A-Fella.
Did-Z Jay want to sign you as a rapper? Did Dame co-sign you more? Who wanted to sign you?
Nobody, really. As I went to all those labels, no label would sign me and I had “Jesus Walks” as one of my songs that I would perform all the way through for people. I had the Lauryn Hill joint. No, I didn’t have the Lauryn Hill joint. I had “Two Words.”
I performed it all the way through for people. People would say, “We love you, we want to sign you,” and then there’d always be one person who’d say, “He’s just a producer.” I just hope the people that said, “He’s just a producer,” please read these words, read them and weep.
Do you have a chip on your shoulder from how you’ve been treated?
I definitely do. People look at my music like it’s positive. I’m a complainer. Every song on my album is a complaint, every single last song if you really think about it. My stance, that’s why people can fuck with me. That’s why it doesn’t come off soft because I really have a problem with things and I have to get that off my chest. It’s similar to Eminem.
As far as the Bleek thing, one thing, Bleek taught me a lot about being a celeb. Bleek would sit there with me and tell me long stories about what to do and what not to do. Bleek showed me some of the most love as far as expressing some of his experiences in the do’s and don’ts. Regardless of whatever they wanted to print on the Internet, I know what kind of relationship me and Bleek have.
Have you talked with Bleek since he said those comments?
No, but I don’t give a fuck about what someone says on the Internet. Nothing on the Internet could spark me to say anything against anybody in my family.
Is there any animosity between you guys?
Man, I’m going to tell you like this: I don’t give a fuck about what it says on the Internet. The Roc had done so much for me and I’m indebted to them for life, anyone on Roc-A-Fella. I just hope that if I do become more successful, either as a producer or a rapper, I’m going to do everything I can to help whoever I can on the label.
Do you have a good relationship with everyone else over there?
Yeah, I have better relationships with them than I thought. It would be a matter of me being timid. Other than the fact of the whole gangster persona, but also the fact they’ve been on TV, and I’m the kid from Almost Famous. I’m the fan.
I seen Beanie and I can’t fathom being that talented rap-wise, or how he could come up with that. Beanie is a spoken word artist. He is a gift that we have in music. When people try to put him in situations to take him away from us, it’s like taking a Biggie away. I’m going to tell you this, and this is no disrespect to anybody, but Beanie is my favorite on the Roc.
Were you hurt when Jay-Z didn’t bring you onstage at MSG or did you understand?
I understood the mistakes I’ve made and like I said on “Through the Wire,” I turned tragedy to triumph. I was definitely hurt. I was definitely hurt when I was not on that stage. I was definitely hurt when I saw the “Encore” video. I remember making up that song, you know what I’m saying? I was definitely hurt by it.
What’s your relationship with Jay-Z now? Do you guys have any relationship outside of the studio?
I talk with him because the thing is, I think we have a lot in common. But, you have to think, I’m in my early 20’s, he’s in his early 30’s. I’m on the train trying to come up with money to jut get around the city and the only protection I have from the weather is a heavy ass winter coat. He’s a multi-millionaire superstar—where’s the connection? We can talk in the studio. He’s been in the game so long and what I’ve learned also, actually, I was going to get me a tattoo that says, “No new friends.”
So many people will try to befriend him or get close to him for whatever reason. I’m never the type to use that method in order to get what I want out of somebody. Jay-Z blesses me by rapping on my tracks. Regardless of whatever, when he says, “Kanye, you a genius, you did it again,”—what do I want to use? I wanted to use another word. What’s the word when sororities get something on their arm? What’s that word?
Damn, that word’s not powerful enough either. I need a thesaurus. I’ll just put that it burns into the minds of the sheep, the industry sheep. Then I can go and capitalize off that. I can go and raise my price on my beats, you know what I’m saying.
What’s that up to now, $50,000?
No, it’s way more than that.
But yeah, I can definitely go and take it and run with it. The only thing I ever asked Jay-Z for was to perform at the Tweeter Center at Chicago last summer, to perform at Madison Square Garden, and to be on The Blueprint 2. I begged him. I went to Ty-Ty and I begged Ty-Ty because that’s his best friend, and that’s how I ended up on The Blueprint 2.
There are going to be people reading this right now, who don’t know that was me on there on “The Bounce” because my name wasn’t on the first print and I didn’t say my name. From that point, that’s why I started saying “Kanye-to-the” before my verses. That was a major mistake. Now, I’m saying my name somewhere in the verse, I’m going to have to take the Fabolous method now. What I really want to stress, when you do it, you have to do it eloquently.
Don’t make me look like I’m trying to come down on Roc-A-Fella or trying to come down on Jay-Z or feel like he owes me anything. If anybody owes me nothing, it’s Jay-Z because he’s done so much for me. Him, Dame, and Biggs, they built the brand of this chain that I’m wearing now. Whatever my fan percentage is going to be, they expanded that. They helped me expand to different markets. They let me ride off their brand.
I’m very intelligent. I’m going to give you intelligent answers. I’m not going to give you some stupid ass answer like, “Oh man, it’s the Roc, you know what I’m saying.” I’m going to tell you how I really feel about shit. I just really want to say that Jay-Z doesn’t owe me anything. You can take everything I say and if you want to take half of what I say, you can make me look really bad. But if you take all I say, you can make it look like what it is I want to express.
How was the United Center show?
The United Center show, all that flashed in my head is when he was at the show in Chicago, the Tweeter Center show this summer. “Through the Wire” was already big in Chicago. When he was at the United Center show and didn’t let me perform and he let Twista perform who is a Chicago artist, I thought, “Yo, I am your artist. I’m trying to come out with an album soon. I need these 20,000 people, that might be a guaranteed 5,000 actual sales.” That struck a chord to me.
I’m talking about last Friday night.
I know. I feel like anything that happens to me that’s bad, is all in God’s plan. God didn’t want me to be there at that time yet. God was basically saying, “Kanye, it’s not your time for you to go up in front of 20,000 people yet.” Then, I got a lot of practice with Kweli, going on tour with him and then doing shows on my own. Now this is my time, or me and Twista’s time.
Twista even set me up. He let me come out second. I love him and he said, “My guys aint gonna be here he got his flight delayed.” The whole crowd sighed like, “Ohhhh.” He said, “I’m going to do my next song, I don’t know what song that’s going to be,” and then you hear the “Through the Wire” beat come on, and I ran on stage and you see that same 20,000 people go crazy. At that point, you say, whatever you had to live up, it’s checked off at that point.
The thing is I just wish, by the time this magazine comes out it might be different, but I just wish Jay would just come to one of my shows and just see how the people love me now. A lot of times because I look up to him so much, I would want him to just look at me and be proud of what I built. From being not really able to rap—I will admit—to having the fans that I do have now, to have 20,000 people and to show how I can command 20,000 people…
When we did “Champions,” I stood in the middle and just threw the diamond up. They turned the lights on in the house and you could see all 20,000 people throwing the diamond up. If anybody on Roc-A-Fella was one of Jay, Dame, and Biggs’ kids, I just wish everybody could have saw me right there—the most unlikely to succeed commanding 20,000 people and making the Roc-A-Fella legacy live on or helping the Roc-A-Fella legacy living on.
Do you think you’ll be able to work with Lauryn one day?
Yeah, I’m going to try my best.
Have you stayed in contact with her?
I still haven’t gotten into direct contact with her. What she did for me, clearing that sample, I know God played a part in that. I think this song is going to touch people, this “All Falls Down” it means something to hip-hop. If this song can make it to the top floor, wait, I don’t have an end to that sentence. I was just thinking that I hope you word that “I want to be the number 1 rapper” thing right so niggas just don’t take offense to it.
Did you get your jaw re-broken?
I get x-rays when I go back and I’m going to get it rebroken. But I’m going to this better doctor, like one of the best plastic surgeons, out in LA and he says he can do it in a way where I actually don’t have to be wired up. As far as me being wired up, I wouldn’t have a problem doing that on a promo run because everyone knows the words to the songs anyway. I’ll just stand there and move to the music.
When’s that happening?
The promo runs when this article comes out, January 15, I think. I definitely think The Source should give me more words.
Me too. I just emailed my editor the other day like, "Yo, I think we need 2000 words."
Why don’t you just take some pictures out?
Oh man, our art director flips if you even suggest that. He will flip out. I’m going to try and get another page. We’re talking about doing a sidebar, any suggestions? One editor suggested doing something fashion related, something funny. Maybe a top 5.
Throwbacks are dead; any girl in Manolo Blahnik Timbs need not come to the All Star Game this year. Number one trend is that throwback jerseys are dead.
Why? Do you have a reason?
When I tell a joke it has to be in the right premise. I can tell my Manolo joke: Any girl in Manolo Blahnik Timbs need not come to the All Star Game this year. I don’t know if there are five things. Trucker hats are dead. I feel like two-ways are dead. Come on dog, don’t try to show off your two-way, that’s like showing off a cell phone now. I don’t have a two-way.
I can’t be a slave to the machine, you feel like you’re in the matrix. Two-ways make people extra finna if you don’t hit them right back. I might be doing something. And then when people write you like a paragraph or when people two-way you out of the blue like, "What’s popping?" and you don’t even fuck with them like that, like you sitting up in the studio working with Jay or something. "What do you mean, what’s popping?"
Is there one more?
Really shiny rims. The best kind of rims are either dark gray or black and preferably on a black car. I saw this Maybach that was dark gray and burgundy with dark gray rims that was sick.
You think the Michael Jackson situation helped out “Slow Jamz?”
That one line?
Nah, the fact that his case popped up right when the song started popping?
Oh wow, I never thought about that. Well, the song is a hit; it stands on its own. It stands on it’s own with or without the case. Michael Jackson is always in the news. So “Slow Jamz” success has nothing to do with Michael Jackson’s case. If that’s your analysis, I reject your deposit.
[Laughs.] I don’t think it’s the reason why it’s a hit, but…
You can’t lead the witness.
That one specific line: “She got a light-skinned friend, she look like Michael Jackson,” I think doubled my sales—doubled them, as far as what I’m going to sell when I come out. Out of all the records I did, every hit song I did for somebody else, how many spins I got on “Through the Wire” that one specific line connected me with the people and they say, “Yo, this is a funny nigga. I can chill with this nigga because I know this nigga is a fool.”
What happens if the album doesn’t go gold?
Oh, that’s not going to happen. You know why there’s no way it won’t go gold?
Because I won’t let it happen. I know you can’t control everything, and everything is in God’s hands ultimately, but I’m going to fight, go out and perform for everybody, I don’t care, I’m going to every school I can, colleges, I’ll make waves, I’ll charge less, I’ll stop charging 10 G’s a show, I’ll charge maybe two thousand dollars a show but everyone has to have a copy of the College Dropout in order to come there and do venues that hold 1,000 people. If you do that 30 times, that’s 30,000 records.
I got three more quick ones: Was the pit stop at the Louis Vuitton store worth it, even though you were a little late to the show?
Oh yeah, because I got the new blue backpack. You know, I am Kon the Louis Vuitton Don and that’s spelled K-O-N so people could really read it and shit, or you could put some asterisk marks or whatever. As a rapper, I feel like image is always important but even more so than image, I really love clothes, that’s why I don’t use stylists. I want to do it myself because I really love it. I sit up and look at Details and GQ and I go to try and find the new shit out.
For me to hit the stage in front of 20,000 people with the blue Louis Vuitton backpack, for me to be a rapper and have a backpack, for me to have a fucking Louis Vuitton backpack, you got to really have some balls to stand there on TV with a Louis Vuitton backpack that so many people have seen and tried to market as a girls bag because girls had it first. It never said, Louis Vuitton for Girls or anything. It just so happened that girls had the backpack first.
It makes you feel like you have influence on the world and stand on your own to be able to do that. I dress so good that whatever, like Jay say, I need space to do whatever I like, whatever I choose is definitely adequate. Whenever y’all are in the store from now on and y’all are trying to decide whether or not to get something, think if you saw me wear it before or not, and if I have, then it’s okay.
Use that quote for real.
Does your cockiness turn people off?
Yeah, but it turns people on at the same token. I am a personality.
When were those talent shows, the ones we talked about last week?
That was grade school, grammar school—that’s the same thing, right? But we call it grammar school in Chicago, so let me always use Chicago. Never get me talking New York in my interviews. I’ma try and rep the Chi in every interview I say, every rap I say. Like I said before when I said I had a problem with them changing my words because they changed my words to New York slang.
What word was it?
They had me say the words "heads" and you know they don’t say that in Chicago. I really actually hadn’t said that. I don’t want my niggas from Chicago think I came out to New York and forgot where I came from.
Have you caught flak from people back home for leaving?
The bottom line is people will have a problem with whatever you do. At the end of the day, nobody can determine what you need to do in order to be successful and why would you listen to someone who is not successful tell you what you need to do? That’s not saying nobody has any knowledge that hasn’t made in what they are trying to do, but ultimately I make all my own decisions and I take full responsibility. That’s a Gemini trait but the reason why I have a management team is I try to get really intelligent people around me to suggest things when I don’t know shit and also to make things happen.
That is why I have John Monopoly, who is one of the greatest hustlers I’ve ever met in my career ever, the closest I got to a young Puff Daddy. Dame, you know what Dame is. Then I have Benny Medina. We are so similar in the arrogant thing: we can make it happen, we can make it happen.
In a rap I say, “They say my arrogance is the cover of my insecurities but I thought all the time / You know surely when I was trying to shine / Every motherfucker told me that I couldn’t rhyme / So I use it as my gas so they say that I’m gassed but without it I be last so I just laugh / cause the same people that tell me what I ought to have is the same people asking for an autograph.” So I use it. Use that as your fuel when no one believes in you—use that. I put the battery in my own backpack.
I’m working on a DMX story. What was it like doing “Dog Back” with him?
I didn’t get the opportunity to see him spit in the studio. It was always a dream come true to work with DMX. He was always one of my favorite rappers going back to the Bad Boy days. I really liked that song.
You didn’t meet him in the studio?
I got to meet him a bunch of times. He came to my hotel room when I was in the W. Rappers be coming in there all the time.
The one next to our offices in New York?
No, the one in LA. I’m talking Cam, DMX. I remember one time I got into an argument with my girl a year ago and Scarface is in the room running down the hallway, and Willie D was there. [Tape Cuts Out] The main bullet points I would highlight.
You should be guest editor sometimes.
It’ll happen. I want to stress how important that actual 5-mic rating is to me for this first album because of the type of songs that are on there. If I get a 4.5 it’ll crush me.
That’s the most important thing?
As far as talking to The Source it is. I know they say they want to hear the whole joint. We’re still putting skits together. I’m trying to get Bernie Mac, “Drug Dealing” has little kids singing the chorus. The name of the song is “We Don’t Care” now. A song with Common comes on unexpectedly. You know, I told you, I’m all about surprises.