Yesterday, Kanye West shared footage of himself, Mike Dean, and Rick Rubin recording "I Am a God" on his website, shortly before he hit the stage at Design Miami/ Basel during Art Basel to perform "New Slaves," give a speech, and host a listening session for his forthcoming album, Yeezus. During that speech, he talked about his background in art—attending art schools, doubting that he could become a great visual artist, and how the sampling in his music is similar to the re-appropriation techniques of Andy Warhol. According to Artsy, the performance was spontaneously planned with the founder of Design/ Miami, Craig Robins, and he also shouted out designers Jean Royère, Jean Prouve, Pierre Jeanneret, and Rick Owens before the event.
He goes further to talk about the fashion world's reluctance to accept rap, but how that's changed once people began to understand what hip-hop means in culture. He ends by expressing his admiration for the artists making functional art and design (similar to his confession in the New York Times that a Le Courbousier lamp was "his greatest inspiration" when recording Yeezus), which makes sense given the context of the event: a design fair in the Herzog & de Meuron-designed Hall 1 Sud at Basel's Messeplatz.
Look forward to the release of Yeezus on June 18.
Right now it’s a fight against the separation and constant dumbing-down of culture, and I’m standing in the middle of it.
“[I hate YouTube because] the player is so ugly, and it’s presented in such a terrible manner. I want everything I do to be presented in an art context, as this is a form of sonic art. I was an artist originally, I have been in art school since I was 5 years old. I got scholarships to three art schools, Art Institute of Chicago, Saint Xavier, and the American Academy of Art, where I ended up going—and I dropped out because I had an assignment where I was supposed to do an ink painting or something, and I would take two weeks to do it, and when I looked at my work, I just felt that I would never be one of the great visual artists of the world. I just felt like I would end up like—and this is no knock to anybody that does this—but I felt like I would end up working at an ad agency or something like that. I wanted to make something of impact. I found that when I would drop samples, my friends would react to it more. I felt that I had a real talent in chopping and appropriating music."
I fight in my position of being a very commercial celebrity boyfriend, I fight to push culture forward every chance I get.
“What I want people to understand about sampling and producing is that it’s really similar to—and I know this is obvious what I’m going to say, because I’m a black guy so I’m gonna name the ‘most obvious artist in the world’—Warhol, but it’s very similar to the way Warhol would appropriate a Campbell’s Soup can is the way I would sonically appropriate a Ray Charles sample or a Michael Jackson sample."
“Right now it’s a fight against the separation and constant dumbing-down of culture, and I’m standing in the middle of it. So if you know what people say are my lowest moments, those moments where I sat and saw them try to dumb down culture, and I would not allow it to happen on my clock."
“...But I thought it was so important to get close to the artists who worked so hard on making a usable form of art—like this furniture right here, like everything that is in all these rooms that inspire us so much—and I fight in my position of being a very commercial celebrity boyfriend, I fight to push culture forward every chance I get."
Watch his performance of "New Slaves" below: