Kanye West Talks "The College Dropout" and His Relationship with Jay Z in 2003

Read how Kanye got along with Hov in 2003, and what he thought his future held before the release of "The College Dropout."

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Complex Original

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Read how Kanye got along with Hov in 2003, and what he thought his future held before the release of The College Dropout.

Interview by Thomas Golianopoulos (@Golianopoulos)

RELATED: All "The College Dropout" Week Posts

When I first interviewed Kanye West for The Source, it was in fits and starts, 30 minutes here, 20 minutes there mostly in the back of a van as we drove through the streets of Chicago. In all, we talked for a few hours that day, enough at least to fill up two microcassettes. Those interviews from December 19, 2003 are gone. I still have the tapes, but I recorded a Fabolous interview over them in August 2004 for another Source cover story.

For our follow-up interview a few days later, Kanye was supposed to call sometime in the morning. Instead I received a phone call from Don C, his longtime friend/manager telling me Kanye couldn’t make outgoing on his phone, so I’d have to call his hotel and connect to his room through the front desk. Once on the line, Kanye (surprise!) controlled most of the conversation, and for the next 80 minutes or so elucidated on everything from his failed attempts to land a record deal to the validity of The Source’s vaunted 5-mic record rating to that time Jay-Z banned him from performing at Madison Square Garden...

Interview by Thomas Golianopoulos (@golianopoulos)

What did you think of the Jay-Z shout out at the beginning of “Lucifer?”
I thought, I’m going to take that and capitalize off that. You heard the Kon the Louis Vuitton Don mixtape, and how many times I used that? I used that on every song and shit.

Did he tell you he was going to do that?
Nah, he did everything on the spot. Well, I thought it was good for him to say that, to start putting that into people’s minds. Every month I seem less and less arrogant, or less and less cocky, in interviews because I have accomplished something else I said I was going to do. In years past, people were looking at me like I’m crazy. For him to say, "Yo, you’re a genius," that’s an accomplishment for me.

My definition of genius is not being that person the actual human is a genius, but it’s a person that just allows God to work through them. Some of the shit, I definitely couldn’t have come up with a lot of that music I have out on my own. A lot of that is just me sitting back and praying. You know how people just joke about praying for a hit? Most of it is not formula based. It’s like just trying to be original and out of the blue. I feel like that’s God working through me.

I’m just going to jump around a bit because I want to fill in gaps from our last conversation. You were an English major in college. Who are some of your favorite writers?
You know, I didn’t read that much, but I can say, from the books that my mother read from when I was a little kid…the things I studied were public speaking. I took all stuff that related to being a rapper. I would definitely say Maya Angelou and Gwendolyn Brooks. I told you the story about when I met Gwendolyn Brooks when I was a little kid, right?

I forgot what grade I was in. I think it was fourth grade or sixth grade, maybe, and they had some dinner at the president of Chicago State’s house in Beverly Hills, Chicago. There is a place called Beverly Hills, Chicago. It’s an area. I moved there when I moved out my mother’s crib. They had a dinner and Gwendolyn Brooks was there and everyone was reading their poems. She said, “Do you have a poem?” I said, [switches to a high-pitched voice], “No, but I can write one real quick.” I went in the back, wrote a poem, and then read it for her and the 40 staff members.

What classes related to being a rapper?
Public speaking, piano, voice training, even though I was an English major, um, I had essays. I forgot the name of the course. My first college was…People who interview me always get this wrong. Now they can get the full information. I got a scholarship to the American Academy of Art, but it was only for one semester. It was like hook, line, and sinker—they get you in the school and then you have to pay $8000 for the next semester. My mother couldn’t afford for me to go to that school the next semester. I would have had to take out a loan, or I could go to Chicago State for real cheap because she worked there. Both her and me knew that I was going to be a rapper or work in the music field anyway.

So I left the American Academy of Art, which, in my class I was the number one student. That’s the reason why whenever we do graphics you see me spazzing on people. I can’t take it. I see certain people that I work with on art, and to me, they just remind me of students that I was in class with, and I was killing them as an art student. It’s like, you can’t really tell me about art, about layouts.

If you notice, a good point to bring up is my Source ad. I came up with all the words for my Source ad, the picture—definitely put this in. I came up with all the words that were the main bullet points, the type of font I wanted to use for the “College,” the way it said “College Dropout,” how big I want it to be. February 10th at the bottom is supposed to look like it’s on the floor but the graphics people, we were rushing that day because that was going to take five hours but The Source—and I love you guys so much for this—stayed up till 4 a.m. on the 19th on the night of the Christmas party, to 4 o’clock in the morning, Saturday morning waiting for my ad. So we didn’t have a chance to place the “February 10th” like it was a part of the basketball floor but one of the main things is that I had the words “Most Anticipated Debut Album of 2004” and “Dropping Out Second Semester” and the singles look like they were part of the bleachers.

And everybody says, “Yo, you should have made this”—and they read it off exactly what it says—and they say, “You should have made this darker so we could see it.” And I say, “Most hip-hop ads have too much information so you can’t gravitate towards one information.” This will be so good because then people will look at my ad and talk about this, if you want to put this in there because you have a point of reference in the magazine of the ad and it references to me going to art school.

The reason why I made it darker is, for one thing, I think it looks ill like it’s part of the bleachers. Another thing is, you just read to me what it says, so obviously it’s dark enough. So I asked him, "What are the first things you read?" They said, "College Dropout, February 10th." Now if you had all that other shit on there at the same time, what are you supposed to read first?

It’s one of the first hip-hop ads with the depth. It’s like the ad is moving like a video. It’s like the ad is 3-D, almost. Oh shit, look at that right there, though. That’s my explanation for that. So the art school was the first school I went to but I couldn’t afford the second semester. When I first went to Chicago State, I had prerequisites that dealt with English. I forgot what English courses. I just remember taking voice and piano.

How long were you there for?
Almost two semesters. I dropped out my second semester. I went to Chicago State second semester freshman year and I dropped out in the fall sophomore year.

Yeah. Did I tell you the story about why I dropped out of college?

Yo, that’s the craziest one. I was about to get a rap deal with Donnie Ienner at Columbia Records and he flew me in.

And you left school?
Yeah, I flew in, they wanted to sign me. I met with Mike Mauldin. I think I got in front of him and said, "Yo, I want to be bigger than Michael Jackson. I want to be bigger than Jermaine Dupri." And this is no offense to Jermaine Dupri, so you have to word it like that so it don’t come off like what JD said came off to Timbaland. [Laughs.] This is what I said as a 19-year-old before I met Jermaine Dupri. I was just trying to pump myself up to him, but I didn’t know Jermaine Dupri’s real last name was Mauldin.

Oh shit.
So then I went in front of Donnie Ienner and he was feeling me for the most part until he hit me with those three words: "We’ll call you." What’s so funny is that they had limos, just to exaggerate, it sounded like a helicopter and secret service picked us up at the airport and after they told us, "We’ll call you," we couldn’t even catch a cab to get to the hotel. I’m dead serious. I had a Korean manager Peter King and we had to make him stand out there by himself to hail a cab for us, no car service nothing.

Once I got back to Chicago, I left school at that point and had to figure out a way to make it. I was still staying with my mother, calling A&R’s every now and then. I wish I could remember that A&R’s name. The demo they were going to sign me off of had taken a long time to come together. So here I am thinking I might have a record deal, not get my deal and try to make up songs to try and get me a deal, within a matter of a couple of days.

Nothing was up to where it should have been. Damn, I had one point I was getting to with that. I really started grinding, just trying to sell beats to people. I worked a telemarketing job. I always worked those because I always knew how to talk to people and I always knew how to sell because my father was a salesman. He used to sell vacuum cleaners, payroll services to companies, so that was natural for me to go into sales.

Plus telemarketing, I could sneak and listen to the headphones. I could never be in a situation with a job where I was not allowed to listen to music all day. I would rather work at a fast food restaurant where I could turn on the radio all day rather than be in a situation where I have to sneak and listen to music.

What happened with D Dot’s label? You said that one of your managers wouldn’t let you sign to it.
I had like three managers at that time. My whole career I’ve always had 1800 managers at one time.

I think I’m a whole lot to handle. I definitely am, on every aspect. I’m the video director. I’m the graphics designer. I’m the rapper. I’m the visionary. I’m the music producer. I’m the executive producer. I’m just going to end it off to be poetic: I’m the future of music.

And put “dot, dot, dot, humbly.”

And you’re the editor too.
Oh yeah. You know I wanted to do the lay out for this article.

I know.
Man, I could lay it out. I told everyone at The Source, man, you should have let me design my new cover. I feel like The Source should do at this point is do a new facelift to stand up for the fans and own up to the mistakes they’ve made in the past, like mic ratings they’ve done in the past that are crazy.

We did that two years. We bumped up The Chronic and The Score to five mics.
I just hope—and please put that in there—I just don’t want them to have to do that with my album. I want The Source to either give me five mics or zero. I want all or nothing. Either give me my just credit or don’t rate it. Other magazines, people think it’s good because they gave me 4 out of 5 or a B+ and all that and it makes me almost feel like crashing off the side of the road.

That’s an awful analogy for you, of all people, to make.
Yeah, but that’s how real it is. When you hear “Two Words,” and you hear after my second verse and that choir goes up but the choir starts before my verse is over because I just had to keep spitting, and the choir goes up to the second part, and that little 14 year old boy hits that crescendo note before it gets to Freeway’s verse, and the piano sprinkles behind Freeway’s verse, and after Freeway’s verse we don’t go to the original chorus but we go to an amp out that a choir would do for real, “Throw your hands up, throw your hands up, throw your hands up, throw your hands up.”

When you think about the $10,000 I spent on them, and I had to go to someplace in the Hamptons, or near the Hamptons, that looked like Camp Crystal Lake off a scary movie, and round the Harlem Boys Choir up after the label had countlessly never listened to me, and then finally listened to me and tried to force me to get the Hezekiah Walker Choir because they are only $3500 but after they did it, it wasn’t really good, and I was set on getting the Harlem Boys Choir.

I got those 16 boys all in the room and designed that whole track for them to sing that, and the way Mos Def’s voice sounds on that, “Red! Black! Green! Motherfuckers, get back,” and the way we put an effect on the piano so it sounds like it’s an electric guitar but it’s not, it’s just like an amp driven guitar, and it hits the crescendo at the end so it’s like three endings. I do that on so many formats. I gave you three endings on the “Through the Wire” video. I gave you three endings on “Two Words.” And then I hear that and they gave me 4 out of 5.

Who gave you 4 out of 5?
I’m not going to say their names. Magazines gave me a B+.

Who gave you a B+?
I’m not going to say their names.

Spin gave you a B+
I don’t want to reference their names. Okay, Vibe gave me a 4, Spin gave me a B+

Well for you, as a new artists, it’s a big deal that Spin reviewed your album because they don’t do hip-hop like that.
Oh really?

Spin is a rock magazine. They are probably more of a rock magazine than Rolling Stone at this point.
But my music is rock. I listen to Red Hot Chili Peppers and I listen to one of my songs, and if I don’t give you the same emotion that Anthony Kiedis is, then I go back and re-spit.

Do you find more inspiration in rock music than hip-hop nowadays?
Most definitely. Wait, I want to finish my vamp out on how it affects me, and how those ratings affect me. When I hear “Two Words” and I really look at how its put together, and everything I went through, I go through what someone goes through to make an album, like you know how The Blueprint was made in two weeks, “Two Words” took three weeks itself. “Slow Jamz” took three weeks itself. “Jesus Walks” took me four months to write that second verse. “Drug Dealing” took me like eight months to finish writing that, that was one of the hardest songs for me to write.

This rating, for them to only give me a 4, it crushes me because I know that I know I’m going to keep on making good music for the fans, but I know they’ll never ever ever ever be another “Through the Wire”—ever. “Through the Wire” could be a song on an album with a lot of other mediocre songs and you have to give that album….

”Slow Jamz,” no critic wants to give me credit, they thought it was a joke, now it’s no. 1. “Jesus Walks,” those samples, you can’t just go find those samples. I’ve heard people try to do fake “Jesus Walks.” I heard two of them come out last year but I’m not going to name what songs they were. Y’all know what they are—fake ass “Jesus Walks.”

There’s only one real “Jesus Walks.” And that album that has “Jesus Walks” on it deserves 6’s because it started the other ones. It was the beginning of the other ones just like how Blueprint was the beginning. As much shit as you want to talk about The Source, that five mic rating is the holy grail for anyone that’s striving for perfection in hip hop. I don’t know if hip-hop can be perfect but I feel like this album, The College Dropout is over-perfection.

The songs that I chose are all based on the fans. I could give the critics all the songs that they want but the fans need shit that they can just vibe off of and that’s who I’m making this album for. This All Star Game, you are going to hear Kanye West just like you heard the should’ve-been-5-mic 50 Cent album at last year’s All Star Game.

Who else did we drop the ball on?
dead prez, please put this in there and let me just voice my opinion. On the same token of me voicing my opinion, I’m also saying that I feel like that 5 mic rating is the most important rating you can get in hip-hop.

You can say anything you want about The Source: “I don’t read The Source blah blah blah,” “I hate them, blah, blah, blah,” but there is nothing that can be said over getting the 5 mics. I felt like dead prez was 5 mics. 50 Cent was 5 mics. Of course The Score, oh my God, are you serious? Did they give The Chronic 5 mics?

Nah, 4.5 the first time.
Did they give what’s his name 5 mics? Ready to Die?

Not the first time around.
Yeah. What about the first three Tribe Called Quest installments?

The first two got 5 mics, Midnight Marauders got a 4.
So Midnight Marauders got a 4?

Look at this, Midnight Marauders was a 4. Do you want me to bring up other albums that got a 4 and you’re going to tell me they are equal?

It’s a different staff. What can you do?
But it’s the same magazine. When you see that bear in that ad, when you see that ad without me on it, when you think about what I had to go through at the label to not have myself on that ad, the thing is at this point everybody can have their opinions, and Dame and Biggs will say, "He hasn’t fucked his career up to this point, just listen to him."



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.

This album?
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.

Holy shit.
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.

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