Kanye West Interview [Event Exclusive]
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Chicago rapper Kanye West is hard at work promoting the September 11, release of his third studio album, Graduation. This third chapter, however, in what is already a famed musical career is not the only project with which West is currently toiling.
The “Loop Dreams Teacher Training Institute,” an initiative established by the Kanye West Foundation, is the second of its kind (the first is based in Los Angeles). The project, set in motion for the benefit of the Chicago public school system, will be in place to help assist school teachers who desire to utilize hip-hop in the classroom; to increase literacy and encourage student excellence.
Although West’ first studio album is the inaptly titled, College Dropout, the hypocrisy of such an enterprise is not in question. Although the KWF utilizes the fame and resources of its leader, like any other foundation which is helmed by a star, West wants to be at the forefront of change; a necessity in America as the dropout rate among US high school students of African American and Latino persuasion continues to rise.
In order to assist the program’s jump off in the Chicagoland area, West and his foundation put on the Inaugural Loop Dreams-Stay In School Benefit Concert at Chicago’s House of Blues on August 24th, 2007. The show, which featured Kanye performing several cuts off the Graduation album, was placed at the end of an evening that included a press conference, red carpet introductions and a VIP gala.
Co-Hosted by Access Hollywood’s Shaun Robinson and actor David Alan Grier, the evening’s performances began when rappers Malik Yousef and GLC each performed individual sets. Also in attendance were rapper/actor Mos Def and basketball star Dwayne Wade.
Prior to making his way on to the stage to pour his heart and soul into his music and thank the hundreds of fans who paid over $100 per ticket, West sat down with DJBooth’s DJ “Z” for an exclusive one-on-one interview.
Scroll down to read the interview between Mr. West and DJ “Z.”
Listen to the Interview
Kanye West Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: Kanye, how are you?
Kanye West: I’m doin’ good.
DJ Booth: Welcome back to Chicago. I know you were overseas in Europe – how’d that go?
Kanye West: It was incredible – we got the number one record in Europe right now.
DJ Booth: If I’m a parent and I have a negative perception of hip-hop, how will that change based on the partnership between your foundation and the Chicago school system?
Kanye West: I think America just needs to get real when it comes to the way our kids speak and communicate. They need to understand what happens in rap. 2pac and Bigge might talk about violence, but in action movies, there are stunt men who actually have died on set. The amount of people who talk about guns, versus who actually uses them, is not even close in this millennium. People need to understand that hip-hop that has gun talk is just for entertainment; similar to if you were watching a movie. Film schools don’t have anything against movies with violence. If you can approach hip-hop from a standpoint of, “How did they put this together,” and get past the fact that they use profanity, realize that you are a reflection of your parents, more so then the music. Let’s get more into the music itself. How does Dr. Dre, a musical genious, layer all these sounds? What about engineering and Pro Tools and the poetry aspect? We can teach about hip-hop history, we can teach about legends, hip-hop theory. It’s been around so long that text books can be written about it. This is a perfect time to capitalize on and get kids excited about [music] education.
DJ Booth: All right, let’s talk about Kanye West, “The Bigger Picture.” Third album – about to be released, obviously tonight we’re all getting together because the Kanye West Foundation is working with the school system. When all’s said and done, how do you want Kanye West to be remembered?
Kanye West: I want to be remembered for making great music and doing great things for people.
DJ Booth: Outside of music, what else do you hope to get involved in that helps to show people that you’re more dimensional and more diverse than the typical hip hop artist?
Kanye West: A lot of artists have a lot of different ventures, I think it’s typical for a hip hop artist, at this point, to have a bunch of different ventures. So yeah man, I do have different things, but I actually focused more on music in the past months. I try to deliver because I don’t believe that people are deliverin’ the same quality of albums. You know, it’s not like Raekwon, “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx,” and Nas, “Illmatic.” Like, what’s the last album we had like that? I think [Jay-Z’s] “The Blueprint”– so, if “Graduation,” was the blueprint then this is the building made from those plans.
DJ Booth: One of the new songs on the album, with Lil’ Wayne, is “Barry Bonds.” Obviously, people look at Barry Bonds and say, “He cheated the baseball game.” Who do you feel is cheating the hip hop game?
Kanye West: That’s an interesting question – I don’t really have an answer to that. That’s a clever question that, you know-
DJ Booth: Well, thank you – do you think it’s the fans who are not buying the music?
Kanye West: Well, that statement kinda makes it seem like I would think that Barry Bonds cheated, which I don’t think he did. And whatever they say about Barry Bonds, you could say about so many others, “He couldn’t hit that many.” So, that’s one of the reasons I wanted to call it, “Barry Bonds,” you know, ‘cause it was controversial. I think the similarity is a lot of people have a lot of things to say about me, but here’s another hit. Barry Bonds – like, what do you do? He goes out and makes more hits! So, at what point do you stop hating, you know?
DJ Booth: Do you think that the single will catch the controversy train and make people think that you’re trying to angle your music differently in order to sell? Because that’s never been you.
Kanye West: I make music as good as possible, but I do reference cultural icons, because I want my music to be a time capsule of 2007. You throw everything in, you know, the Kate Moss reference to the Lil Wayne verse to a T-Pain feature, everything is like, “This is what’s happenin’ in 2007.” I want my album to be that one – if you’re making a time capsule you have to throw my album in there.
DJ Booth: All right. The single that’s [currently] impacting here, is “Stronger.” Obviously, through the media, through Internet, through television, through radio, people have this image of what the lifestyle is for a hip hop artist, but behind the scenes a lot goes on. What has been able to make you as strong a person as you are to get through touring overseas, putting together an amazing album, coming back to your home city, and doing this partnership through the Kanye West Foundation?
Kanye West: Man, just tryin’ to get as much sleep as possible, to drink in water, and tryin’ to make sure that my people give me the proper information to be able to get in front of people and speak. That’s all I need. I need the information and then I can go. So, as long as I have the information and a little bit of sleep, I can do the rest.
DJ Booth: I wish you nothing but the best of luck.
Kanye West: Thanks a lot, yeah, thank you. So, what’d you really think about that “Barry Bonds” joint?
DJ Booth: Honestly, I had to play it twice; similar to what you did in London when you previewed your album for their media. It’s hot, but I don’t think you needed Lil’ Wayne; he has just been on so much. Kanye West isn’t an artist who needs a feature verse from anyone.
Kanye West: Well, actually, it was supposed to be me, Weezy and Jay. But Jay didn’t have the time to get his verse in [before the album was wrapped].
DJ Booth: So will his verse surface in a remix, possibly?
Kanye West: We’ll see…