KANYE WEST 'Ticket to Ride' Interview: by VH1, 13 May 2003
YHow much does Kanye West love his mom? Well, while doing this interview, the season's hottest rapper/producer is finalizing the purchase of a drop-top Mercedes-Benz CLK. It's 72 hours before Mother's Day, and he's going to surprise her with it - even wants a video camera to document her reaction. So forgive him if he's a little distracted.
Time is obviously tight for West these days. After making a name by producing platinum hits for Jay-Z, Alicia Keys and Ludacris, everyone wants a piece of him. It's understandable: his singles, "Slow Jamz" and "Through the Wire," tied up the charts for months, and his celebrated debut The College Dropout went in at No. 2. And Kanye fever is just beginning. He's all over forthcoming records by Brandy and Jadakiss.
The secret of West's success? He speeds up soul samples until Chaka Khan sounds like Minnie Mouse, and his often hilarious lyrics take on everything from the car crash that left his jaw wired shut ("Through the Wire") to his crappy summer job at the Gap ("Spaceship"). He even made a hit tune about Christ ("Jesus Walks") just because he could.
It doesn't stop there, either. He's getting into jewelry, video production, and clothing design. Not bad for a guy who used to sell knives for a living. As West ran from the Benz dealership to a nearby restaurant, VH1 got to pick his brain about Britney Spears biting his ideas, autograph hounds stepping over the line, and what he'll be doing when his time is finally up.........
VH1: You spent years trying to make it as a rapper. Has the success of The College Dropout vindicated you?
Kanye West: Yeah. Definitely. But I'm not finished. I'm not done yet.
VH1: What do you have left to prove? The "All Falls Down" video seems to be the only one on MTV - aside from Britney Spears' "Everything."
KW: Yeah. Britney Spears' [video] is a knock-off of that, too. The one where she pulls up in a limo, gets out and walks through white hallways in slow motion? You don't think that's not a visual knockoff of "All Falls Down"? Tell me that first shot [in her video] is not the exact same shot.
VH1: I'll take your word for it. Are people biting your musical style, too?
KW: Hell yeah, they are! I can't name the tracks that are imitating me. That wouldn't help me at all. That would only hurt me.
VH1: Is imitation the sincerest form of flattery?
KW: Yeah. And imitation is the sincerest form of stealing! I don't mind because I used to imitate [others], when I was trying to learn how to do it. I think it's a good way to learn how to do something. I studied music that I liked and then tried my best to emulate it.
VH1: Do you remember looking at record sleeves to see who the producer was?
KW: Hurby Luv Bug might have been one of the first producers that I was like, "Oh, that's a producer right there." Then Teddy Riley, Full Force. Those are a few that no one will ever [mention], right?
VH1: What's the biggest difference between being behind the mixing desk and being behind the mic?
KW: You're more recognized and you get more stuff for free. But then you get more people wanting stuff from you. Like just a few minutes ago a girl came up to me and asked for my autograph. I gave it to her, and she said, "Can you put my name on it?" She started spelling this really long name out. A lot of times, if I have a lot of autographs to do, I won't put names on it. I just put "It's the Roc," or my name. I said, "I'm just gonna do this," and gave it to her. She said, "You can't put my name on it?" I said, "Naw, I'm just gonna do that." Then she said, "Is this the way you sign your name?" For a minute I thought we were gonna have to call security. She's like, "You can't do this!" Then I called my security and he came over and escorted her out. She said, "Fuck you! I don't even want your autograph." That just happened about ten minutes ago!
VH1: On the album cover you're dressed as a high school mascot. Were you ever one?
KW: No. I picked that picture for the album cover because you never really see a mascot with his head down. A mascot with his head down is like he's given up on school. We were just playing around. I didn't have that concept before I went in. I think God just helped me with that. When I looked at it, I said, "Yo, this is live right here. If I went in, I would buy this album even if I didn't know what it was just for the cover." And then the angels, the cherubs and everything? Angels definitely represent in my life.
VH1: I heard you tried to design video games as a kid.
KW: Well, I never finished them, because I ended up going to the music part of it and staying there. I wanted to do everything: I wanted to design the characters, design the backgrounds. I would be studying different things and trying to come up with a new idea. It didn't compare with the games that were out there, but I was trying my best. I got to draw all the characters, then try to redraw them in the computer. It was a very tedious for a seventh grader! [Laughs]
VH1: Now that you're a success, everyone must want to help you implement all those ideas you have.
KW:Yeah. Whatever I can do, I want to, because I have a lot of ideas. I have ideas for clothing designs, video directions, new song ideas, play ideas. I don't want to say everything I got an idea about and give it away before its time.
VH1: You're getting into jewelry, too.
KW: It's called Kanye West's jewelry. Basically, I use diamonds to color real pictures. That's the basic concept. So like if the hair is yellow, then I use yellow diamonds. If the hair is brown, I use the champagne-colored diamonds. Some pink diamonds are in the crown of the brown-skinned Jesus. Also, I'm using material that creates the idea of having real skin.
VH1: What was the worst job you ever had outside of music?
KW: I've always had pretty good jobs. My worst job was trying to sell knives – Cutco. You're supposed to sell them to people you know. My cousin Becky had the same job. She was way better at it than me. You had to carry around a lot of overpriced knives. I was a little bit embarrassed having to sell them to my friends, but I figured, my father's a salesman. I'll just try my best.
VH1: If you had 24 hours left to live, how would you spend it?
KW: Man, I don't know. I would probably try to spend a lot of time with my mother and my father, try to call all the people that I knew that I loved. Maybe try to write one last rap, do a song, draw pictures, write down a couple of video [treatments], write down all my ideas that I have that have not come out yet, and hope that maybe someone can expand on them when I'm not here.
VH1: Do people think you're cocky?
KW: Before the album came out, I talked my little shit just to let people know that there's a new dude in the league that's running down the court talking shit, but backing it up. That's my whole niche right now. People either love it or hate it. People love and hated Muhammad Ali. My grandfather loved Muhammad Ali and my grandmother hated him. But I bet you more people love and remember Muhammad Ali than less. Because he used to talk shit - "float like a butterfly sting like a bee" - and I think I say the same kind of things in my own statements. It's like, you can't please everybody, but if anybody's got a shot, it's me.
Interview By VH1.com on 13/May/03
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